The Flagler County Fire Department’s competition team said they weren’t sure how they’d fare as they left for the “Rallye Rejviz” competition in Central Europe last year—the annual tournament that matches some of the world’s best paramedics in grueling simulations of emergency situations.
They returned from the Czech Republic world champions. This week, seven Flagler medics are heading back to Prague, the Czech capital, to defend their title. They’ll be the only American team in the competition. Last year a team from the New York City Fire Department was among the competitors. That team didn’t make it this year.
In all, seven Flagler medics in two teams will put their skills, equipment and training to the test against 26 other teams from 13 different countries, all but one (representing Japan) from Europe.
Private and taxpayer donations are underwriting the team’s expenses, including, somewhat controversially, a $5,000 contribution from the Flagler County Commission awarded on Monday evening.
The commission was divided, 3-2, over that contribution (as it was last year), with commissioners Milissa Holland and Barbara Revels saying the taxpayer expense was unreasonable at a time when budgets are being cut, families are losing homes and children, even in Flagler County, are going to bed hungry. The county’s financial aid program designed to help such families, for example, was depleted before the year’s half-way point. Revels’ and Holland’s colleagues declared themselves moved by their words, but not so much as to stay the year’s appropriation, though the amount is considerably larger than what most civil or cultural organizations get from the commission. The Bunnell County Commission gave $400, or $100 less than the firefighters requested. Like Holland, who made a personal donation, Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson wrote a personal check to the effort.
Flagler County is sending two teams of three medics to compete in the invitational international competition May 26-30. Participants include Dennis Kline, Cody King, Mike Pius, Caryn Prather, Dennis Moore, John Moscowitz and Randy Stringfellow. The team kicks off the tour with a statewide competition in Miami on Wednesday. It is appearing on NBC’s Today Show at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Then it’s off to the Czech Republic, for Rallye Rejviz 2010.
The tournament, designed to sharpen and share the latest emergency medical response skills, techniques and equipment, takes place in a mountain village outside of Prague.
Kline, King, Prather and Pius—who took the trophy there last year—described the weather as the most memorable part of the trip outside of the welcoming fanfare and fun of the well-planned event.
“It was freezing,” Pius complained, eliciting laughter from teammates. Kline explained: When Team Flagler’s truck came to a stop in the snowy peaks of the second-tallest mountain in the Czech Republic just before the championship competition was to begin last year, Pius was revved and ready. He hopped off the truck, felt the biting wind and snow on his face. And jumped right back in. “I’m out,” he announced, wide-eyed (but only half serious). Despite the cold, the team thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The team is better prepared this year. Long sleeves and sweaters fill suitcases more than t-shirts, Kline said.
For Stringfellow, who went with the team to Prague as an alternate last year, it’s “a great chance to train” under a myriad of conditions. His attitude describes in a nutshell that of the entire team, said Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito.
They put in long hours of training and traveling for competitions around the state and the country. But it’s time well spent, says Prather, a county flight paramedic.
Competitions keep medics current on rapidly changing medical trends, they keep them sharp on the latest disaster response methods and encourage dialogue and technique sharing across geographic lines. The end result, Prather says, is better care for residents of Flagler County in critical emergency situations.