In keeping with the City of Palm Coast's overall management strategy, the Palm Coast Fire Department has 14 employee teams that take the lead in everyday operational planning.

One of the newest teams within the department, the Equipment Team, has completed its first major project - to introduce new, battery-operated extrication equipment for use during motor vehicle accidents. These tools are designed for rapid intervention in vehicle rescue and the extrication of trapped victims.

"We instituted the team concept to oversee many area of operations," said Deputy Chief Jerry Forte. "Since 2012 we have had teams oversee apparatus design, public education and Insurance Service Office (ISO) grading."

"These teams and their leaders control the direction and flow of the project from concept to introduction in the field to post-implementation review," Forte said. "It is an innovative approach that gives the employees planning opportunities, introduces them to budget preparation and funding, and allows them to play an active role in the future of the department. It also benefits the City and the Fire Department because we get more input and a variety of perspectives from more employees, who are trained professionals and directly affected by these decisions."

The new Equipment Team was created by the Deputy Fire Chief last year to assess whether current equipment was still relevant to today's operations and to recommend improvements for the future. The team joined with another Fire Department team, the Apparatus Team, to evaluate the current tools' effectiveness and the ergonomics of deployment from fire trucks at emergency scenes and to try new tools now available on the market. The team did in-depth research, including many hours of hands-on practice with options newer to the market.

"Our team wanted to try something new," said Firefighter Adam Bachman, leader for the project. "After meeting with several manufacturers and testing their equipment, we selected the Holmatro extrication tools from their Greenline brand. We are being progressive by choosing battery-powered, cordless tools that are safer for rescuers to use and quicker for helping victims."

"Usually at the scene of a vehicle extrication, the noise is loud due to the extrication equipment's gas-powered portable hydraulic generator, and we have limited mobility because of the connection to the generator," explained Lt. Brian Mugford, Equipment Team leader. "The new, quieter tools make communication at an emergency scene more efficient and the cordless aspect gives us more mobility. That creates a more efficient environment for patient care and communications."

Three battery-powered extrication tools from Holmatro have been installed on one of Palm Coast Fire Department's engines. The tools are spreaders used to separate metal, commonly known as the "Jaws of Life;" cutters that are used to cut door hinges and through the post of a vehicle; and a combination tool that performs both functions. A second set of battery-powered tools have been ordered and will be installed in another Palm Coast fire engine the coming months.

The Fire Department's team model of management has been growing over the past few years and is proving successful across-the-board, said Deputy Chief Forte. The approach was fashioned after the City of Palm Coast's overall team concept, which uses employee teams - usually with employee representatives from different departments - to tackle big projects and find solutions to citywide challenges. It was first implemented by Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon with the introduction of the LITE Team (Leadership Intern Training Experience) in 2011 and has been successful at developing up-and-coming leaders within Palm Coast city government.

Residents who would like to see the new extrication tools firsthand are invited to visit Fire Station 21 at 9 Corporate Drive (behind Kohl's), Palm Coast.

For more information, contact the Palm Coast Fire Department at 386-986-2300.