Local manufacturer Waterford Signs Inc. has teamed up with Delaware County Emergency Medical Services (DCEMS) to create adjustable, reusable, and cleanable face shields for first responders.
Prior to switching gears and producing a new product as his facility on South Sandusky Street in Delaware, Waterford Signs owner Tim Moore had made the decision to shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this week, Moore gathered his staff to tell them that the business wasn’t considered essential and it would have to close its doors.
“I told them I hated to do it, but I really didn’t feel we were an essential business per the governor’s guidelines,” Moore said.
The company normally designs and makes products and signs for various purposes from business advertising to traffic signs and car decals. The business had even been making signs for local restaurants to let their customers know they’re open for carryout.
Along with making the face shields, Waterford is creating labels for hand sanitizer made by Shema Store, an Ohio-based company that sells all natural hair and skin care products. The sanitizer is being given to those in need.
According to a Facebook post, Waterford is able to manufacture about 1,500 face shields with the materials it currently has. DCEMS is set to receive 140 of them, and other EMS departments have called requesting the product.
Delaware County EMS Director Jeff Fishel estimated that including other county departments, about 800 face shields could be ordered locally.
The idea for the face shields came from a call Moore received from Drew Hargrove, owner of Fingerprint Ideas, a sign shop in Hutto, Texas. Hargrove is a friend of Fishel from his time working as a paramedic. Fishel was looking to order face shields from him, but Hargrove was unable to accommodate the order due to the high demand.
Hargrove called around to local businesses in Delaware to see if anyone could help, which is how Moore got involved. The pair traded ideas back and forth until Moore came up with a final design.
Moore said he built it overnight and had the prototype ready for Fishel the next morning. Fishel took the face shield to a meeting in order to get feedback, and with minor modifications, he was sold on the protective gear.
“I told (Jeff), ‘You know you’re saving me right now,’” Moore said. With the DCEMS order alone, Moore added he would have been able to keep his shop open and his employees working at least a couple more weeks.
As news spread through the grapevine, other central Ohio EMS groups have called wanting to order shields for themselves.
“The phone has been ringing off the hook. It’s great,” Moore said, adding he has received calls from as far away as a fire department in Boston, which requested a couple prototypes to see.
The face shields cost $24.50 if an order is less than 10, but $19.75 if more than 10 are purchased in an individual order. Every shield is made by hand in the shop by employees. Moore said his employees are getting a part of the profit made on each shield.
The first batch is set to be shipped out today.
For Moore, the current venture isn’t just about the money.
“I’m not doing this because I want more business. More important than anything is that we can contribute,” he said. “It makes me feel good that we can do this.”
The face shields are not meant to take the place of masks. Instead, they are to be worn over masks to protect from anything splashing onto a first responder’s face. DCEMS normally wears protective glasses on every call. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the CDC has changed guidelines saying more protection is needed to keep first responders safe.
“We were very happy to find someone locally who could produce that for us and really wanted to help us out, and was willing to stay after hours to get it done. It means a lot to us,” Fishel said.
Alex Hulvalchick can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @amhulvalchick.