If a terrorist attack destroyed Three Mile Island and sent nuclear fallout throughout Central Pennsylvania, what would you do? Would you get into your car and drive away? Would you stay at home?
This scenario sounds so inconceivable that most people have never considered it. They should in a post-Sept. 11 world, said Dr. Robert Gillio, founder and chairman of InnerLink Inc.
InnerLink is a Lancaster County developer of Internet-based educational programs. Although the company focuses on teaching school students about health and science, Gillio said Sept. 11 has taken InnerLink in a new direction and into a partnership with Med-Media Inc., a Dauphin County developer of software for the emergency response industry.
The partnership is not a merger, but the companies are cross-promoting each other’s products and plan to develop some products together in the future. Both companies will make a presentation to the Pennsylvania Department of Health in April to discuss how the state could use jointly developed products.
By combining their areas of expertise, Gillio said the two companies can develop products that help individuals of all ages and backgrounds become better able to respond to emergencies.
InnerLink, based in Manheim Township, is well known for its work on the Orbital Laboratory program. In the program, developed with DePere, Wis.-based Space Explorers Inc., students use the Internet to take part in plant-growth experiments also being conducted by astronauts in space. It was in the development of another product, however, that InnerLink saw how Sept. 11 could affect its business, Gillio said.
Project Breathe is a computer-based program that teaches how to maintain healthy respiratory systems. Originally designed to teach school students about the dangers of smoking, Gillio said he saw after Sept. 11 how the program could educate a much broader audience.
Gillio, who left his medical practice at Pulmonary Associates of Lancaster in August 2000 to run InnerLink full-time, traveled to New York City last fall to help screen and treat emergency personnel affected by debris and other pollutants released when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.
Gillio said this experience showed him that Project Breathe could be helpful to anyone facing an emergency, including government workers, emergency personnel and health care providers.
“Our core product now had a much larger market,” he said. “It could be used to create a safer, smarter and healthier situation.”
Project Breathe has been adapted to include such things as educational materials on inhalation injuries caused by anthrax and information about how school students can support their local governments’ emergency preparedness efforts, Gillio said.
InnerLink expects to launch the product in April, added Martha Harris, the company’s vice chairman.
Med-Media has also seen its business change since Sept. 11, said company president and chief executive officer Rich Pizzarro. Established in 1996, Med-Media specializes in software products that allow emergency workers using handheld computers to collect, store and access data electronically in the field. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon demonstrated how emergency workers need mobile technology to deal with destruction and confusion on such a large scale, Pizzarro said. “Sept. 11, as horrible as it was, helped raise the public’s awareness of the work of our customers,” he said. “It was a wake-up call.”
Harris said InnerLink and Med-Media have known about each other for a couple of years, but started talking about a more formal partnership at the end of 2001. The two companies’ products and expertise complement one another, Gillio said.
The companies are also focusing on growing their own separate products. Harris said InnerLink has shipped 750 Orbital Laboratory kits to schools for the program’s next round of experiments, scheduled to start on the International Space Station in March. The company’s business plan projects revenues of more than $1 million for 2002, Harris said.
Med-Media’s client base has grown to about 225, and the company has made thousands of individual sales through its Internet site, Pizzarro said. He would not disclose company revenues.
Pizzarro said he was not sure how the companies’ partnership would expand in the future but said each company has a strong foundation to build upon.