Carson business creates fake wounds for emergency response training
Northern Nevada Business Weekly
Image Perspectives has been grossing out its customers for the better part of 15 years.
Now the owners of the Carson City company hope that a new line of pre-packed kits to train emergency response workers will gross out a growing number of customers – and propel Image Perspectives to another stage of growth.
Image Perspectives, which specializes in moulage, or injury simulation, is a third-generation company founded in 1985 by Marge Dolan. Dolan, her daughter Laura Haven and granddaughter Lynzie Ruecker make fake injuries that could fool a Hollywood special effects journeyman.
Need a compound fracture? Some road rash from a motorcycle accident? How about a three-inch gash from a knife wound? Blisters from a chemical spill? Third-degree burns? An eye bulging from its socket? Chicken pox?
Using a compound called Gel Effects and a lot of imagination, the Image Perspectives staff creates fake injuries that simulate actual injuries and are used to enhance casualty and trauma training for medical personnel and first responders.
Clients include the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard, Veterans Administration Health Services, Dow Chemical Company, Lockheed Martin, New York Transit Authority, Northrop Grumman, and the Subic Bay International Airport in the Philippines.
“Our goal is to get the adrenaline flowing and have it be anatomically correct for the responders,” Haven says. “We try to keep it more on the medical end than the B-movie end.”
Image Perspectives doesn’t teach disaster preparedness, but rather gives responders a wide variety of wounds and injuries to respond to.
“That’s gross!” is a compliment to the company’s principals.
“Realism is the whole idea,” Haven says. “What is realistically learned is far better retained. When somebody walks up on an open femur fracture that’s squirting blood, and it looks and feels real, the difference is night and day.”
The company is beginning to pre-package its disaster kits that include a variety of custom-built wounds, along with instructions on how to apply them, for disaster training instructors and testing administrators. Haven sees a huge growth market in offering standardized wound and disaster packages for nursing, EMT, fire departments, law enforcement, city and county government organizations, and the U.S. military.
“This is going to take off so fast there is no way we can keep up with it,” Haven says.
Image Perspectives also is developing a “bleedless” blood that won’t seep into the skin areas of the gel-based wounds and turn them pink, thus preserving the illusion of reality.
Currently, about 60 percent of the company’s revenue is generated from product sales, with another 20 percent coming from training classes and another 20 percent setting up disaster scenarios. The company has increased revenues by about one-third each year.
The women operated the business from Dolan’s home for years, but in April they received a Small Business Administration loan and leased 2,020 feet of warehouse and office space at 3170 Research Way. The new surroundings give Image Perspectives room to grow and to conduct training classes on how to prepare wounds.
Artistry runs in the family, and Dolan started the company to provide cosmetic makeup for people with tragically scarred faces.
Dolan began making more realistic-looking injuries using Plasteline, or artists’ modeling clay, but when the company discontinued the colors Image Perspectives needed, the women were forced to find a new way to make wounds.
They now use a specialized gelatin-based product sold in blocks that is melted in bottles placed in hot water and then formed into different types of wounds with different skin tones.
“When we discovered the gel we found so many different avenues of making wounds and different kinds of wounds that it just opened up several doors for us,” Ruecker says.
The business currently is an all-family affair – Ruecker’s dad runs the warehouse – but Image Perspectives expects to hire a few more warehouse workers and wound creators as its pre-made disaster kits catch hold.
“I expect to be shipping those out literally by the pallet load,” Haven says.