In 1996, Kevin Mulvey told his friend, George Pellington, a story about a little boy who had been entrapped by the drain in a residential spa. “If not for the father’s vigilance, the boy may have died,” Pellington said. “Kevin was determined to invent a device that would mitigate body suction entrapment on pool and spa drains.”
The two first met in 1993, when Pellington was working in the water treatment industry. Mulvey was president of Miami Filter Inc. at the time.
“Kevin was dedicated to customer support and quality manufacturing,” Pellington recalled. “His company was an important supplier to us, and over the years, he and I became good friends. I truly respected Kevin. He loved to solve problems and meet customer needs. He also had a passion for child aquatic safety.”
When Mulvey heard about the boy’s near miss, he came up with the preliminary design for a new safety device, then contacted friend and machinist Marv Ruschell. The two of them built a prototype unit and a traveling display.
This was the start of a new business, Vac-Alert Industries, which began producing safety vacuum release systems in 1998.
Paul Pennington, president of the Vero Beach, Fla.-based company from 2000 to 2010, said Mulvey was always looking to make things better. “Kevin started tinkering in his dad’s shop as a kid. He was one of those people who’d wake up in the middle of the night with an idea — a new butterfly valve or whatever, it didn’t even have to be for a swimming pool — and he’d make it happen. He was just that kind of guy.”