Tactical Decon with Amit Kapoor and Michael Corle of First Line Technology

Here's the transcription of the podcast Tactical Decon with Amit Kapoor and Michael Corle of First Line Technology. 

 

Steve Cassidy

Hey, guys, thanks for tuning in. I'm sitting here with Amit and Corey from First Line Technology.  Been working with these guys for quite a while. Met them in person up in Massachusetts at a fire training academy.

 

Part of the big thing we're working with on them is decon as far as a more advanced way to do things. But first of all, I'd like to announce to everybody that First Line Technology has been named to Inc. Magazine’s Inc 5000 awards. This is a very prestigious award and certainly a great recognition for a great job that First Line Technology has been doing.

Can you tell me a little bit more about this?

 

Amit Kapoor

Yes. So, Steve, thanks for having us on. And we're pretty pumped about it being on with this podcast here. But, you know, first, I've been around for about 16 years and it's been it's been a hard grind.

When we first started the company, we were built on being a model of distribution and being a distributor for CBRNE equipment. And 16 years ago. So right after 9/11.

WMD back in the day was a big term that everyone's using. And we were rep'ing a couple of companies and selling items into the United States. We've now migrated into a company that does our own manufacturing. We would transition products from the lab to lifesaving. That's our tagline slogan. And we've taken a number of different products and commercialized them. And they play into the medical response to decontamination of chemical agents and biologicals to cooling technologies. 

It's really transformed the business. Getting recognition on Inc. 5000 is a great privilege because it just means that we're doing something right. We love talking to our customers. We love seeing it when they win. When they succeed using our products. But sometimes that self recognition that we get from outsiders or outside of our domain. It just gives a natural punch to us. So. Nice.

 

Steve Cassidy

I'm familiar with that award, as we discussed earlier before we got started, and just for everybody out there, it's quite an accomplishment and it's rare to even be able to speak to somebody who's accomplished that. So, again, you guys it's just way to knock it out of the park. And that's a testament to your work ethic and all the folks there at First Line Technology. Everybody I've ever met there is just full tilt, screaming boogie.

 

Amit Kapoor

You know, the first time you're on it, it's like and we got this growth. It's three years of strong growth. And I think we're number 1000 on the list. And we are pretty happy to have high growth rate. And it's, well, how do I keep doing that over and over again in fourth time on. We were just sitting around doing some planning for the next couple years and we got to get on it.  We got on for a fifth time and how are we going to keep this going? 

And it's really about bringing out new stuff, new products, new training, new ideas to our customers at the end of day.

 

Steve Cassidy

So I'm glad you brought that up. You know Mike had come down to Huntsville and done some training with us and we had a bunch of our local folks in Huntsville attend that as well. And then I posted some stuff up on our side on our social media, and we had some responses back from the old boys. 

“Oh, that's the same kit I used back in the day.” But in fact, it's not. And so what's making you guys different right now? Other than what the normal CBNR/ Bio/Chem EOD guy is going to know about what was used back in the day or maybe is still being used. And now we're 2019 rolling into 2020. Where are you guys at?

 

Amit Kapoor

You know, you were just talking before that got on the podcast here about your background.

We talked about the with my history. So my history has been I come from like information technology. My Masters is in computer science, encryption and integration of technology that shouldn't work together. And how do you make them work and build these systems? And honestly, the EOD CBRN environment is no different. I think the challenge has been for so many years and decades, forget years has been we keep doing things the same old way.

So when we talk to people say, yeah, I know that kit. I used it back in the 80s. Well, yeah, you did. And what we have done is we've transformed that kit to make it faster and more logistically sound for them with better technology inside of it. So it’s same kind of concept. And we've been using this whole wet DECON with everything is, add more water, use a lot of water and just spray it all down, dial down or remove it off the surface.

And when we were looking at this back in like 2007, 2008, all you're doing is making a smaller mess much bigger.  Logistically I would go see National Guard operators from CERFP CST to see how first responders did decon.  Look at the amount of waste you guys created. And they're saying, “Yeah. Now we pay people to clean it up,” while looking at concepts of how can you do this with a lower footprint.

Can't you dry decon?  Through the whole process of how people are doing DECON. We wanted to get a better way by using better products and us licensing dry DECON wipes like FIBERTECH and finding better solutions like DAHLGREN. This allows us to make this new kit and it brings us into this new realm like hybrid DECON. So you got a wet DECON on the other side of dry.

Now hybrid DECON. So it's a totally different and new approach to how to execute, especially for like EOD Techs and CBRN side of the house and even fire departments and people just want to do DECON faster and smarter.

 

Steve Cassidy

As an EOD Tech, there's not a lot of people that like to roll with us. And so if I'm out here and I'm out on patrol, but I've got X amount of room and X amount of weight that I'm going to be able to carry with me because I have all the other stuff I need do to. So we're not taking all the water.  We can't.  How does that work for the special operations platform, the dismounted operations or say more of a tactical environment with your hybrid?

 

Michael Corle

One of the biggest advantages we say with hybrid is by taking out almost all of the water and minimizing as many of the other components as we can. We get that weight down. We can get that DECON forward deployed because once you get the stuff on you, the longer it's on you, some stuff you may as well just not because it's either going to evaporate or absorb and there's really no point.

If we get the size down, get the logistics down and get that forward deployed with the operator out the field and back up really makes the whole effectiveness of DECON so much greater just by speed alone.

 

Steve Cassidy

So I would have really enjoyed that, too, because even during the demonstrations that I saw with you guys up in Massachusetts or when you came to the shop in Huntsville and we were doing the dry decon. And I think that is the big difference. Back in the day, they gave me a canteen of water and a chlorine bleach pack and said, have fun and that was it.

And so when you take a look at this and the capabilities of it, I do like that dry decon. So when you're using that pad. Are you going for trying to get the big pieces off at that point?

 

Michael Corle

Everyone's familiar with the old gross wash. Like you said, your canteen water and your chlorine tab. We're replacing that gross wash with water with an absorbent wipe, which there's been numerous studies that have actually come out in the past few years about how much more effective a dry wipe and especially a highly absorbent wipe is than washing it off.

It's very difficult to wash anything oily off with water, especially water low. And if you look at all your chemical warfare agents, especially, they're all oily based substances.

 

Amit Kapoor

And it would be starting to change the dynamics of the game of the decon side. And you brought it up where your special operator, you're heading down range, your forward. You don't have water. Right. I mean, if you have water, you're using it for yourself. Yeah. And deep decon is the last thing anyone wants to think about. Right. So they're like, “yeah, I've gone through decon training. It sucked.”

I love that challenge. O business is built on taking those hard challenges that people hate  then making it better, improving on it so it doesn't suck. And actually, you'll look at it and you'll learn the science behind it.  And then you kind of understand it well. Wow. This is how this system or this kit should work. And that's what we're kind of leveraging into the future is bring the science back into it like waters that that's been used for thousands of years to wash things off.

But it's not the most effective. We're not dealing with lewisite. We're not dealing with back in the day during WWI WWII days of what they declared chemical warfare agents were.  We're now coming in seeing like agents like what, with the Russians created.  We are looking at bio threats like Ebola.

We're looking at Anthrax in 2003 when that happened. It kind of changed the dynamics and paradigm of how we come to look at things.

Fentanyl is not only a military challenge.  Me and Corey have been sitting around and reading these like articles where we have we see like EMS directors, law enforcement folks trying to say like, oh, you know, federal contamination's over overblown. And it's like, yeah, it's what we're seeing that pendulum swing from the DEA.

 

Michael Corle

So, Steve, I was a I was a cop for nine years and actually started out when the first wave of law hit the East Coast cities.

And I'll tell you, the concept that police officers even care about decontamination even five, six years ago was if no one thought about it. Well, you're a cop. What do you mean? But now we see one of the biggest drivers for some of these kits. And the training is just local law enforcement agencies because they're dealing with a substance on the street that has the same toxicity is chemical warfare agent.

And you and you have it actually being used as a chemical warfare agent overseas or the Russians notoriously. And I think there's some talk in in DoD, about actually classifying it as a CWA. But, you know, right now, it's easy to get.  You know, you can order it online from China guaranteed shipping.

 

Amit Kapoor

Drug dealers are not making the best quality drugs. Right. I mean, they're not blending it and they have got a quality assurance program. So they might have too much Fentanyl in one pill and no Fentanyl in one of the pills that they push it out. And law enforcement doesn't know what they're getting into. You're going into a scenario. It's truly unknown and you want to have the best tools available to you.

The police have body armor, that the weapons, they have everything they need. And then when it comes to things like detection or decontamination, they should start to back off away from it. It's like that stuff is gonna kill you, too. And you really need to know what it is and how to get it off you.

 

Steve Cassidy

Most of our guys that come through here, they've either experienced it personally or saw somebody take a hit. It's a problem.

 

Michael Corle

And then when you've got initially the DEA telling you if you if you look at all the wrong way, it's going to kill you. And then they walked that guidance back as we've gotten some more science and evidence behind it. But now I've seen some recent stuff kind of going the other way. And I think obviously, I think that the DEA initially over blew that threat, but it will still hurt you.

But there's some simple to simple steps you can take to protect yourself and keep yourself safe. And that's one of our big focuses.

 

Steve Cassidy

What they got a big awareness piece. I mean, a lot of people just aren't aware of Fentanyl and you might come into law enforcement to Serve and Protect and then all of a sudden you're being tasked with this new threat. Nobody really knows about it. How it got down to the guys out on the street. There's the obvious way where they take a hit. And so how to react to that?

If you guys ever get a chance to go to a first line technology event, trade show or even a training, anything like that, go. It's really amazing. But you guys have the academy. What do you have going on there?

 

Michael Corle

So one of our first big classes that we do, that people seem to show a lot of interest in, is the training class that we do here in Chantilly Virginia at our main office. And it's just a one day class. It's designed to say, hey, you're from a state local agency and we want to give you this update not just on our products, but both the threat environment. We've had people from fire departments, police departments, private organizations, federal, federal agencies come in and we want to equip you.

You know, this this new threat environment. We're in some of the new studies in and new science that's out there when it comes to HAZMAT decontamination. And we want to equip everyone that attends that class with everything they need to go back and go to their agency and set up a training program and kind of drag DECON kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Which sometimes is the challenge some of these agencies are facing. It’s not like you get a class and when we end, we send you home and never talk to you again.

We'll offer support if you want to come out for training, we do that sort of thing. And then the other one is obviously, if some of these agencies that want a customized onsite training, we've got a number of different classes that are focused towards some towards basic law enforcement response, some towards fire hazmat teams, some big thing, hospitals, hospitals now a possible deal. And we'll come out, put on a customized class for you.

 

Steve Cassidy

Fantastic.  So how do we get a hold of you? You know, somebody listen to this. The goal. Yeah, that sounds great. I'd love to get these guys in. Do we have to travel with them or do they come to us? How do we get a hold of you guys to make that happen?

 

Michael Corle

One of the best is go to our Web site, which is FirstLineTech.com/flua 

That's the name of our academy FirstLine Utilization Academy. You can also go to firstlinetech.com and click the training link. Or they can email training@FirstLineTech.com and it will go to Amit and myself. I will get back to you with a budget or come by any of the shows where we usually have people all over the country. I'll come by and have a chat. Check out some equipment.

 

Amit Kapoor

I think this is carried forward from Mike. We ran around the country for a while doing these DECON awareness programs. I think, Steve, that's where we met you met up in Massachusetts and, you know, eight hours of crash course of the science of DECON and why the threat analysis there. So you know why the DECON matters. And at the end of day we first took a lot of customer feedback from, you know, hey, what's a challenge is that you're finding, you know, you bought the product or you're using it in some way.

What else can we do to help you in? A lot of customer feedback we got was, hey, we want we don't know like how we know how it works on Fentanyl, but how does it work for other threats? How does it work for other things that are out there and that's where we came up. We're like a we really need to build like this. Like, you know, we will have training academies all time or as training courses.

We need to build out like a utilization academy. How do you use stuff and why do you use it? And that's really what we've tried to build out. We’ve taken the first steps in putting it together and we're gonna be having this training. We're gonna be running something similar. We're running a little crash course on one of these DECON courses at the CBRNE Convergence conference coming up in Nashville. Right in your neck of the woods.

 

Steve Cassidy

Yeah, with the CBRNE convergence here in town, primarily at NISSAN stadium. We are doing that pre-sconference training the day prior. I think it's a Tuesday. And then the conference is Wednesday, Thursday, I believe. So if you guys are in town, you definitely have you stop in and then hopefully we can get you guys on the big stage at the Nissan Stadium with the Titans.

Cause, yeah, it's great because we're only three and we're three and a half miles apart. But depending on the time of the day, could be, you know, five minutes or it could be, you know, an hour and a half.

 

Amit Kapoor

So depending on traffic, yeah,

We're gonna have our Advanced DECON system out there. That's the enhanced DECON system. Six-man, 12-man, 24-man. And we're doing a walk through it. Right. We're going to do a whole walkthrough. How do you use it. We just did an exercise with DTRA, runs a chem bio operational activity. They run out of Camp Dawson and we actually handed over one of these kits to a Marines.

We gave it to them and they they open the bag up. They're like, hey, we want to put this in our own ruck that we have. We're like, all right.

Well, you know, do what you need to do because it's our concept is like we hand off this system, this kit to you. You put together your design it into whatever final caring system.

So Steve, you can put into a hard case and custom foam out for people. For folks, we make all the components. So that's our key is like we're manufacturing in the U.S., all these components and everything that goes into it.

 

Michael Corle

And it's all Berry compliant, all, you know, made here in the U.S. And we've worked with end users to refine it. So they tell us what's wrong with it. Tell us how we can make it better for you. It's, well, big things with you. We were talking earlier about some guys looking at the kit and say, oh, I used that back in the 80s. Will you remember that Kit? That it had about a thirty six page and structural manual with  “put your left foot in, pull your left foot out...”

And, you know, we gave this kit, we gave this kit to the Marines. It's got a little job guide with picture and stuff to it, maybe fifteen minutes of instruction. Let's say they nailed it. I mean, it was it it's designed with simplicity in mind. You're a high stress situation. You got some you might be having sniper fire. So where this is supposed to be simple and effective and when people lay it out, go through it, see it in person, that's when it clicks like, okay, this is not the 1980's.

The concept of this is actually something different. And this is something that years and years of development of common sense went into.

 

Steve Cassidy

Now we have we have this setup that both of our locations in Nashville and in Huntsville. In fact in Huntsville, it's actually deployed. It's set up. It's on the deck. So you can actually come in and see what's going on. And we'll open it up here in Nashville, just where we're a little crowded.

 

*As of July 2020, EOD Gear is located in Franklin, TN with the hopes of re-opening Huntsville when training resumes at Redstone.  You can actually come to EOD Gear Franklin or have us come to you with the kit.

 

If anybody ever wants to come in and see it, you know, pick your location. If you can't get to you guys at a trade show or Chantilly. We always have a setup here.

So the one thing I like you guys of I'm a big fan of technology, even though I'm an old guy, we have an app for our catalog, which is on Google Play. You guys have an app which is a quick reference or is it a complete "How To" where you guys fall on the on the app?

 

Amit Kapoor

Again, this is like by customer feedback. So what happened is we developed Dahlgren DECON is like this key decontaminate is use like bleach, water, and then you put these like Hydrogen peroxide based and you can talk about DF200 and that solution that that's been developed through the 70s and 80s. And it's hydrogen peroxide based. I'm going to add a little bit of science here. And so, you know, Dahlgren was based off of this parasitic acid and truly the Navy was developing It like a Dial-A-DECON.

If I get out into the field and I know my threat, can I dial my decontaminate that that that I have reconfigured and I could just dial it, you know, a B want B to mix it up in a certain fashion for different threats. And we had a binder and we'd hand it customers at one hundred couple pages. And hey, if it's this threat, you know, if it's, if it's, you know, certain contamination, V X, sulfur, mustard, whatever might be. 

This is how you mixed all this, how you apply it as you do all time and customer like it. We're not carrying this binder downrange. Like what do you like? You know, you got a better way. So we sat around and were like a you know, everybody's got iPhones these days and, you know, it's got Android devices. And so four years ago, we developed and invested in is free for end users. And we we invested quite a bit of money into building out this app where you have to go in and register yourself in.

 

Amit Kapoor

It's called the DECON Field Guide, and you can pull it off Google Play, pull it off the App Store for Apple and it gives you like over 90 to under maybe over a hundred or push it or 120.

No update this app as soon as we get data in. It goes into the app and we can update it real time socially. And so when it tells you is how to mix up Dahlgren, how to configure it, can you dilute it? How much time do you need to leave it on the surface and Dahlgren is quick react. Right. So you can leave it on the servers for like two minutes for certain threats. Fifteen minutes for harder threats. And so it'll walk you through it.

It also gives you instructions on how to mix it. It gives you incompatibilities so you know where you should not use Dahlgren or in fact you shouldn't use any kind of water based decon on it. You should use Dry decon. just like a fiber check wipe. So it gives you all that guidance. And we've now this past year, we launched it. So it's web enabled. So you can actually pull it off the Internet, too. Same kind of a concept register.

And again, end user feedback and take about a month and a half ago, two months ago, we released a bulletin board. Right. I like a little communication tool. So and users can go onto the onto this DECON Field Guide system and tie being like, hey, you have a question about the formulation. Ask us. And we're very truly honest and transparent about how it system works and we'll give you a fact based data and point you in the right direction.

And it points to end users, too. So this whole holistic thing, you know, technology. Right. So how can we enhance the customer's experience by by putting in their hand and they're in their fingertips? The information. Information is key at everything.

 

Steve Cassidy

I'm out, I'm dismounted, or maybe I'm rolling in like a force protection platform in the convoy. I've got my hard drives. I've got different pieces of kit, everything from toolkits to maybe some more advanced tools. Well, there was an entry tool kit or maybe some sniffers or comms, whatever we have going on in the EOD space. Where are you guys?  H would how would you kit us out?

 

Michael Corle

So if you're if your primary mission is doesn't contain, you know, you're not going to be responsible for decon'ing anybody else but yourself and your equipment. We have a couple kits that are kind of small, lightweight. One's got a PDK, a personal decon kit. That's kind of like a one guy, one piece of equipment, small, small, little thing. It it'll fit in a cargo pocket.

It's got everything you need. Wipes, spray. And then one of the big step up from that would be we call  DKA, which is, you know how it sounds. It's a it's a PDK times 2. It's got more Dahlgren, more FiberTech Wipes. A better sprayer. And it's all in a pretty nice little MOLLE bag. You can strap on your gear, throw in the back of a truck.

Do whatever you want with that. And then if you're looking at an actual dedicated kit, you might be recovering a chemical munition. Anything on that thing that EDS kit. What a nice thing about it is that it's very modular. And so you don't you know, it's originally designed to be used to DECON, you know, people in a traditional timeline. But we found we've got folks using it to decon TALON robots. We've got them to decon drones.

 

Amit Kapoor

You can use it for emergency decon. Dig up the kind of ordnance if that's what you want. So that's kind of the way we, we've got a lot of cards, we've got kits set up for EMT's, firefighters, everything. But those three are definitely kind of from the EOD approach. Probably the best options.

 

Steve Cassidy

So we've got the ICOR mini caliber robot down at our Huntsville shot. If you guys are back down that way, let's do a scenario where we have to decon the robot. And Dan Murphy, if you're listening, you should probably be there then. Dan was Minnesota's state bomb squad. Yeah. Maybe the city of Minneapolis. I can't remember.

 

Michael Corle

For sure. And one of the cool things is that when you look at a lot of sense of equipment that doesn't have an IP rating, you know, it may not be waterproof. People think, oh, you're stuck with dry on the most of that stuff at least has some sort of splash, raining, hard rain sort of thing. And because we're using such a low volume, it's so concentrated, there's so little water, we can actually get a lot of the benefits.

So you’ve got to be careful. You want to spray directly into battery compartments and things like that. But we can do a really, really effective hybrid decon and some very, very sensitive equipment.

 

Steve Cassidy

Well, so most of our gear is EOD. Built very, very well because our job is actually to break everything we touch. So. My dad was thrilled when he found out I finished the EOD pipeline. He goes, You're finally getting paid for what you're great at.

 

Michael Corle

Because while I was a combat engineer for 13 years.  We look at EOD techs and we think those guys are nice on their equipment.

 

Steve Cassidy

Yeah. You know, hey, as long as we can blow stuff up and it's a great. So that's fun stuff. Where are you guys headed off to next? I know we have CBRNE Convergence coming up in November. It's like six, seven weeks. So we got the month of September, which we're rolling into in October. Are you guys have any big events?

 

Amit Kapoor

We're always at conferences and trade shows and it will be a I think it's second week in September. We'll be at the Ohio Narco conference.

 

Michael Corle

I'll be down at the Virginia HAZMAT conference in Virginia Beach the following week. There's a Massachusetts HAZMAT conference for a couple in Indianapolis. So we're pretty much at it. If there's a conference and has anything to do with HAZMAT, we're pretty much there.

 

Steve Cassidy

So probably the easiest way to find… you guys are great on Linkedin. You guys own that space. I mean, you guys are on there every day. If you're listen here, you're really interested, get on LinkedIn and put in “first line tech” or “first line technology” and they will pop up. I mean, just so much great information. You guys have really set a really high bar. It's pretty impressive what you guys have done, especially the Inc.5000.