Quebec entrepreneurs release evacuation mask that auto-calls 911

Two Montreal entrepreneurs have today released what they’re calling the world’s first integrated emergency evacuation mask meant to be used in extreme situations like fires or disasters.

PEBA, a small startup company led by founder Robert Beaulieu and business partner Yvan Routhier, has released the PEBA emergency ‘hood’ on Indiegogo, available for pre-order. It can be deployed in less than five seconds, triggering a powerful LED light that helps its wearer to navigate through smoke-filled or dark environments. The startup is also offering the connected version, PEBA911, which automatically contacts emergency services, such as 911 in North America. Wearers can speak with a live operator upon the mask’s deployment, with no calling fees.

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“I wanted to create a business that provided something great,” Beaulieu told MTLinTech. “I had thought about different models and different prototypes before finding the right fit for anyone, that could respond to a real emergency need, could protect your eyes and lungs and have the capacity to help you see where you’re going.”

Beaulieu grew up the son of a firefighter, hearing first-hand the countless stories of real people affected by horrible accidents and fire disasters.

“I’ve invested the last 20 years of my life developing PEBA so I can make a difference in the lives of people who face these tragedies,” said Beaulieu.

A mostly self-taught entrepreneur with no university background, the founder hooked up with Routhier to develop the gadget. Routhier, originally from Quebec City, achieved success over ten years in commercial financing before acquiring a few manufacturing businesses in packaging, which he still owns and operates. “It’s a product that’s possible to export abroad, which I wasn’t able to do in packaging,” he said of the PEBA. “It will help save lives.”.

The gadget’s most impressive function could be how users can immediately contact 911 while wearing the mask.

The pair say the gadget is perfect for home-owners, office workers, residents in condo and apartment buildings, the elderly or those with reduced mobility. Beaulieu cited statistics that say smoke inhalation is responsible for 51 percent of deaths during fires while an additional 23 percent are caused by a combination of smoke and burns. In 2014 in the US alone 3,275 people died in fires, 15,775 were injured and property damage was valued at US$9.8 billion.

Moreover, fire departments responded to a fire every 24 seconds. It seems like their product could be a handy tool so long as the pair can get it to the masses.

To help them do that they’ve enlisted Robert Piche as their official spokesperson, a well-known Canadian commercial pilot. Piche is a hero to a great many Canadians, though many readers may have never heard of him. The Quebec-born former Air Transat pilot saved the lives of all 306 passengers of Air Transat Flight 236 on August 24, 2001 when he landed an Airbus A330 in the Portugese Azures that had lost all its power due to fuel exhaustion.

“Today, I’m announcing my support for the PEBA escape mask because I believe it can help save lives,” Piche said in a release put out today by the company.

PEBA can be purchased on Indiegogo beginning today for US$35.

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