If you’re signed up for an upcoming first aid/CPR or EMT training course through Columbia Safety, make sure you check the address – the business has moved.
After outgrowing a roughly 7,500-square-foot office at 418 N. Kellogg St. in Kennewick, owner Nathan Kennedy sought out a larger, more centrally located home for Columbia Safety, which provides a variety of emergency medical training courses.
He bought a building at 9530 Bedford St. in Pasco for $2.4 million. Constructed in 2007, the building was most recently home to Orano, and before that, Northwest Farm Credit Services.
The Pasco building also will house Kennedy’s other three businesses: Columbia Safety Medical, AED Wholesale and Badger Tactical.
The new headquarters features 10,242 square feet and a much larger parking lot, which Kennedy said was becoming an issue at its former location as Columbia Safety Medical’s fleet of vehicles competed for space with customers attending trainings.
The new space offers more rooms for conducting classes.
“As the area grows, so do the fire departments and the community, and they have more of a need for EMTs and first responders and a lot of volunteers,” Kennedy said.
Columbia Safety was founded in 2016 by Kennedy – a certified EMT and nurse – and a fellow nurse who saw a need in the Tri-City community for more American Heart Association-approved CPR and first aid training classes.
They started holding classes in rented conference rooms and quickly realized just how much demand and need there was for more specialized courses. So they pivoted to their own dedicated storefront in mid-2017.
Columbia Safety now offers a full slate of classes, some of which can be brought on-site for businesses and organizations looking to train their workforce.
Courses offered include first aid and CPR, multiple levels of wilderness first aid, advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support, pre-hospital trauma life support, basic and advanced emergency medical technician training and a nursing assistant certified course.
Columbia Safety also offers on-site mask fit testing through a contract with the Washington State Department of Health.
Teaching life-saving training classes created an opportunity for a new business venture, AED Wholesale. Kennedy said that after taking part in courses, client businesses often wonder where to buy automatic external defibrillators.
“We try to provide them the best deal on their AED. We can also provide service plans and education for it,” he said.
Another offshoot business that came about similarly is Badger Tactical, which supplies rugged high-quality first aid kits and medical supplies for use in the field.
Along the way, Kennedy bought out his former business partner.
The Covid effect
In 2019, business was growing steadily, and Kennedy seized an opportunity to move a couple of doors down and double his square footage.
“Then Covid hit and I pretty much had to lay everybody off and almost shut our doors,” he said.
He was able to pivot some courses to an online platform, but it was difficult to get traction and provide the same quality of training without the hands-on components which instill in participants the confidence to reliably use their new skills.
Just when it seemed his successful business run was at a premature end, an unexpected opportunity presented itself.
“The Washington state Department of Health started to reach out to another aid company, Health Commons, and they worked with Pasco Fire to accommodate all the (Covid) testing,” he said.
Fortunately, Columbia Safety already had a relationship with the department and chiefs in the area through its EMT program.
Once again, the company needed to expand its business – this time to help facilitate mass Covid-19 test sites in the area.
Soon after, Columbia Safety began working with the Yakima and Walla Walla county health districts, then Grant County, then the Newport area and Wenatchee.
Kennedy mass hired about 200 people to do the work, giving rise to yet another sister company, Columbia Safety Medical.
Then came the mass vaccine sites which brought Columbia Safety Medical as far west as parts of Seattle. It also found them piloting the first mobile vaccine clinic in the state in Yakima.
When he was asked to administer the mass vaccine site in Yakima, Kennedy said, “I got a call on a Friday asking if I could have people and equipment there by Monday. That was a very large Costco run. I went to Costco and bought them out of all their jackets, all their gloves, iPads – over 100 iPads.”
Columbia Safety Medical was set up with multiple school districts, including Seattle Public Schools, across the state to help with contact tracing and virus tracking.
“At one point, we were close to covering half the state, having either clinics, testing sites or providing some kind of Covid-related services,” Kennedy said.
The unexpected opportunity to expand his repertoire and offerings saved the company.
Now that the Covid-19 pandemic is over, Columbia Safety Medical employs 30 to 40 and continues to operate mobile vaccine units in partnership with medical centers and other organizations to offer Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended vaccines.
In August, it was focused on back-to-school vaccine popup events.
Columbia Safety also has about 40 employees.
Kennedy said he and his team enjoy giving back to the emergency medical services community. He helped set up the Tri-Tech Foundation and Columbia Safety partners with Tri-Tech Skills Center’s emergency medical response program to staff standby events like the Benton Franklin Fair and Tri-City Dust Devils games. Tri-Tech students also help out with first aid courses.
Though classes are already underway at the new location, Kennedy said to look for a grand opening for Columbia Safety’s new digs in October.
Columbia Safety LLC: 9530 Bedford St., Pasco; 509-820-3883; columbiasafety.net.
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