Live events are making a comeback. But, due to the deep economic and societal impact caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), checkpoint health screening protocols set in place during the pandemic could be here to stay. Chicago, Ill.-based PREVENT — which also maintains a location in Lynchburg, Va. — recognizes this reality and offers resources designed to ensure safe, efficient gatherings of large crowds. It’s a service that the company’s principals have a personal stake in.
“We come from a live events background,” says John Harris who, along with Isaac Rothwell, is a founding partner of PREVENT. “I was in event production for about 12 years on the talent buying and promotion side as well as an artist — I’ve been onstage quite a bit.”
“My background is event production and the A/V, technology side of things,” Rothwell says. “Obviously, COVID just ravaged my businesses. So, I switched over to advocacy. As soon as the pandemic hit, I wrote a petition that half a million people in the events industry signed which spawned the Live Events Coalition. That became the voice for a lot of small businesses that were part of major trade groups and organizations to advocate for government aid in the first round of PPP[Paycheck Protection Program]. That got me a ton of relationships all over the industry.”
PREVENT’s mission is to deliver products and services that will help facilitate the return of live events, with a priority on bolstering safety as well as public confidence and peace of mind. The company’s offerings include advanced temperature screening cameras, spray sanitizing systems, COVID compliance management and COVID testing services.
While catering to live events is the driving force behind PREVENT — to the extent that “event” is an emphasized part of the company’s name — it was the field of aviation that gave birth to the enterprise.
“Kyle Falwell, our third partner in this venture, has an aircraft management and charter service. Like most airlines, his business dropped off about 95 percent last March. He was trying to figure out how to generate some business. As an aviation company, he has a federal license to obtain isopropyl alcohol in mass quantity for windshield wiper and deicer fluid. He mixed his own isopropyl-based solutions and developed the BonAirosol spray cleaning system — a backpack unit with carbon dioxide compressed gas pushing through a commercial-grade regulator and spray nozzle. So, while he’s flying his clientele around, these companies with their own manufacturing companies and big facilities that are already in his book of business adopted the spray cleaning system,” Harris says.
As BonAirosol’s business grew in 2020, Falwell had a chance encounter with a businessman from Beaumont, Texas, that proved to be the catalyst for what would become PREVENT.
“A guy bought a new plane in Beaumont. Kyle goes down there to train the pilot on all the avionic systems and hits it off with the plane’s owner, who is the owner and CEO of Infrared Cameras Inc. (ICI). ICI is a small medical device manufacturer that happens to have the premier system on the market for elevated body temperature screening — they manufacture medical-grade infrared camera systems. Kyle took over the management of the ICI owner’s aircraft and became his personal pilot all last spring as ICI’s business was booming. These guys flew coast to coast doing multimillion dollar deals with companies like Amazon, Southwest Airlines, Ford Motor Co. and government organizations like the Department of Homeland Security. Kyle saw an opportunity with the infrared camera systems and BonAirosol, and noticed that ICI was getting very busy with these major accounts. Kyle asked the ICI owner, ‘You guys are obviously targeting the U.S. government and Fortune 500. Who’s going after the secondary market?’ At the time, no one was. So, BonAirosol became an independent distributor for ICI,” Harris says.
Harris came on board, and BonAirosol’s clientele grew to include manufacturing facilities, airports, schools, ski resorts and more. The launch of the PREVENT brand as the tentpole for BonAirosol and the ICI temperature screening systems resulted from roundtable discussions its principals held last year with leaders in the music industry.
“All these music festival organizers were trying to figure out how they were going to put their events back on,” Harris says. “We got some good feedback about the tools we had, so we started to narrow our focus down to the live events industry because we knew it was going to be the last to come back. They were going to need some of the tools and tech that we were already using for businesses.”
Another critical step for the launch of PREVENT came in early 2021 with the entrance of Rothwell — initially a would-be customer — into the picture. “We started to reach out to key figures in the live events industry to get their input and advice. I contacted Isaac basically to try to sell him a camera. We did a demo, and he loved the product. It got his wheels turning,” Harris says.
“When John came to me and told me about the ICI product, I knew it was an important product to help live events get back because they need reliable industry standard safety measures that can instill consumer confidence,” Rothwell says. “We reviewed the relationships we needed to get the product to and got out in front of the decision makers in the industry. That’s the role I’ve played in taking BonAirosol and start branding it to the live events industry.”
With their current team in place and fully rebranded as PREVENT, Harris and Rothwell look forward to playing a key role in the full return of live events through their products. They anticipate events returning in a big way this fall and, as COVID concerns linger, the pair have reason to be confident that their temperature screening system will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.
“The analogy we use is the TSA [Transportation Security Administration]. Fifteen years ago, you didn’t have to take your shoes off when going through airport checkpoints. Now that has become a standard practice everybody is used to. We see a similar trend [for temperature screening checkpoints] in the events industry. What we’re putting forward is a safer, faster, more accurate and less labor-consuming alternative to the handheld thermometer guns,” Harris says. “We’re aiming to decrease that friction at checkpoints for events.”
Another reason for Harris and Rothwell’s confidence in their product is that it stands out among others as vetted by federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards.
“There are a lot of temperature screening products on the market right now,” Harris says. “Since the pandemic hit, over 200 companies have put forth some sort of temperature screening device. About 99 percent of these went on the market without FDA 510(k) clearance. Before 2020, if you’re going to put a medical electrical device on the market, you had to go through this process. When the FDA loosened its restrictions to help combat the transmission of COVID, it opened the floodgates to all these products that weren’t capable, technologically, of producing the results they were advertising. We’ve got a pretty good reason to believe that the FDA is going to reimpose the 510(k) clearance, which will essentially recall 98 percent of the products on the market. The reason that we partnered with ICI is because their technology has met FDA clearance since 2007. We see their technology being the only one capable of doing the job that needs to be done in a large, mass gathering scenario.”
Rothwell says this was his No. 1 reason for joining the PREVENT team. “That clearance didn’t exist in any other products. That’s why I felt this was the premier product to protect the live events industry’s reputation.”
While research and development are underway for new technologies to tie into PREVENT’s live event services, the company remains focused on its core temperature screening and spray sanitizer systems as the smart, economical option for venues to accommodate large crowds in 2021 and beyond.
“The infrared camera systems at retail pricing are not affordable unless you’re doing hundreds of events per year yourself,” Rothwell says. “It’s something you’re not going to want to purchase, it’s something you’re going to want to do on a rental basis.”