By: Sharon Aron Baron
The Florida Firefighters Safety and Health Collaborative, along with the Denver Fire Department was presented with the Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award for their outstanding contributions to firefighter safety and health.
Presented during the Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Conference in Washington D.C., Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department Captain, Chris Bator, along with the other founders and members of the collaborative accepted the award co-sponsored by the Congressional Fire Services Institute and National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
“We are extremely proud of Captain Bator and the Collaborative Board for taking the reins on this initiative; for committing the time, passion, and dedication to the importance of firefighter health and wellness,” said Chief Frank Babinec.
In just a few short years, their work accomplished in the State of Florida and nationwide has been tremendous.
In 2015, CSPFD Assistant Chief John Whalen and Captain Bator, who are committed to this important issue, attended the Florida Fire Chiefs Annual Safety and Health Conference. At the conference, they met individuals, obtained important information, and made great connections to move CSPFD in the direction necessary for the safety and wellness of its members.
In April of 2016, the department hosted the first regional meeting, inviting fire departments from the tri-county area; with 43 participants representing 12 organizations, it was a tremendous turn out. However, by the second meeting, 50 people, representing 20 organizations attended; by the third meeting, more than 100 people from 30 organizations were in attendance.
The momentum continually grew and by the fourth meeting representation from just about every fire rescue organization in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties, as well as the University of Miami, the Florida Fire Chiefs Association, Florida State Fire Marshal, DOD, Cigna, and the University of Central Florida were in attendance.
Of the growth Chief Babinec said, “This is a testament to Captain Bator’s and other leaders in the Collaborative hard work and the nurturing he put forth to gain such quick momentum and buy-in from so many organizations.”
What was local, grew to become regional, statewide and now – a nationwide model. The collaborative, through their efforts, have helped make changes in state law that require mental health training, cancer awareness training and decontamination protocol. They have changed the way therapists throughout the state are trained to deal with the unique circumstances that first responders face while on the job. Their comprehensive website includes valuable information about cancer prevention, mental wellness, fitness and overall safety.