- On April 7, 2020
A small business in Morrisville is joining Wake County’s effort to provide protective masks to first responders and healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.
The partnership will not only provide the county with thousands of N95 masks to keep employees safe from coronavirus, but it’s also giving much-needed work to PSB Pro Services during an economic downturn.
“This is a great example of the public and private sectors working together to create an innovative solution locally to a national problem,” said Wake County Manager David Ellis. “This kind of partnership and ingenuity is exactly what we need during this health crisis.”
Wake County – like communities across the country – does not currently have enough personal protective equipment for the duration of this pandemic. As staff explored all options to acquire the needed PPE, they focused on a stockpile of N95 masks in storage in the county’s emergency services warehouse. The issue? The masks were several years old, and the elastic bands that hold the masks in place would break whenever employees tried to put them on.
“We knew the masks were in excellent condition and could provide the protection our crews needed, but without functioning bands to hold them in place, they were no good to us,” said Wake County EMS Director/Medical Director Dr. Jose Cabanas. “We couldn’t let this potential opportunity pass without exploring all options to fix the bands.”
Our team in the Emergency Operations Center got to work, creating potential prototypes for the masks.
Once county staff developed a feasible prototype, they needed to find a partner with the expertise and equipment to operationalize production in mass. By chance, an EMS employee was discussing the situation with a friend who referred him to Andy Scoggins, owner of PSB Pro Services, who offered to try to help.
Scoggins discovered his company – which normally sharpens skates for hockey and figure skating and makes custom team apparel – could use its industrial sewing machines to sew new elastic bands into the fabric of the masks, creating a strong link that wouldn’t break. Scoggins’ staff tested the masks and verified that the stitching enabled the masks to stay in place when worn.
“Thanks to PSB Pro Services, we’ll now have an additional stock of N95 masks going out to first responders and healthcare workers across the county,” said Dr. Cabanas. “Although it’s not enough to completely fill the gap, it’s a great help, and we appreciate their service.”
Thanks to Wake County’s order, PSB Pro Services is getting a financial boost at a time when the local economy is sagging. The company had just laid off two employees before taking on the mask project, but the county’s order enabled Scoggins to reverse that decision and rehire the team members.
“PSB Pro Services, we know the importance of protecting first responders,” said Scoggins. “Ours is a veteran-owned company, and our staff include a retired Raleigh police officer and a retired New York firefighter. We’re proud to collaborate with Wake County on this important effort.”
The company is still closed to the public, but staff is working remotely to fill the county’s orders.
In addition to the work PSB Pro Services is doing, four Wake County residents have volunteered to help with efforts to replace the bands.
The group of women reached out to Wake County EMS around the time it was looking for ways to replace the bands and immediately agreed to work out of their homes to update the N95 masks.
Wake County has made it easy for you to stay updated on the latest information about COVID-19.
You can visit our COVID-19 webpage, which has a set of frequently asked questions to educate residents in English and in Spanish, a list of COVID-19-related closures and service changes, as well as an email address and phone number that people can use to ask personal health-related questions about COVID-19.
The county is also sharing important information on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.