Joseph R. Fernandez was appointed to lead the Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services on June 9, 2016. As Fire Chief and Executive Director, he is responsible for the strategic guidance of the 735-member department that provides a multitude of specialized services to the third most populous county in Florida. Chief Fernandez began his fire rescue career with the City of Miami Department of Fire Rescue in 1985. During his 27-year career with the City of Miami, he rose through the ranks to the position of Assistant Fire Chief. He also represented the agency as its Public Information Officer (PIO) and was certified by FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute as a graduate of its Advanced PIO Program. Chief Fernandez has extensive experience in the disciplines of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. For 14 years, he served as Miami’s Emergency Manager and was responsible for the mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery operations for various declared disasters including Hurricane Andrew.
On July 2003, Chief Fernandez was appointed as the administrator of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Miami Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). During his five years as UASI Administrator, he was responsible for creating the governance and strategic model that brought together state, local and federal first responder agencies from Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties to cooperatively execute the planning, organizing, training and equipping of South Florida’s emergency service providers. As part of his domestic security duties, Chief Fernandez also served as Task Force Leader of Florida Task Force 2 (TF-2), which is part of the FEMA National Urban Search and Rescue Response System. Chief Fernandez was deployed as Task Force Leader (TFL) of FL-TF-2 during FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In January of 2010, Chief Fernandez led the team’s response to FEMA’s international response to the earthquake in Haiti. During the deployment to Haiti, FL TF-2 was responsible for the rescue of seven individuals that were trapped for days in the rubble of collapsed structures in Haiti.
Chief Fernandez has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Barry University and completed a Certificate Program in Executive Development and Leadership from Florida International University. In 2009, Chief Fernandez completed the coursework for a Master of Arts degree in Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Chief Fernandez’s thesis research focused on the “Key Characteristics of Homeland Security Governance” and is pending final approval. In April 2010, Chief Fernandez retired from the City of Miami and accepted the position of Fire Chief for the City of Dania Beach – Broward County’s oldest fire department. Chief Fernandez led the department until its merger with Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue on January 29, 2011 where he held the rank of Deputy Chief over Fire Rescue Operations.