Heat-It: Underground rescue chambers for mines and construction sites

The largest product of the Rovaniemi-based Heat-It Oy is a rescue chamber intended for mines and construction sites that secures the conditions for survival in accident and other emergency situations. According to Pekka Kilpeläinen, CEO of Heat-It, Tekes funding has provided stability and security for the development work of the new product.

Established in 1995, Heat-It develops products and solutions for protecting patients from cold in connection with emergency care. The company's product range also includes various other products from its areas of expertise. Rescue chambers were included in the product selection approximately three years ago.

'We expanded our operations into a new area when it transpired that the underground rescue chambers already on the market are not able to withstand the conditions in Northern Europe. In Kittilä, Canadian rescue chambers were used whose roofs rusted through in a couple of years. This had not happened in Canada, as the conditions over there are different,' explains Heat-It CEO Pekka Kilpeläinen.

Several days of extra time in accident situations

The trade name for the underground rescue chamber is RESPETRA, with RES referring to rescue and PETRA to rock. The purpose of the chamber is to provide up to several days of additional time for the preparation and implementation of an action plan in an accident situation. At best, the danger situations can blow over without outside interference – with the employees in shelter, a piece of mining equipment that has caught fire may burn out without anyone having to risk their life or health in an effort to get above ground.

The RESPETRA products come in two sizes. The smaller one is 2.5 metres long, while the larger one measures 5 metres in length and covers an area of 12 square metres. The larger chamber contains four beds and movable seats for 10 persons. Both facilities are entirely independent, produce their own breathing air, are gas tight and secure the basic conditions for survival. The chamber enables people to live in relative comfort, eat their meals and wait for rescue for up to 100 hours in emergency situations taking place below ground.

'One of the strengths of the RESPETRA chamber is its structure. The walls of the steel chamber are curved, providing an excellent capacity to withstand the extreme changes in pressure caused by explosions, for example,' Kilpeläinen states.

Stainless steel manufactured by Outokumpu Oy's Tornio stainless steel mill was chosen as the material for the chambers. According to Kilpeläinen, curved steel walls are 50 times more durable in pressure waves compared to regular steel. Also, the maintenance of the material does not place additional strain on the maintenance budgets of mines. A scrape that in a regular painted steel container would mean the start of a rapid corrosion process poses no problem with stainless steel.

Kilpeläinen also reminds operators that an up-to-date rescue facility is also an advantage when recruiting new staff: 'Some mines and construction sites only provide a container furnished with oxygen masks for emergency situations; a facility like this is only functional for a short period of time. Also, breathing through a mask can also be a problem for many people. A proper rescue chamber offering humane conditions that the employees can enter in an emergency gives the message that the company is serious about safety.'

Turning new ideas into reality

RESPETRA is a completed product with design protection and about a dozen units already sold to Finnish mines and large construction sites. Several rescue chambers are already in use in the Kittilä gold mine and SRV's site for the construction of a railway track in Vantaa. Kilpeläinen believes, however, that the main market for the product is outside of Finland.

'We are aiming to enter the Nordic and the Russian market in five years' time. In these countries, the customers value a local presence, particularly as the initial annual maintenances and related services are part of the package offered by us. We have already submitted tenders to Swedish companies, as country-specific requirements and standards for rescue facilities in Sweden are largely similar to those in Finland. Before entering other new markets, a thorough examination of these requirements is necessary.'

Pekka Kilpeläinen states that Heat-It would not have been able to invest in the development of a new solution without the support of Tekes.

'The product is 100% ours. Support from Tekes has helped us to develop the modularity of the rescue chambers and to study their durability as well as to develop our own air purifier and the functionality of the audiovisual connection in different conditions. The project is still ongoing, and efforts continue to be made to further develop the quality of the product through different tests. An SME with just a few employees would not be able to undertake development work of this magnitude with no external support. This is why Tekes funding is such a great thing for us. It turns new ideas into reality.'

Further information

Pekka Kilpeläinen, CEO, Heat-It Oy
tel. +358 400 698 102
pekka.kilpelainen (at) heat-it.fi

Sanna Nuutila