POST FALLS, Idaho - Consider it a sixth sense for utility linemen or anyone who works around electrical threats.
"Plain and simple, it saves lives," said Tim Ledford, Safeguard Equipment's Chief Executive Officer.
Compass is a wearable voltage detector that you attach to the brim of your hard hat.
"It gives the user visual and audible alerts when they're getting too close to an energized conductor," explained Chief Technology Officer John Thompson. "It can give them directional information, so they know how to back up and kind of get out of that dangerous environment."
It started as a bracelet, before Ledford says they realized the best place to put was right in front of your eyes.
"And at that point, it can almost augment the surroundings around you. For the first time, you can see voltage around you directionally with our product."
Compass is the brainchild of Ledford, Thompson and Brandon Bledsoe, three friends and recent University of Idaho grads, who realized they were onto something when they won a series of business plan competitions, including one sponsored by Avista.
"We had some people from Avista approach us and say, 'Guys, if you want to approach this and take it on full-time, we'll support you financially and with man hours,'" said Ledford.
"Quit our jobs. Quit school. Took full advantage of that opportunity and we're here today because of that," added Thompson.
All three founders have relatives who have worked in the utility industry. Thompson has brothers who are linemen right now. And Ledford says that makes their work at Safeguard Equipment so much more meaningful.
"We decided to come up with just an innovative product to prevent his brothers from getting electrocuted and preventing all of our family members from getting electrocuted."
"My brother wears the device right now and gives me feedback on it all the time," said Thompson.
The hardware for the Compass is manufactured at Dana-Saad in Spokane Valley.
"You could tell they take a lot of pride in their work and it's showed through the work we've done with them," explained Ledford.
The surface mount technology that powers the Compass is produced at Tate Technology in Spokane.
"When we met Scott (Tate), we could just tell he was professional and again cared about what he did."
And while continuing to churn out product, in January, Safeguard Equipment received word that Compass saved the life of a utility worker in Nevada.
"Really, the reason we started this company, and at the core of who we are, is to save lives, so that made everything we've ever done worth it right there," said Ledford.
The company is planning to come out with more safety products soon and they're pinching themselves over prospects of Safeguard Equipment's future.
"We have big plans to save more lives and really just carry on with our mission," said Ledford.
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