For Chris Vickers ’87, business was already booming at the start of the year. As CEO of STARC Systems, a Brunswick, Maine-based manufacturer of temporary containment walls, his product was skyrocketing in popularity, mostly for use in hospital renovations.
Then, the novel coronavirus hit, and healthcare workers across the nation turned to STARC’s temporary panels to create pop-up intensive care units to treat patients suffering from COVID-19.
“In March, our business was up 150 percent from the prior month,” Vickers said. “The hospitals were calling and saying we need the product and we need it tomorrow. So we’ve been scrambling to double our production in a very short period of time.”
STARC’s panels—an aluminum frame filled with one-inch foam core and backed with galvanized steel—are lightweight, telescope up to more than 10 feet, and can snap together in a cinch. “It’s like a tongue-and-groove system,” Vickers said. “So you can put up one hundred linear feet in an hour with just two people.”
That has been a godsend for healthcare workers on the front lines trying to treat COVID-19 patients while also keeping the virus from spreading. STARC’s panels can create an isolation room virtually anywhere, which can then hold negative air pressure, stopping the virus from spreading outside the room, even as healthcare workers enter and exit.
They can also be used to create anterooms, where healthcare workers can don and doff personal protection equipment before and after seeing the patient. The STARC systems are in use in all 50 states and countless hospital systems.
“I have always worked in companies that have a soul, more than just selling product,” Vickers said. “We’re helping save lives every day. …We really now feel a great responsibility to do whatever we can to help. And, we’re thankful that we have a product that can help.”
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