Merritt RCMP officer Dave Feller is making a variety of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for first responders who are facing both a shortage of the equipment and the Covid-19 outbreak.

Several months ago, when coronavirus was first documented and began to reach pandemic status, Feller realized that there was already a shortage of PPE for those on the front lines around the world. Having a 3D printer, he knew that he would be able to manufacture some items that would be of use to those battling the virus.

“I’ve been doing it since the start of the pandemic because I had realized there was already a shortage of PPE, and a shortage that was listed in other countries,” Feller explained.

“I had been shipping these items overseas at first, sending them off to Turkey and the Czech Republic and France and other places over there, making them on my 3D printer. And then obviously I knew that the same thing would likely occur over here, so I started to make and stockpile some little things to make life easier for some of our care aids and nurses and doctors in our local area as well, including Kamloops and Kelowna because I’ve got a lot of friends in the healthcare field, being a first responder myself.”

One of Feller’s first designs was a clip intended to take the pressure off of the ears when wearing a surgical mask, as healthcare staff at the local hospital had commented that their ears were sore and beginning to break down because of the constant pull from wearing a mask all day.

“One of the more popular things are the ear savers, the little white clips I had made. They just take the tension of the surgical masks that the nursing staff often wear, because they wear the ones that have the little elastics that loop over the ears, and it just takes the pressure of those masks off the back of the ears and distributes it to the back of the head,” Feller said.

“I’ve been making those in the thousands and giving them out to hospitals. Most of the care homes in Kamloops have them now, I don’t know if everyone in the Merritt homes have them now, but I’ve been giving them out to different shifts at the Merritt homes, especially Gillis House, the hospital staff are wearing them. I’ve brought them to Kelowna, to Kamloops, I had a request come through my Facebook for Overlander Care Home in Kamloops and I sent them several hundred clips for their staff.”

The clips are entirely plastic, making them durable and easy to disinfect for constant reuse. With the success of the ear clips, Feller moved on to making face shields, and designed a cartridge attachment for 3M masks. The attachment allows for a single mask to be made into nine inserts.

“Because the mask design itself on a half inch respirator like that instead of breathing in and out of the material, all the air flow going through the fabric, those masks have a separate valve for bringing in air and then it seals with a little silicone seal, and then there’s a separate valve for air going out,” Feller explained.

“So that allows the mask to remain contaminant free from the user, and also keeps the mask medium dry, so you don’t get that damp, dinginess that would require you to change your surgical mask all the time.”

While there have been some reservations and skepticism from the public and health officials alike over the use of homemade PPE, Feller has been able to have his creations tested by experts within the RCMP for both proper fit and effectiveness, which included Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) agent testing.

“They passed all the qualifications, they’re completely suitable and meet all of the expected guidelines for use,” said Feller.

A GoFundMe page has been set up in order to help Feller cover the costs of the equipment he’s making, but the RCMP officer said that he will continue to manufacture products and help in anyway he can, regardless of the fundraising efforts.

“The fundraising doesn’t matter, somebody said that I should put that out because I’ve spent about $2000 out of my own pocket doing this and I’ll continue to do it,” explained Feller.

“The fundraising, I’ve made about $1000 back through the fundraising and I’ve had some good support, but at the end of the day I just wanted to do something. I’m not a nurse, I’m not a doctor, I can’t fight coronavirus. I can still do my part to make sure that our community stays safe, but this is my way of fighting back.”