On April 18 at Turquoise Coffee, Pierce kicked off a crowd-funding campaign to help get his newest piece of equipment — the Quick Collar, to the New York Fire Department. Within the first few hours, Quick Collar earned nearly $1,000 toward the campaign’s goal of about $28,000, which will cover production costs, travel expenses and Quick Collar donations.
The Quick Collar, designed for swift-water rescue, is already used by the sherriff’s department’s aerial support units. After New York, Pierce hopes to get the Quick Collar on “every fire truck in the world.”
Pierce said the FDNY is a good place to introduce new gear. It’s one of the few departments with a research and development unit that is able to test new equipment for use in the field, and it has a major influence on gear used around the country.
The Quick Collar is packed in a compact, yellow throw-bag with a durable rope that can be tossed to a victim. It consists of a cinching, auto-inflating floatation tube that secures and protects the victim as he or she is pulled to safety. It can be thrown from riverbanks, helicopters and boats and can be the difference between life and death in water-rescue emergencies, said Pierce.
Unlike similar water rescue gear, the Quick Collar is light, small and comfortable for the victim. It can be stored on fire trucks, helicopters or even in the trunk of a police car. The design allows rescue personnel to stay out of the water, making rescues much safer for rescue personnel.
“[It weighs] four pounds. Without the rope, it’s like two pounds, and it throws like a champ,” Pierce said. “I’m probably going to guarantee it for life. I don’t think you can break it.”
As a testament to the design’s durability, one of the first Quick Collars hangs on the wall of Pierce’s workshop. It remains in pristine condition and working order after lifting a 3,000-pound block of concrete during a test run.
His inspiration for the Quick Collar came after 10 children drowned during the Guadalupe River flood in Comfort, Texas in 1987. He believed they could have been saved if the rescuers had access to better equipment.
Pierce worked on designs, but struggled to figure out how he could create something better.
“I sat there and physically looked at this thing for months trying to figure out what was wrong with it,” Pierce said.
It finally clicked when he saw children’s pool floats being manufactured. He realized by combining a floatation device and a securable strap, drowning victims could be kept above water while efforts are made to safely pull them out.
Pierce got a patent for the Quick Collar in 2005 and began marketing it to a number of fire departments. He started working with the FDNY research and development unit, but when the economic recession hit, there was no money in department budgets to test new gear, and trips to New York were too expensive. All the progress he was making had stopped.
Broke and out of options, Pierce took a job managing an apartment complex in Crown Point and worked as a cook.
The idea for a crowd-funding campaign came to him after his sister paid for Pierce to go to New York to start working with the FDNY again.
Through the crowd-funding campaign, Pierce not only hopes to provide his Quick Collar to the FDNY and eventually rescue teams around the world, but also to educate the public on the need for water-rescue gear. He wants to raise awareness that more lives can be saved with the right equipment.
Pierce’s passion for saving lives started when he was a child at his community pool. He noticed another child struggling in the water and pulled him to safety. After that, he became a pool lifeguard, but realized his asthma wouldn’t allow him to do it professionally. He started designing water-rescue gear instead.
He developed a lifeguard rescue belt and a jet-ski towing device with the help of lifeguards Jimmy Canale and Darrell Esparza. The devices, which are used by lifeguards all around San Diego County, allow guards to work safely and quickly in a wide range of emergency situations.
His lifeguard belts incorporate a quick-release, which was developed after lifeguards wanted something that would allow them to easily detach themselves from boats that sink as they try to swim them to safety.
“My job is to listen, go talk to them (lifeguards) and listen,” Pierce said.
He said firefighters, police and rescue personnel are all heroes, and many of them would jump into a raging river, putting their own lives in danger, to save someone else. Pierce said the Quick Collar will allow first responders to avoid putting themselves a risk.
“It’s for traditional water rescues, and it’s for emergencies,” Pierce said. “You give it to them (the victim) then assess.”
Pierce said rescue teams can’t be everywhere at once in major emergencies, but the Quick Collar can allow them to work faster.
A video, contribution link, donation incentives, a detailed description of the Quick Collar and the campaign’s budget can be found at the Quick Collar crowd-funding page at www.indiegogo.com/projects/quick-collar--2.