The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced the appointment of Otto Drozd III as executive secretary of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro Chiefs), a section of NFPA and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). The appointment takes effect December 13, 2021. Drozd has 35 years of experience in fire and emergency services including 20 years as fire chief for four departments in Florida and Texas. He replaces Russ Sanders who is retiring this month after 26 years of overseeing the Metro Chiefs and 27 years with the Louisville (Ky.) Fire Department (the last nine as chief of the department).
“Throughout his long and impressive career, Otto Drozd has demonstrated that he is a passionate and professional public safety leader and an excellent successor to Russ Sanders,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said. “Otto understands the fire service, the value of codes and standards, the power of collaboration, and the dynamic nature of emergency response. Under his leadership, Metro Chiefs will continue to thrive and generate critical guidance for fire departments around the world as they work to fulfill their all-hazards roles.”
In addition to leading large municipal and county fire departments in Seminole County (FL), Orange County (Fla.), Hialeah (Fla.), and El Paso (Tex.), Drozd has championed efforts that will have an enduring impact on fire and life safety. It was his initiative and insights that spurred the fast-tracked development of NFPA 3000™, Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program beginning in October 2016. Drawing on his decades of public safety knowledge and his experience during and after the Pulse night club tragedy in Orlando that year, Drozd requested that NFPA produce the world’s first standard to help communities holistically address mass casualty incident planning, resource management, incident command, and competencies. Thanks to the work of Drozd and more than 50 representatives from law enforcement, the fire service, emergency medical services, hospitals, emergency management, security, private business, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Justice, NFPA 3000 was released just 20 months later in May 2018. The 2021 version of the standard was issued earlier this year, superseding the previous edition which was one of only two provisional standards developed in NFPA’s 125-year history.
The new Metro Chiefs leader displayed similar fortitude when he worked to promulgate legislation for required cancer and mental health awareness training for all firefighters in Florida.
Drozd’s knowledge and expertise reflect years of community involvement beyond his day-to-day fire service responsibilities, such as urban planning contributions, faith-based and educational volunteering, work group participation, and municipal and membership organization advisory roles. Additionally, his resume reflects a number of key leadership positions including time spent as president of the state fire chiefs’ association in Florida and as vice president of the IAFC. He was also one of only three fire chiefs over the last 30 years who has served consecutive terms as president of the Metro Chiefs.
A firm believer in continuing education, Drozd holds a Bachelor of Public Management from Florida Atlantic University and a Master of Science from St. Thomas University. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program through the United States Fire Administration and has been designated as a Chief Fire Officer by the Center of Public Safety Excellence. Additionally, Drozd received certificates for completing urban/regional planning programs at the University of Texas at El Paso and a program for senior executives in state and local government through Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Metro Chiefs was established in 1965 for active or retired fire chiefs in cities or jurisdictions that have a minimum staffing strength of 350 fully paid career firefighters. They are the single highest-ranking uniform officers (chief of department/commissioner) and hail from all over the world including Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Metro Chiefs members delve into emerging trends, high profile incidents, and major policy issues that are affecting the fire service; they also work with NFPA research and training partners so that the latest science, technology, and data can be applied to short, medium, and long-term planning for large urban areas.