Potential market includes firefighting, coast guard and search and rescue organizations
Komri Systems Inc., an engineering services startup in Sudbury, has designed and developed a device that will aid mine rescue volunteers in vertical rescue emergencies.
“The LifeStrap can be used to optimize the way people are strapped in a vertical rescue basket,” said Karim Omri, president. “Now, they have to do a rope weave around the basket to make sure the person being rescued doesn’t fall out. It’s a full day of training and when you’re in a high intensity situation, you don’t want to rely on someone remembering their knots. The LifeStrap clips on in 10 seconds. Training is minimal, and it’s easy to install.”
The disk-shaped device is positioned in the centre of the basket and contains straps, which are connected to the four corners. “Flipping a switch retracts the straps as tight as they will go, then you give it one or two hand cranks and it’s locked,” said Omri.
In time trials, it took five minutes to secure an individual using the traditional rope weave, and a mere 10 seconds to apply the LifeStrap. The real time saving though is in the training, which can take four or five hours to learn the rope weave technique versus 10 minutes, said Omri, a mechanical engineer with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Laurentian University.
The idea for the LifeStrap came from Komri Systems sales manager Riley Webber, who “came to me one day with a lead for a product that was missing in the mine rescue sector,” recalled Omri. “He put me in touch with Ontario Mine Rescue and they said if we came up with a design for a product, they’d work with us to make sure it got done.”
Ontario Mine Rescue sees value in the product.
“The development of the LifeStrap will allow our mine rescue volunteers to quickly and safely secure casualties into the basket so they can be transported to medical aid,” said Shawn Rideout, chief mine rescue officer. “Prior to the development of the LifeStrap, our mine rescue officers have had to spend many hours teaching our volunteers proper webbing techniques. The LifeStrap eliminates the need for webbing and gives us the opportunity to focus on other aspects of rescue, knowing that our patient is safely secured.”
The market for the product is potentially much larger than one would think, as the mining industry isn’t alone in requiring equipment and trained personnel for vertical rescues. Firefighters as well as search and rescue and coast guard personnel all over the world could also benefit from the LifeStrap in flooding, hurricane and rescue situations at sea.
Komri Systems received funding from Innovation Initiatives Ontario North, a regional innovation centre based at Canadore College in North Bay that helps entrepreneurs and established businesses grow and succeed, and used the facilities at ICamp, a product development centre offering access to 3D printing, design visualization software, CNC machining and other technologies and resources for prototyping.
The development of the LifeStrap was a departure from Komri Systems’ primary role of offering technical and engineering services to fabricators and mining supply and service companies in the Sudbury area.
“A lot of shops need engineering services, but aren’t big enough to have someone full-time, so we are able to fill that gap,” said Omri.
Often, a fabricator will outsource to an engineer to put his stamp on the product, but Omri sees value in providing his expertise at an earlier stage to optimize the design and manufacturing processes.
“I built up quite a bit of experience prior to graduation and post graduation I worked for a consulting firm for three-and-a-half years,” said Omri. “It was a small company and I wanted to do the same thing for myself. I brought in the right people at the right time to help me because being so young, it’s important to have the right mentors and the right technical group in place to make sure that all the work is up to standard.
“I’ve been entrepreneurial for as long as I can remember. I started my first business when I was 14. I’d get my parents to drive me to Toronto. I’d buy some musical instruments and drum equipment and I’d return to Sudbury and sell them.
When I got my driver’s licence, I’d go down myself.”
Omri expects the LifeStrap to be on the market in early 2018.