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New pre-alert system for firefighters helps limit health issues

The system is intended to help lower every day stress as well as the increasing rate of suicide and heart attacks in firefighters
Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 9:29 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -

EaseAlert is a pre-alert system designed to alert firefighters of an emergency before the alarm sounds in their station. It was created by young entrepreneurs Blake Richardson and Elezar Tonev with the goal to reduce stress and improve efficiency for firefighters.

“My dad has been a firefighter most of my life. For years I would see him come home from work every third day just stressed and exhausted. I was seeing the toll that firefighting was taking on him first hand,” Richardson said.

After doing some research, Richardson learned that the toll had a bigger impact on firefighters than he thought -- with heart attacks and an alarming number of suicides being leading causes of death.

“Of course, firefighting is a very stressful job. We can’t change the inherent nature of the job,” Richardson said, “but what we can change is the alerting process and that’s where EaseAlert comes in.”

When a call comes into dispatch, a pre-alert sends a vibration to the firefighter’s EaseAlert wristband through a radio frequency transmitter. The hope is that this will take the edge off of the startle response firefighters get when they hear the alarm sound.

The brain behind the physical creation of the wristbands is Elezar Tonev. Tonev is a mechanical engineering student at University of Florida.

“Eight months ago we were actually competing against each other in a business plan pitch competition,” Tonev said.

“Afterwards, I met up with him and I told him [he had a ] great pitch. [It was] one of the best I had heard because it was so genuine and from the heart. Afterwards, we said ‘hey let’s just continue this forward after we graduate and see what happens',” he said.

And now, after a year of research, development and eight versions of the wristband later, they’re finally able to bring EaseAlert to fire stations across North Central Florida.

Richardson and Tonev are currently testing their new product with the Fernandina Beach Fire Department. They plan on extending their tests to various part of Florida and then beyond state lines. The long-term plan is focused on the all-encompassing spirit of the company’s slogan ‘Saving Those Who Save Us’.

“The ultimate goal is to reduce stress and improve efficiency for firefighters across the country. But it’s not just giving them an EaseAlert band,” Richardson said, “it’s maybe ... creating a podcast that allows firefighters to share stories of Post Traumatic Stress they are dealing with ... or a weekend retreat that allows firefighters to get to know other firefighters in the region and help them through similar difficulties. It’s not just one product solution. It’s making a less stressful and more efficient fire service in general.”

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