Henderson Engineers lends expertise to ultra low temperature storage

Consulting on freezer designs for vaccine maintenance
Henderson Engineers
Posted at 7:01 AM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 08:01:13-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One of the many logistical considerations for the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is storing it at 94 degrees below zero.

That brings ultra low temperature storage into the spotlight, with one Kansas City-area engineering firm lending its expertise.

Henderson Engineers in Lenexa says it's working behind the scenes to find solutions.

"It ended up being a fairly seamless transition, but from the beginning of the pandemic and the shutdowns that started occurring in March, we started talking vaccine rollout in the middle of the summer as far as a logistics kind of perspective, what spaces make the most sense," said Jon Flann with Henderson Engineers.

Flann said that planning didn't progress until it became clear what the "vaccine protocols" were going to be — whether it would be a single shot or two shots and what the duration between the shots would look like.

"As that information started coalescing, we've been able to react and say, 'okay, let's fill in those gaps that we started with and find a true solution that works for each one of these vaccines that might come out,'" Flann said.

He adds that safety is a major concern with these extreme cold temperatures.

"It's very hard to have a frame of reference for negative 70 plus degrees ... it's a cold burn," Flann said. "Everybody understands burn. So instead of talking about about an extreme cold piece of equipment, you talk about it like it’s hot. It's going to burn you, so treat it like it's a deep fryer."

Flann said that it's important to be cautious around the equipment, including wearing gloves and long-sleeve shirts.

A national firm with offices on both coasts and in the Midwest, Henderson's leaders say the work they're doing now during this new phase of the pandemic inspires everyone.

"As an engineer and within the AE community, we touch a lot of different things. We feel that we have a lot of impact in our daily life," Flann said. "When daily life is disrupted, such as it has been in 2020 with the pandemic, to try and have an effect on the solution to get us further towards that daily life that we remember, it's empowering."

Flann called the work "invigorating" for everyone on the team.

"It ends up invigorating all the designers and invigorates all the project managers," Flann said. "It helps us talk about it a little bit more because it's no longer us just designing a space that might not affect us as a person, it's affecting all of our communities. So we're able to kind of drive those results and help inform in a safe way how best to go about doing it."