by Casey Hayes

URBAN LEGEND HAS it that the emergency equipment industry was started by an industrious plant engineer who couldn't live with the status quo, whatever that was before the advent of the eyewash. So, he coupled standard drinking fountain bubblers together aiming them inward — more or less toward each other — and so was born the first eyewash.

True or not, that very same mentality of taking commercially available products and making them work in your application drives a rapidly growing trend in emergency showers and eyewashes. At Haws Corp., we've labeled this approach Engineered Solutions. The concept is simple really — you take standard, off-the-shelf emergency equipment products and modify or combine them to more precisely address your specific needs.

While this custom-engineered approach may not be particularly new as it relates to minor alterations, the complexity of many of today's installations is driving more and more specifiers to seek the collaborative assistance of emergency equipment manufacturers. These manufacturers deal with drench showers and eyewashes every day, so they are most familiar with their installation needs, operating requirements, capabilities and limitations. Importantly, they are often better equipped to logically match the various components that might go into a system that could be called upon to provide:

  • Real-time cooling, warming or both of inlet water to assure that a victim can stand a 15-minute drench or irrigation cycle without suffering scald or hypothermia injuries - or curtailing the emergency response cycle short of the required time;
  • Booster pumps to assure that sufficient pressure is available to maintain nominal flow rates and spray pattern heights in the widest variety of circumstances and re-circulation pumps to provide consistent temperature water at any point in the system at any given time; and
  • Appropriate temperatures, flows and pressures even if multiple victims are using multiple emergency showers and eyewashes at the same time.

A number of companies have moved toward this custom-engineered approach and, importantly, the products that result from those collaborations are often made available for similar applications later on. Several examples of the results of these collaborations are:

  • Tempered water, which is the providing of "tepid" water to emergency equipment in areas where water supplies can become uncomfortably - or dangerously - cold, and reverse tempering, where warm or hot ambient water must be cooled before use. Consider the use of an eyewash in a meat processing plant, where cold ambient water would make a 15-minute irrigation cycle torturous. Or, use of that same eyewash in a foundry, where ambient temperatures could make emergency equipment inlet water temperatures dangerously hot. Tempering and reverse tempering, designed in collaboration with those types of industrial operations, are not luxuries --they are necessities today, required by ANSI. But one size doesn't always fit all applications.
  • Enclosed emergency environments, or E3, which are packaged, plug-and-play self-contained emergency equipment systems custom tailored to each specific application. The mountain of operational variables, when considered along with everincreasing specificity in ANSI standards, is often a primary motivator in seeking our Engineered Solutions approach. Specifiers are finding that relying on the expertise of manufacturers to package balanced and matched components saves time and money, while guaranteeing the best possible outcome.
  • The availability of skid-mounted, balanced and matched emergency systems has dramatically aided remote and "special needs" applications. Products, such as air-charged systems, provide ANSI compliance in the toughest of locations. In addition, fully self-contained portable shower and eyewash equipment enhances on-the-go safety. A 12-volt (vehicle-powered) heated eyewash is even available as a result of design collaboration between a customer and manufacturer.
  • Wireless technology, applied to remote monitoring of emergency equipment, is another example of a collaborative initial product design now available for more widespread use. Traditional hard-wired installation of remote monitoring components can cost up to $50 per foot and still be quite vulnerable to damage. By comparison, wireless monitoring — using an RF radio to transmit shower or eyewash activation — is much less expensive and labor intensive to install and maintain, while also being less susceptible to physical damage. Most quality systems are designed to provide continuous self-diagnosis and system integrity monitoring.

The moral of this story is that you should ask for what you need, whether you see it or not.

Casey Hayes is engineering manager at Haws Corp., which designs, manufactures and distributes drinking fountains and emergency equipment. He can be reached at 775/ 353- 8320 or For more information visit