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Out of Tragedy, Resident Designs Safety Device

Paul Bishop has created and is pushing for a widely-accessible product that could prevent a gas explosion like the one that killed his parents.

Paul Bishop doesn't want other families to feel the horror of what he experienced as a teen when a gas explosion rocked his home and killed his parents.

"This has been 30 years coming and really at the end of the day this is for my mom and dad," said Bishop who has created new safety valve. "Maybe I can prevent the tragedy that happened to me and my family. Maybe I can prevent it from happening to others. I can't think of a higher goal."

It was a normal Saturday morning on Sept. 11, 1982 for the Bishop family at their house in Phillips, Wisconsin. The entire family was home while 15-year-old Paul watched cartoons. No one knew that a leak in the home's propane heating system had, over the course of hours, filled the basement and crawl spaces of their home.

"What happened was an explosion of that propane which leveled our house, killed both of our parents and destroyed everything we owned. My brother was barely able to save my sister's life," said Bishop. "I was fairly injured myself."

The cause of the explosion was never determined, but it would have taken only one spark or flame.

"Something like that sticks with you mentally and it leaves impressions you will never walk away from," said Bishop.

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Similar explosive tragedies are responsible for deaths and millions of dollars in property damage every year, he said.

Even in Marlborough last year, there was a nighttime house explosion that resulted in the death of the man who had been in the home.

His personal history drove Bishop to create what he calls "The Bishop Valve," which is designed to prevent a similar tragedy. The intelligent gas valve automatically shuts off pilot lights if gas is detected. The technology in the device has finally become affordable, but it took a personal drive to turn a concept into reality.

"I have the potential not only because of my technical background, but because I can hold myself up and speak to it from my own experience to possibly carry this forward in a way no one else can," said Bishop. "If anything good can come out of this tragedy, maybe this is it."

Through that technical knowledge and time (Bishop is unable to work a regular schedule because of Crohn's Disease) he has built a prototype. A video of the prototype in service is available. He is looking to the internet and crowd-sourcing the funding, through Indiegogo.com, to complete a final prototype to sell the idea.

"On a disability income, which is what I live on, I cannot finance the production and further R&D of this device," said Bishop. "The device as it stands works."

In order to viable for use as a safety device, the valve must be mass produced and certified, he said. It could even be scaled up for use in commercial applications.

"I'm not doing this for money," said Bishop. "If I can't get it built by a manufacturer for a reasonable cost, I intend to release the design to the public. Simply put, this device is too important and too many lives and too many millions of dollars are lost every year because of the lack of something like this."

More information on the valve is available on the fundraising page here.

Joescarp March 06, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Thanks for your hard work on this. I hope you can make it happen.
Paul Bishop March 06, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Thank you so much for running this story, Sam. My goal is to make devices like this standard for every gas installation. For this device to have the largest impact, public awareness and support is key. I would like this to become a groundswell, with enough momentum to help change an industry and save lives by making this device a reality. Thirty years later, it is my intent to give some meaning to the deaths of my parents. I want to make it so that these tragedies are a thing of the past. Thank you once again, Patch!
Sam Bonacci March 06, 2013 at 10:10 PM
You are welcome Paul. Thanks again for sitting down with me so I could tell the story.
Paul Bishop March 07, 2013 at 04:22 AM
To avoid spamming the subject, I'll hold off for a few days, but I will also be putting together blogposts with updates and to keep the subject alive and kicking. I want folks to keep thinking to themselves "Hey, if it works, I want it in my house". It's my goal that it will be in all houses, in time. To Readers: Mention the project to people you know. This undertaking will take support and interest from many people, ranging from Consumers to Regulatory agencies, from Firefighters to Utilities. This can only succeed with cooperation and support from a wide base. This isn't about money. It's about saving lives, it's about rising to battle the beast that killed my parents, and I intend to win.

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