Time is of the essence as Alachua County braces for the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on local hospitals, first responders and citizens.
For Phalanx Defense Systems CEO James Coats, every second counts. His company is already in the business of protecting people by manufacturing body armor for fire and EMS rescue crews.
Coats said he has been following the grassroots mask-making movement in Gainesville and wanted to help out. Volunteers for the Gainesville Makers Against Covid have been hand cutting fabric and sewing masks to try to fend off the expected personal protective equipment shortage.
“We have robotics cutting machines that can cut in minutes compared to the days and weeks it would take people to do it,” Coats said. “We reached out to some folks and offered our assistance.”
Coats says his company is able to cut 41 masks every 15-20 seconds which has been a time consuming part of the process taking about 15 minutes to cut a single sheet by hand.
“Our job is to continue to support the community and take care of our local first responders,” Coats said. “And the amazing, amazing nurses, doctors, everyone.”
“There’s an interesting dynamic between the amazing community that is rallying and putting this together and the corporations that are ignoring costs and just making this happen,” Coats said.
Coats is putting emphasis on taking care of the needs of Alachua County hospitals including the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center, North Florida Regional Medical Center and UF Health Shands.
His company is also processing cutting orders of material supplied by facilities from Miami to Georgia.
Coats, 46, founded Phalanx Defense Systems in 2012. He has a degree in science technology and was an advanced development specialist with British aerospace engineering systems.
Because his company is all about protecting first responders by providing ultra light armor to minimize injuries, Coats said stepping in to help first responders protect themselves against COVID-19 was the right thing to do.
“When we saw the need to make masks, it just made sense to pivot,” Coats said about reassigning his team of 20 and putting his robotics technology to work.
Beyond supporting mask manufacturing, Coats was able to put together a hand sanitizer supply operation which he did in 24 hours.
He is partnered with a company that has access to sanitizer and is distributing 5 gallon containers from Miami to Georgia.
“In the last two days we have supplied hand sanitizer in bulk to Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Gainesville Fire Rescue and the City of Gainesville,” he said. His company is putting in extra hours as a result, Coats said.
“We are part of this whole task force that is trying to kick this COVID thing in the ass.”
Photos courtesy James Coat