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Where there’s a will there’s a way: This officer’s invention helps promote safety on the road

Hard work and patience paid off for this Florida police officer

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FirstGard cones are highly visible and can help officers save significant amounts of space in their patrol vehicles.


Since 2011, Corporal Edgardo Santiago has worked for the Fort Walton Beach Police Department in Florida. He’s seen his fair share of incidents on the roadway over the years, but a few situations in particular sparked an idea that, six years later, would become a reality.

“We had an incident where a power line was down on the road and the power company had to come out and change the pole,” said Santiago. “The intersection needed to be blocked for a few hours, and I had my patrol car there and some cones. I got out of my car to talk to someone, and the next thing I know, I saw a car going around the cones and almost striking some of the power company workers.”

Cones alone were not cutting it. Santiago felt frustrated and wished there was some sort of portable barricade system to better block roadways than traditional cones. “The thought just sat in the back of my mind for a while,” he said.

A separate, multipronged traffic control scenario ended up being the last straw for Santiago. A person had been struck by a vehicle in the middle of a busy road and succumbed to his injuries. Though the area was blocked off as the crime scene investigation team worked, a truck driven by a lost, out-of-town tourist started to make its way into the scene, nearly hitting first responders as it went.

Santiago realized at that point he needed to do something, so he decided to put his engineering background to use.


What first responders now know as FirstGard, a foldable safety cone manufactured and sold by PSS, started quite differently in Santiago’s apartment.

“I was making prototypes [of a long, one-piece device that blocked the entire lane of traffic] and it wasn’t working,” he explained. “The idea morphed over time. I thought, ‘What if I turn the barricade into something segmented that could be used like cones, but had a wider footprint?’ That way, instead of carrying cones [in addition to my original idea], I could carry just one thing – space is a premium in police vehicles. I wanted to develop something that would have the visual presence of a barricade, but the portability of cones – something that would command the respect of motorists.”

His cone design initially had four legs rotating around a center hinge which required using Velcro to bind two legs together to keep the unit deployed, creating a three-leg design. Santiago added notches at the top to accept caution tape and rope but struggled to figure out how to have the cone close quickly.

“I had that Eureka moment: I realized if I used a piece of elastic rubber I could design a system that had to be manually forced open, would rest in the open position, and then, with minimal effort, would retract into a folded position,” he said.

When it came to materials, Santiago ran into another hurdle. He decided to make his cones out of PVC foam, which is functional and inexpensive. However, the orange-colored version of PVC foam was out of his price range, so he used white and purchased an orange reflective material to use as a covering.

“I wanted the cones to be lightweight and aerodynamic but also functional,” said Santiago. “They had to be very easy to use and inexpensive to make.”

With his materials purchased and his prototype design finalized, Santiago was ready to begin production. After meetings with banks and investors failed to generate funding, he decided to make cones himself, by hand, in his apartment before he went to work and sell them to local police departments. A track record of proven sales, he thought, would be more than enough to convince an investor to sign on.

Unfortunately, the process of making the cones was painstakingly time-consuming, with Santiago able to make only one per day. At this point, he knew he needed to explore another option.


Santiago had already spent three years developing the design for his cones – and he wasn’t about to quit now. A friend of his suggested he approach businesses directly to inquire if they wanted to form a partnership.

“I got on LinkedIn and started messaging manufacturers in the U.S. because I wanted it to be a U.S. product,” Santiago said. “I probably messaged anywhere from 50 to 60 companies and two of them were interested, one of them being PSS. After some more conversation, PSS decided to run with the idea. I was very happy!”

During 2019, Santiago and PSS worked together to fine-tune his cone design. Santiago would take PSS’ prototypes into the field and provide feedback, leading to some key design changes along the way. In 2022, the final version of his idea was made available for sale under the brand name FirstGard.

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Officer Santiago spent three years developing the design for his cones.

Edgardo Santiago

While FirstGard cones closely resemble the design Santiago had finalized, PSS brought a few ideas to the table to make manufacturing a bit easier.

“One of the big changes was that we used our Wave boards, which we use in a lot of our other products,” said Adam Leigh, regional manager at PSS and former trooper for the Virginia State Police Department. “We also came up with the idea of a repairable hinge that successfully breaks if it’s hit.”

This design feature allows departments to purchase replacement parts like hinges, pins or even singular legs if one of their cones is damaged, saving them from having to buy an entirely new cone.

“You can mix and match them,” Leigh explained. “You’re always able to use the same pieces, the cone panels and the repair hinge, that make up every FirstGard.”


FirstGard cones aren’t just an aesthetic redesign of the traditional safety cone officers have used for decades. One of the biggest benefits they offer is the ability to save significant amounts of space. Each cone folds to only 1.5” wide, and a set of five can be stowed away in a specially designed bag.

“Space is always a major issue, at least for the Virginia State Police,” said Leigh. “We were required to keep a box of flares in our cruisers and that takes up space. With FirstGard, there are a lot of different places you can put them because of their size and the way they’re shaped rather than just having a standard box of flares to use.”

Laboratory tests conducted on PSS’ behalf also show that FirstGard cones are up to two times more reflective than standard cones because the sheeting is placed on their flat surfaces, rather than being wrapped around a standard conical cone. This reflective quality, coupled with their size, makes it easier for drivers to see and avoid.

“It’s highly visible and people don’t want to run it over,” said Santiago. “It makes your scene safer – it is my hope that FirstGard helps prevent dangerous scene intrusions and secondary crashes that could have been fatal.”

Visit PSS for more information.

Courtney Levin is a Branded Content Project Lead for Lexipol where she develops content for the public safety audience including law enforcement, fire, EMS and corrections. She holds a BA in Communications from Sonoma State University and has written professionally since 2016.