Products for emergencies
First Line Technology makes equipment designed to save lives
First Line Technology, Chantilly
In March, Stafford County used First Line Technology’s No Notice AmbuBus Kit during a snowstorm to convert a school bus into an ambulance that would transport victims of an I-95 bus crash to an area hospital. The crate-size kit includes tools, steel frames, stretchers and a bus ramp.
Owners Amit Kapoor and Randy Sakowitz came up with the idea for the kits after processing orders and sending cots, blankets and pillows to the National Guard and American Red Cross units responding after Hurricane Katrina. “They told us their biggest problem was evacuation,” says Kapoor, the company’s president and CEO. “They had lots of school buses but no ambulances.”
Kapoor and Sakowitz started the Chantilly-based company in 2003 to create and design technology for defense, homeland security and response agencies. “We wanted to develop more effective equipment for the Department of Defense and first responders,” Kapoor says. “We focused on state and local governments.”
They targeted several niche areas, including chemical warfare, decontamination and preparedness for weapons of mass destruction and toxic chemicals.
The company’s 252 percent, four-year growth rate makes it the fastest-growing manufacturing company in this year’s Fantastic 50.
First Line has sold about 500 of the AmbuBus Kits in the U.S. The product is one of about 80 in the company’s AmbuResponse line. This year the Journal of Emergency Medical Services named two of the AmbuReponse products — AmbuPower 125 and the AmbuBus MPMT Type 1 Kit — to its 2014 “Hot Products” list.
The company’s AmbuResponse line is one of three key product lines that also include the PhaseCore and Decon line of decontamination equipment. One of the major products in the Decon line is FiberTect, a decontamination wipe that military and first responders use for absorbing chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals and pesticides.
First Line’s initial products were PhaseCore vests. Elements used in the vests provide a cooling effect to the body’s core by absorbing body heat. Target customers range from law enforcement officers to industrial workers.
The company originally imported the vests from a Swedish partner. First Line then would customize the vests for its U.S. customers. “The exchange rate made pricing a challenge, so we decided to bring the manufacturing to the U.S.,” Kapoor says.
In 2006, First Line purchased the vest designs from the Swedish company and began manufacturing vests in the U.S. “We would do the design, and other companies would aid in the metal fabrication as well as the cutting and sewing,” Kapoor says. “We did the last-mile kitting, putting things together.”
The company has doubled its revenues every year during the past three years. It was listed on the Inc. 5000 of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. in 2012 and 2013. Last year the company was named to Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500, and in 2012 it was designated a small business success story by the National Defense Industrial Association.
The company’s headquarters includes an 8,000-square-foot warehouse and a 2,000-square-foot office. It currently has 11 employees. All employees are encouraged to take part in company outings, from fishing trips to Super Bowl parties. “We want our employees to get to know each other out of the office,” Kapoor says. “In crisis response, everybody always needs to work together and understand how to work together. Bonding outside of the office helps out.”