First Responders - Literally
Supplement to this month's feature 9-1-1: Industry First Responders
National Ink and Stitch (asi/101537) and its subsidiary, The 911 Store are first responders in every sense of the word. "We are a firefighter-owned company that had to do a lot of last-minute uniform pieces for teams responding to Hurricane Sandy," says Tim Manley, company president. He is a fireman and paramedic, another partner is a fireman, and his third partner – his sister – is married to a Washington, DC firefighter. "As a result, we are very familiar with the needs of rescue workers as they arise," he notes.
"We started The 911 Store because we saw a need for shirts for public safety, by public safety," says Manley. When disaster strikes, volunteers typically stream in from all over the country and it's important they wear something that clearly marks who they are.
When Hurricane Sandy hit, one of Manley's local Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) friends called to say he was heading up to New Jersey but didn't have a uniform to wear. The 911 Store instantly responded. "The FEMA guy sent us a jpeg from a piece of FEMA letterhead, and we digitized it overnight," he says.
By 10 a.m., Manley and his team had embroidered the design on jackets and other pieces they had in stock, and got it to the FEMA staffer before he left. After that, through word of mouth, other FEMA and Disaster Medical Assistance (DMAT) teams also came to The 911 Store for jackets and T-shirts.
"The pieces we initially provided to FEMA were pure donation. There was not time to get government approval and the rescue workers needed the items immediately so they could be identified when they arrived on location," Manley notes. Over time, some of the organizations, like DMAT, provided an allowance for workers to purchase rescue apparel, and directed them to The 911 Store.
The 911 Store ended up creating two website links specifically for DMAT teams to order from, and initially provided 100 T-shirts for the Maryland team and about 50 for New Jersey DMAT workers. New Jersey has placed orders for more apparel in recent weeks, as Hurricane Sandy recovery work is ongoing in that state.
"There was a lot of initial chaos when Sandy hit, as we didn't have any designs in place, and rescue workers needed the items immediately," Manley says. Also, groups like DMAT had certain specifications, such as shirts in two different colors, to identify which team was from which area. "It was very open-ended, which was a benefit as it gave us the ability to get something done," he says. "It was kind of like the fire department, when you never know what the next call will be. You just do what you need to do to get the job done."