Design company to help address critical shortage of masks for North Central WA healthcare workers
TWISP, WA. eqpd gear (“equipped”) is converting its 2,200 sq/ft manufacturing facility to make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare and frontline workers in response to the COVID-19 crisis. After the statewide “Stay at Home, Stay Safe” policy was implemented on March 23, 2020, eqpd was deemed a non-essential business and was forced to close operations. Owner Jonathan Baker recognized that his business could build an essential offering.
“As an experienced product designer with a team of talented sewers, I immediately knew we could help address the critical shortage of PPE,” said Baker. “I went directly into research mode, reaching out to our local healthcare workers, assessing specific requirements, studying pattern designs, finding suppliers, engaging my team. We agreed it was imperative that we step up to address the looming mask shortage.”
The product eqpd is most recognized for is their LastBag - a made in WA, lifetime reusable bag. Until recently, six designers and sewers created hundreds of LastBags a week at their factory on the TwispWorks campus. Those same machines used to make bags, are now being used to make masks.
“Jonathan and the eqpd team put great design and quality manufacturing at the heart of their work,” said Don Linnertz, TwispWorks Executive Director. “Those values, along with Jonathan’s incredible ingenuity make it easy for a company like eqpd to pivot and meet emerging demands. Having them on the TwispWorks campus making PPE masks is the perfect response to the current, urgent need. We’re so proud of the eqpd team.”
With over 20 years in product development, Baker and eqpd relied on existing relationships with industrial material suppliers as well as local businesses for sourcing required materials. The company plans to make 10,000 masks over the next month. During this period they will focus on the ASTM level 1 mask which provides basic bacterial filtration and sub-micron particulate protection. 7,500 will be produced by eqpd. Another 2,500 will be built as kits by eqpd and distributed to local home sewers for completion. These 10,000 masks will be donated to local healthcare agencies, essential workers and vulnerable community members.
"Rural communities are often older, sicker and poorer, and in this pandemic, are at increased risk for COVID-19 complications,” said Dr. Ann Diamond, Mazama-based family physician. “Physical distancing is one step in preventing viral transmission, but for those who must work, must be in contact with the vulnerable public, eqpd is helping fill a critical gap to keep our community safe.”
Using the principles of Industrial Design, eqpd gear creates everyday products that respect all people and the environment. Their awarding-winning LastBags, made in Twisp, WA. have replaced millions of single-use shopping bags.
For more information on the GoFundMe program eqpd initiated to fund this business transition, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Help-us-make-10000-masks-for-healthcare-workers
For information on at-home mask building kits, please visit: https://methowvalleyppe.wixsite.com/website
“I wanted to make a product that could be used by the whole human race and potentially solve some real problems,” Baker continues. This commitment to design as an agent of positive change is exemplified by their signature product: a waterproof, industrial-strength tote called the LastBag. It’s an everyday product made so sturdily that “it’s the last bag you’ll ever need,” Donovan says. "We truly believe," Baker says,"that design can create better systems and better outcomes" for both the product we make and the people we serve.