Portable emergency shelter has Peninsula stamp on it; body heat keeps you warm
Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Inventor Rick Thompson sits inside a portable shelter, which uses body heat to warm up the interior during a disaster or emergency.
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“This is made of insulated material that keeps the heat in and the cold out,” said Rick Thompson of Port Townsend about the Emergency Heating Shelter.
“It uses your own body heat and it could save your life,” he said.
Thompson and Anna Shields, a Port Angeles information systems expert and entrepreneur, are marketing the shelter through Shields Products Inc. of Port Angeles.
The shelter costs $549 and is available in several colors, according to the company's website at www.shieldsproducts.com.
It has been a relatively short path from concept to execution, said Thompson, an aviation contractor for the Department of Defense who came up with the idea in November 2012 as a reaction to the devastation brought about by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast.
The shelter, which is 5-feet-by-6.5-feet wide and 4-feet high, uses an insulated material that reflects body heat inward — very efficiently, according to Thompson.
“For as long as you keep your clothing on, it's a comfortable 72 degrees,” Thompson said.
“But it warms up if you take off your clothes or get out of the sleeping bag,” and the temperature can reach 93 degrees.
“There's an easy fix for that,” he said. “Open the door.”
The shelter is durable and waterproof, he said.
Thompson and Shields, 48, have known each other since they both graduated from Port Townsend High School in 1983.
At a class reunion in May, Thompson mentioned his invention, and the partnership was born.
“He shared his idea with me and I said, 'That's brilliant,'” Shields said.
Shields, 51-percent owner of the business, is the chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief operations officer.
“Rick is the inventor and has the manufacturing background,” Shields said.
Thompson and Shields envision the structure as providing emergency shelter indoors or outdoors in extreme weather and during times when electrical power has been cut.
“The whole goal is to do it without any external form of power,” said Shields, who was in Houston, Texas during the devastating floods of Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 and saw “humanity in raw desperation for energy and power.”
It can also allow people to protect themselves from looters.
“After Sandy, a lot of people left their homes because they had lost power and become too cold. When they returned, they found everything was gone,” Thompson said.
“If you set up one of these shelters inside, you can stay in your home and protect your property.”
Thompson has applied for a patent for the shelter, which he hopes to market to both government agencies and individuals.
The shelter breaks down to the size of a golf bag that weighs about 20 pounds and can be stored until needed.
It qualifies as a “bug out” item, which Thompson characterizes as “something you can grab quickly if you have to leave the house right away.”
The shelter also could be used to eliminate home heating costs for sleeping areas, and for hunters or outdoor sports enthusiasts, Shields said.
“The Emergency Heating Shelter is the right product at the right time for the right reasons,” Shields said.
“It can be distributed in large volumes to individuals when they are most vulnerable and in need.”
Thompson said the company has two manufacturing sites, in Discovery Bay and Tukwila-SeaTac area.
“Our goal is to keep the manufacturing in the USA,” he said.
Shields said she has owned 15 businesses over the last 30 years and sold all but two that she shut down.
Her experience is largely in the healthcare industry — with an emphasis on technical, financial and clinical healthcare administration — but she also has background in other industries, ranging from timber to retail to fitness.
She is currently assisting St. Joseph Health System in Texas, California and New Mexico.
As a woman-owned business, the company is eligible to contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the American Red Cross so that the shelter can be distributed in large volume, Shields said.
“This is exciting because this is something that actually helps people when they need it the most,” she said.
For more information, see www.shieldsproducts.com.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
Managing Editor Leah Leach contributed to this report.
Last modified: October 20. 2013 5:47PM