RACINE — In October 2016, through the generosity of the All Saints Foundation, the Racine Fire Department received a special piece of equipment.

Called the Halo Disinfection System, the golf bag-size machine spends all of its time at the Ascension All Saints Emergency Room ambulance bay. There, it is used multiple times a day to sanitize ambulances after they have delivered their human cargo. Emergency service units come from as far away as Kenosha County, Burlington and Mukwonago; private ambulance companies also use the Halo system for free.

Square One Solutions, the Downtown-based, two-man company that sold the Halo machine to the All Saints Foundation, touts the fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has validated the Halo Disinfection System to kill 99.99% of C. difficile and other bacterial spores, even in areas beyond human or UV light reach. Square One also sold another Halo fogger to the Caledonia Fire Department.

“(EMS personnel) know that they’re coming up against some things that are highly, highly dangerous,” said Zach Prideaux, co-owner of Square One Solutions. “And when they’re constantly exposed to that stuff, their immune systems are constantly fighting this, that and the other thing.”

In addition to EMS personnel, Prideaux said, anyone on antibiotics, the elderly and young children who go into an environment such as an ambulance, hospital or nursing home, are at high risk of getting sick.

“We’re always conscious of the presence of infectious diseases, and we hoped to save on some sick time,” Caledonia Fire Chief Richard Roeder said about his department’s purchase of the Halo fogger. “… It’s kind of a risk-management tool.”

Before the Halo machine, EMS personnel would wipe down the interior of the ambulances with a disinfectant, Roeder said. “This, it atomizes; it creeps into the nooks and crannies.” The department uses the fogger once a month on the ambulances and as needed, if someone sick is transported, he said.

It’s also used inside the station, Roeder said, if someone comes in sick.

Racine Fire Department EMS personnel use the Halo machine weekly or any time a patient is transported who is coughing, has flu-like symptoms, or any airborne illness is suspected, said Mark Villalpando, division chief of EMS.

“For us it’s a safeguard — also for the public,” he said. It prevents a patient being exposed to something that a previous patient had, Villalpando pointed out.

Ascension All Saints Hospital provides the disinfectant solution at no cost to users.

“It’s a priority for the Ascension All Saints Foundation and its donors to improve all aspects of health in Racine,” said Devon Borst, Ascension All Saints Foundation director. “We recognize healthcare takes place both in and outside of the hospital and we’re proud to be part of this effort to make transporting patients as safe as possible.”

“By providing this service, our goal is to improve patient outcomes by preventing the transmission of disease and ultimately making our community safer,” said Kristin McManmon, Ascension All Saints Hospital president.

A need, then a new company

In December 2014, when Prideaux and his business partner, Brian Repa, started their company, Prideaux had been a facilities coordinator at Careers Industries, 4811 Washington Ave. That led to the genesis of Square One.

“We were dealing with an infectious outbreak in the facility,” Prideaux said. “We dealt with adults with developmental disabilities, a lot of weakened immune systems, not the best hygiene all the time, difficult living circumstances. So outbreaks happen.

“That’s not something that I was totally familiar with, so I had to get educated on: How do we deal with this?”

Prideaux said what he found was: The cleaning products they were using were not good enough to nail the pathogens they were trying to prevent from spreading at Careers.

He started doing online research and talking to distributors all over the country to find what was available for the situation. Prideaux said it was “frustrating and heartbreaking” to know that the nonprofit Careers, operating on a shoestring budget, could not afford to buy most of the available sanitation technology.

But then he found the Halo Disinfection System, which had come from Europe, specifically designed for healthcare settings. The device atomizes a 5% hydrogen peroxide-based solution and will disinfect an enclosed space.

“If we have the protocols set properly,” Repa said, “it’s a no-rinse, no-wipe solution. You just turn on the machine, and that’s it.”

After the very fine mist has done its work, it breaks down into evaporated water and oxygen, Prideaux said.

Square One is trying to convince hospital personnel that they should be acquiring, and regularly using, Halo Disinfection systems, which currently cost about $17,000. Prideaux said that every time a patient is discharged, Halo should be used to disinfect the room.

“Our name, Square One Solutions, that product will bring that room back to square one,” he said. “There’s nothing in that room (after treatment), when the next patient comes in.”

Other products

In December 2014 Prideaux and Repa — the two had played together on the Lutheran-Prairie baseball team in high school — started their company in Repa’s basement. Last summer they moved into a small Downtown office at 701 Grand Ave.

Square One’s potential markets for the Halo fogger, Prideaux said, include hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers, schools and daycares. Shorelight at Siena, the memory care center at 5643 Erie St. in Caledonia, has one.

The company also sells sanitation and disinfectant products from many different manufacturers, such as a tabletop UV box that will disinfect a smartphone or e-tablet in 60 seconds, with 99.99 percent efficacy.

With other products, Prideaux and Repa hope to get into the residential market as well.

One product they sell is a window cleaner called Pureti that Prideaux and Repa said turns windows into air purifiers.

“It gives amazing air purification benefits,” Repa said, “reducing (volatile organic compounds) by over 50%.” The mineral that is left behind after cleaning is activated by the sun’s UV rays.

“We saw an opportunity,” Prideaux said, “where these products weren’t getting distributed the way they ought to be; they didn’t have representation in the market.”

For more information about Square One Solutions, call 262-583-1487.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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