First Line Technology designs and makes life-saving innovations from its Fairfax County HQ
Fairfax County isn’t known as a manufacturing center. But from its headquarters in Chantilly, First Line Technology designs and manufactures leading-edge disaster-preparedness and emergency-response equipment, including the AmbuBus (an ambulance bus), PhaseCore personal cooling vests and a line of decontamination equipment, which includes FiberTect dry decon wipes and Dahlgren Decon.
Established in 2003, the company was founded with a commitment to be innovative. First Line Technology works closely with first-responders, the military and researchers to develop products that they use in life-saving activities.
“Innovation and always thinking five, 10, 20 years ahead have transformed First Line Technology over the past 13 years,” says Amit Kapoor, president and CEO. “It’s provided a strong foundation for future growth.”
Kapoor says his company’s success and growth all come back to high quality products that have been tested in the laboratory and the field, listening to and understanding the needs of customers, the ability to create innovative solutions and extra effort to insure the satisfaction of customers and his workforce.
Located near Washington Dulles International Airport and with close proximity to the Pentagon and the nation’s capital, First Line enlists input from first-responders and the military in the U.S., Australia, Qatar, Sweden, Hong Kong, Japan, London, the United Arab Emirates and others to develop its products.
E-Bird Extra recently spoke to Kapoor at his company’s headquarters.
E-Bird Extra: Let’s start by learning about the AmbuBus. This looks like a pretty cool product.
Amit Kapoor: Our AmbuBus conversion kit will convert any school or metro bus into an ambulance that can carry up to 18 non-critical patients, and do it in less than two hours with no power tools required. In comparison, a turnkey, fully equipped medical ambulance bus costs between $500,000 and $1 million per unit, depending on the medical equipment required. By leveraging surplus or end-of-service school or metro buses and using an AmbuBus conversion kit, a community can have a vehicle that can transport six, 12 or 18 patients for under $50,000.
EE: There appears to be flexibility with these conversion kits.
AK: The AmbuBus kit can also be used free-standing. So, if you have a mass-casualty event or you need to house patients or first-responders – even in a snowstorm or other event where housing is needed – you can multiply the number of beds available. When it comes to outfitting a bus, we do have the ability to bring a vehicle into our facility and retrofit it. We take all the seats out and do the conversion on the bus. But if localities want to do it themselves, they can. Either way, it’s a one-day deal.
EE: Who is using these AmbuBuses?
AK: We have more than 550 conversion kits in use across the U.S. and internationally. We’ve also sold them in Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Nashville Fire Department deployed an AmbuBus at the NFL draft, mainly for crowds that had been standing for long periods of time. The Hampton Roads Medical Response unit used theirs during the recent Virginia Beach shootings. They’ve been used in national disasters such as flooding in Mississippi and the Dakotas. But it’s not just for hurricane evacuations and natural disasters. We see them in use on a regular basis for events like 5K races and for heat stress management of firefighters.
EE: Tell us about some of the other products you offer.
AK: We’ve also developed an entirely new approach for opioid response and to the decontamination necessary to deal with drugs like Fentanyl as well as hundreds of other chemical and biological threats. We call this process hybrid decontamination in response to the dangers first responders face when they treat patients. Responders first use our FiberTect wipes to remove about 95 percent of the contaminate and then chemically neutralize the residue with our Dahlgren Decon solution. We also have a line of cooling products. PhaseCore is a cooling jacket utilized by fire departments and law enforcement. You can put it on and it absorbs heat from your body.
EE: Do you design and manufacture from scratch or buy and assemble your products?
AK: When we first started, we were essentially a distribution house, reselling products to the military and the Department of Homeland Security, which had just been created. It’s been a unique pivot to where we now control our destiny in terms of our growth and the products we make. A lot of what we do is kit-production, putting products together to make an easier solution for our end users. But First Line has three patents for the AmbuBus, has patents pending in the chem-bio arena, has licensed three patents from the U.S. Navy and is in place to license another five. We have a number of world-class manufacturing partners, both here and abroad, and we assemble and package here in Fairfax County.
EE: Who are your primary customers?
AK: Our primary customers are first-responders and the military, who use our products and services to protect our citizens and keep themselves safe while they do it. The Department of Defense and state and local governments are two major customers that we work with across all product lines.
EE: What separates First Line you from the competition?
AK: I really like to interface with our customers. I like to be out in the field and work with our product managers to see what the need currently is for our end users. First Line has a unique set of employees, many of whom have been warfighters or first responders. That perspective gives them the ability to really challenge the innovation process and to explain the benefits of our products. My team travels a lot and we’re constantly talking with our customers to identify their problems, innovating solutions and then testing them in the lab and the field.
EE: How many employees do you have? Are they all on this site?
AK: We currently have 16 employees and all but two of them work here. However, the rapid growth we are experiencing is prompting us to add an additional facility here in Fairfax County and increase the size of our staff. We have about 8,500 square feet — about 2,500 square feet of office and 6,000 square feet that’s warehouse — and we are bulging at the seams. We’re looking for new space in Northern Virginia, in Fairfax County.
EE: What new products of services will you be offering?
AK: Because our customers have told us that they want advanced training on utilizing our products we’ve created the First Line Utilization Academy that will provide both “Train-the-Trainer” courses here and customized classes at the customers’ locations. We’re truly teaching our customers how to use our products in a broader way.
EE: What do you consider the most innovative aspect of your company?
AK: Again, I think it comes back to educating our customers. We’re not only developing new products but we’re fully engaged with our customers, researchers, and advisers to make it easier for responders and our military to use our products in the field. For example, since the hybrid decontamination process is so new, we developed both a mobile and web-based app, the Decon Field Guide, to enable customers instant access to expert guidance in using our FiberTect wipes and Dahlgren Decon solution so they can quickly neutralize hundreds of known and emerging threats.
EE: What makes Fairfax County a good place for First Line Technology to do business?
AK: I grew up in Fairfax County, went to Robinson High School and always wanted to be here. Our location in Fairfax County gives us tremendous advantages. We have access to a large pool of qualified candidates for our workforce, many of whom are veterans that have performed the same missions faced by our customers. We’re a stone’s throw from Dulles Airport, allowing us to travel quickly to where our customers need us to be as well as providing convenient shipping around the world. We are also close to the policy makers that provide funding to both our federal and state and local customers.
EE: What has growth been like and what might you expect in the next five to 10 years?
AK: We’ve experienced incredible growth and have made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies for three years. We’re expecting to continue that trend for the foreseeable future as our pipeline of brew products is strong and our new First Line Utilization Academy brings us high margin service revenue. First Line Technology is an ISO 9001:2015 certified, 8(a) graduate small, disadvantaged, minority-owned business, and while we strive to continue our “small business mentality,” we’re positioned for strategic growth.
First Line Technology is located at 3656 Centerview Drive, Chantilly, VA 20151; 703-955-7510; www.FirstLineTech.com