Northern Star Illuminating Compass for Firefighters


CarolinaFireJournal - David Hesselmeyer
David Hesselmeyer
04/16/2018 -

If you are like me, you love the ingenuity of firefighters. If there is a need for something in the fire service and it does not exist, a brother or sister of ours will find a way to invent it. That is why I love doing these product reviews. It is also why I love going to conferences where I can go through the vendor area and see what new has been developed.

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About six months ago, I was at the Firehouse Expo 2017 walking around the vendor area. It was getting near the close of the conference and I was trying to get every little bit of learning and discussion with vendors I could. I walked by a booth and something for sure caught my eye; the product name. The name of the product was Northern Star. I was intrigued so I went to the attendant of the booth; which ended up being Captain Jeff Dykes, creator of the Northern Star.

The Northern Star is a small approximately one-inch device that is placed into your SCBA mask and illuminates what direction you are going (i.e. North, South, East, or West). It actually illuminates one of eight directions. In talking with Captain Dykes, I learned more of the origination of the device. Disorientation is an extreme threat to firefighters. How many times have we read injury, or unfortunately, line of duty death reports where disorientation was listed as a factor? It occurs and does regularly happen. The purpose of the Northern Star device is to ensure that at all times firefighters know what direction that they are traveling. The ultimate goal is to decrease and hopefully eliminate disorientation as a risk to firefighters, thereby keeping us safer.

As we were concluding our conversation, Captain Dykes asked if I would like to have one of these to test and see what I thought of it. I had to say yes, of course. A short time later, I received the Northern Star and was excited to learn more about it and use it.

The first thing that I noticed when I took the Northern Star box out was their “Made in the USA” sticker. This made me proud for sure. I finished unpacking the device and found it nicely cradled in foam with its two LIR 2450 Lithium batteries. In addition, was a charger for the two batteries that can simply be inserted into a USB port. I thoroughly like how they had a charger for the batteries and you are not required to constantly purchase more batteries. This is a money saver.

The instructions included in the box were helpful and easy to understand. After I had charged the batteries, I opened the device and installed the battery. Prior to installing the device in a mask, I took some time to work with it. The device has a battery saver feature for turning it on. It cannot be simply turned on and run the battery down. To turn on, simply tap the device and move it immediately. The device will immediately light the direction you are facing. One item of note, which was important to me, is that each direction is a different color. This made it extremely easy to see the direction of travel. As another battery saving option, the device will power down automatically after three minutes of no movement.

So now it was time to install the device. The package came with a circular double-sided tape that was exactly the right fit. However, I did not use this immediately due to finding that right spot for the device. The directions do explain scotch tape can be used to temporarily as you test to find the right spot for it. For me, I really liked the left-hand side of my mask. It allowed me to see it more clearly. While wearing a mask, I was able to completely see which direction I was heading.

My Take

Of course, the following is only my two cents on this product. I would highly encourage anyone interested to purchase one of these and test out for your own needs and make a decision based on that.

I really like this product. The product is well made and is easy to use. Furthermore, the price point is more than fair in my opinion. For $129.99 you get the Northern Star device and for $19.99 you get the charger. The retail on the device itself is $149.99 alone. The website, www.northernstarfire.com, says that bulk orders can get a discount. This is an inexpensive tool to have for a firefighter’s safety and protection.

Now at first, I started wondering why the charger was not included. Then in talking with Captain Dykes, it made perfect, albeit not normal business, sense — businesses today seem to be out to make money no matter how it has to happen. You only need one charger per two devices. So, the cost for two devices and one charger is $279.97. However, if the chargers were included in every pack then you would likely be spending $299.96 if not more for something you don’t necessarily need multiples for use. Therefore, as a consumer you are saving approximately $20 due to this business model they have of being honest and not selling you something just because they can.

The product worked fully without any issues. The lights were clear and easy to see. The different colored lights made it a lot more functional than if it were only one color. In testing this device, comparing it to another compass, I did not see any differences. The Northern Star device lighted the way just as the other compass did.

Conclusion

I am very happy to be a customer of Northern Star Fire. I have my device and will continue to use it religiously. We have come a long way in the fire service in terms of safety, but we can never be complacent. This device for its cost and safety features is a no brainer. Also, if you see Captain Jeff Dykes at an upcoming show, tell him that you heard about his product from this review. Spend some time talking to him and listen to his passion for protecting us from disorientation.

Until next time, be safe

David Hesselmeyer, M.P.A., has been in emergency services for 16 years. Currently he is a firefighter, rescue technician, paramedic, and North Carolina Executive Emergency Manager. Hesselmeyer is the owner and primary consultant with On Target Preparedness (OTP) which contracts with emergency services agencies and non profits to assist in risk assessments, plan writing, plan revision, exercise development, etc. He currently volunteers with Buies Creek Fire Rescue and works part time with Harnett County EMS. He can be contacted at [email protected] or visit his website at www.ontargetprep.com.
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