Debbie Pike, owner of Rocky Mount-based Future Fire Protection of America, displays an emergency burn kit, left, and a smoke and heat detector, both made by MasterGuard.

Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

Debbie Pike, owner of Rocky Mount-based Future Fire Protection of America, displays an emergency burn kit, left, and a smoke and heat detector, both made by MasterGuard.

Hard experience shapes fire-safety firm

By John Henderson

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Debbie Pike was inspired to start up a business selling fire-safety products after her husband suffered severe burns in a grill explosion in 2006.

Following the accident, her husband was unconscious for 30 days at the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center.

After watching him and others experience the anguish of severe burns, the Rocky Mount resident formed the business, Future Fire Protection of America.

She and her husband, Thomas, invite people to a free dinner. They give a presentation about fire safety and the products they are selling, including optical electric smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, fire bats, heat detectors and heat blankets.

“You see fires on the (television) news and in the paper, but a lot of people don’t really take it to heart,” she said. “When I actually saw it in the hospital, it broke my heart. It was horrific stuff, little babies crying, older people (suffering).”

They started the business after her husband came home from the hospital.

“We don’t want to see anybody go through anything like that because (the suffering) is not just physical, it is emotional, and there are really financial problems,” she said. “His (hospital bill) was something like $178,000 at the time. We couldn’t afford it. We didn’t have good smoke alarms.”

Pike’s business carries MasterGuard fire safety products.

She is an independent authorized dealer for the company, which states on its website that through its network of independent authorized dealers, the company been educating families about the devastating effects of home fires since 1971. “Our seminars and one-on-one counseling have taught thousands of families how to escape the ravages of a fire,” the website states.

Thomas, who is on disability, said his wife is the primary owner of the business but he assists with the presentations. He said in the down economy, convincing people to even go to the free dinner is a tough sell.

“Dinner can add up to $300 to $500,” he said. “Between the taxes and the (business) license, to be honest, we make a little profit, but not much.”

But he said they continue offering the presentations because they are providing a public service.

Q: What products or services do you provide?

A: Thomas Pike: I just help out a little. We go to different restaurants and give a presentation show on film, and tell people if they are interested in our products, they can invite us to their homes to see what they need. We’ll go set up (in the restaurant). We have a big screen TV and show a film to them, primetime news, which talks about fire safety. We educate them about how to get out of home. We educate them on making sure they have a meeting spot, and show kids how to get out of the home. Burns are the third leading cause of deaths in U.S.

Q: Who are your key leaders?

A: My wife.

Q: How many people do you employ?

A: Just her.

Q: When were you established?

A: Three-and-a-half years ago.

Q: What’s your business philosophy?

A: We save one family at a time. We protect one family at a time.

Q: What makes your business unique?

A: I think what makes our business unique is there’s not many people out there trying to educate people (on fire safety).

Q: What changes do you expect for your company in coming years?

A: We want to expand, but if the economy doesn’t pick up, we can’t do anything. One of the biggest problems we have is when we do a demonstration we try and invite 30 people, but people procrastinate so much because of the economy.

Q: Why did you pick Rocky Mount as a place to do business?

A: It’s our home.

Q: How has your company grown in the last several years?

A: Debbie Pike: We started having more dinners with more people, and then, like my husband said, the economy started getting bad. ... A lot of times when we call up, people will say, ‘What is the catch?’ There is no catch. We want to educate people on fire safety.