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The Story of the MIFD and Bumperchute: Pairing a Need with a Product


By Mason Kelley

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. – Sometimes the best professional relationships are born out of fortunate accidents.

It was a serendipitous series of events that brought the Mercer Island Fire Department and Bumperchute together, pairing a need with a product.

A few years ago, the MIFD was looking for a portable shelter that was quick to assemble. When responding to events – fires, automobile accidents and landslides, among others – that require the deployment of multiple resources over an extended amount of time, the MIFD has a battalion chief, or incident commander, orchestrating things from the back of a Suburban.

In the Northwest, weather can make life difficult for the battalion chief on scene. The MIFD wanted more protection than Suburban’s rear liftgate provided.

“It can be very challenging to be in the rain when you’re trying to write on paper and communicate on radios,” MIFD chief Chris Tubbs said.

There was one problem: The MIFD couldn’t find a product that fit their needs.

They found a variety of tents, but they were expensive and required two people to assemble. They eventually purchased one, but it didn’t solve the problem.

Then they stumbled across the Bumperchute.

“There was an article in our local paper – The Mercer Island Reporter – about the Bumperchute, but it had a strictly recreational application,” Tubbs said. “They showed a picture of the Bumperchute in action.”

For Tubbs, that article provided an “ah-ha” moment. While it was being marketed as a recreational tool, he was picturing practical professional applications.

He called Bill and Rene Christenson, the inventors of the Bumperchute. He asked them to visit the station to talk about their product.

The Bumperchute was easy to assemble and inexpensive, so Tubbs purchased one.

“There’s nothing on the market, that I’m aware of, that works as quickly and provides the type of protection that they’re selling,” Tubbs said.

Tubbs has continued to work with the Christensons since that first meeting.

“Bill and Rene have been an absolute pleasure to work with,” Tubbs said. “They’re receptive to ideas. I’m impressed by their commitment to finding a nexus between the market and a real need. They listen.

Tubbs said Bumperchute tailors it products to the needs of clients.

“I think that’s pretty impressive,” he said.

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