James Floros is reflective when he remembers that watershed moment 16 years ago, just as he was to begin a life-changing career move to the Burn Institute-San Diego. “When I learned that 80 percent of burn injuries are preventable – that was it for me,” said Jim, who considers education and prevention at the very core of the Burn Institute’s mission. Founded in 1972, the nonprofit health organization is dedicated to reducing the number of burn injuries and deaths in San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties. “The answer wasn’t brain surgery – it’s pretty basic stuff,” Jim recalled. “Find the funding, then develop and implement effective programs to educate the public about fire and burn prevention. Those were obtainable goals.”
As Burn Institute Executive Director/CEO, that same passion continues to motivate Jim, whose vision and leadership has enabled the Burn Institute to expand and improve its valuable programs and services well into its third decade. From fire and burn prevention programs geared to reach preschool through high school-aged youth, to its successful Senior Safety Program in which free smoke alarms are installed for seniors 65 and older – the Burn Institute provides important, lifesaving information and resources to the local community. “It’s remarkable how these programs literally affect everyone,” said Jim. “Burn prevention is relevant to the entire community, regardless of age, ethnicity or gender.”
When devastating wildfires hit San Diego County in October 2007, Jim not only organized his team to assist burn survivors and their families with emergency housing and ramped up efforts to educate the public -- posting important evacuation tips, wildfire maps and links to local news on the Institute’s website.
A graduate of the University of San Diego, Jim started his career with an international development agency that provided clean drinking water and immunizations to the impoverished. He quickly learned that prevention was the most effective way to positively impact a population. When he joined the Burn Institute in 1992, Jim immediately began to improve program implementation and moved to significantly expand community outreach. Since then, his inspired vision and energetic leadership has realized an impressive period of growth -- from an annual operating budget of $320,000 and four employees -- to 12 employees, a volunteer base of 1,500, an affiliate program, two offices and an operating budget of nearly $1.5 million in 2008.
In 2007, the Burn Institute distributed more than half a million pieces of prevention literature, sent more than 100 youth to burn camp, installed 2,000 free smoke alarms through its Senior and First Responder smoke alarm programs, and reached more than 150,000 children and adults with fire and burn prevention education. Under Jim’s leadership, Burn Institute has become one of the leading burn foundations in the nation, with its Juvenile Firesetter intervention program (JFS) held as a model for others. Two years ago, the Burn Institute co-hosted the 2006 National Juvenile Firesetter Conference, Battling the Blaze, held in San Diego. The national forum was designed to increase awareness and discuss ways to address this national epidemic. A push in Oregon to ban novelty lighters inspired the Institute to work toward achieving a ban of its own. To date, several cities within San Diego County have already passed legislation to prohibit their sale, with county and state-wide bans in the works.
As Chair of the Federation of Burn Foundations, Jim helped organize key members to provide resources, knowledge and expertise to member agencies. During his seven-year term the Federation’s membership nearly doubled.
In early 2000, Jim was approached by members of the fire service in two adjacent counties interested in developing their own Burn Institute. Six years later, Burn Institute-Inland Empire serves as the Institute’s first franchise, with plans to expand into other communities underway.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Jim is a Packers fan “for life” and an avid golfer. He lives in San Diego with wife, Cheryl, and has two sons -- John, 16 and Jack, 8. Jim approaches his work with an enthusiasm and dedication that is a continuous source of inspiration to his staff – his extended family. The ABA Burn Prevention Award is the highlight of his professional career.
“I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to be honored by the Burn Prevention Committee and the American Burn Association,” he said. “The ABA really is the center of the universe in the burn community -- and to be recognized for my work in the field of burn prevention by such an esteemed group is as overwhelming as it is gratifying.”