By: Sharon Aron Baron
Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Chief Frank Babinec was named Fire Chief of the Year for 2018 by the Southeast Association of Fire Chiefs.
During their 90th Annual Leadership Conference held in Montgomery, Alabama last June, Babinec was named by the association which includes: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.
He said that the new title won’t change anything. “I do what I do because I love to do it.”
He credits the hard work and dedication that the department as a whole puts towards the community and the way they serve the community and one another while living up to their mission statement.
Babinec said he loves being the representative of this great organization and the representative who is responsible to look after the community he’s been charged to look after.
“That’s always been my drive. It’s [being honored] not going to change anything, we’re going to continue doing what we’re doing and work just as hard as we always have.”
Babinec began his career as a volunteer with the Coral Springs Fired Department in 1993. A graduate of Davie Academy High, which is no longer open, he attended the alternative high school at the age of 16 because it allowed him to work full-time while supporting his family.
He believes that the programs that the department have put in place not only to help the firefighters from a safety and health perspective, but also show the community at their highest level.
One of the things he said was unexpected, was when they started some of their safety and health initiatives, they thought they would stay local, but a lot have spread throughout the country where there are now departments that are now following things that they have done, and along the way, they have also partnered with local departments.
“It’s just making a difference throughout the fire service in the programs that we’ve been able to get up and running.
Through the Florida Firefighters Safety and Health Collaborative, Babinec began to screen and train licensed mental health clinicians in the field of emergency services.
The goal was to assist clinicians to better understand what first responders experience in the field and proved to be of great importance after the events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14. Of health and wellness protocols, Babinec believes it is important to not wait for an incident, but rather implement policies and protocols ahead of time – ensuring the well-being of employees should be a priority.
In 2015 under Babinec’s leadership, the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department set out to establish a safety and health committee to address overall safety, including cancer prevention, physical fitness and mental health of fire rescue personnel. This important health and wellness initiative led to the department working with others in the fire service to establish the Florida Firefighters Safety and Health Collaborative – the state-wide collaborative that the department is still an active member of.
Recommended changes include on-scene decontamination, a secondary set of personal protective equipment (PPE), moving ice machines to safer locations to keep areas free of exhaust fumes, and ensuring protective gear is stored in a separate area from apparatus exhaust. With the purchase of new fire rescue apparatus, Babinec, upon the recommendation of the apparatus committee, implemented the clean cab concept to the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department. This concept is something major manufacturers of fire apparatus are starting to implement for other agencies improving the health and wellness of those in the fire service nationwide.
“I have such tremendous respect for those who are committed to serving our community so selflessly,” said Coral Springs City Manager Mike Goodrum. “Chief Babinec inspires others to train harder, find solutions and most importantly, care for others. We are so fortunate to have him serving as the Fire Chief.”
Babinec serves as the President of the Fire Chief’s Association of Broward County, as well as the Safety & Health Committee Chairman for the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association.
Babinec will be recognized for his achievements at the City of Coral Springs Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 20, 2018.