Alumni Stories: Firefighter Turned Risk Control Specialist Shares Passion for Safety
When you find your passion, it can be a beautiful thing.
Take David Combs, a risk control specialist with a Pensacola, Florida, insurance company. He’s a man who is doing what he likes and helping to protect lives in the process, something he has done since his days as a firefighter.
“My role in the agency is to work closely with our clients to assist them in improving their safety, fire protection and risk control programs,” said Combs. “The goal is hazard identification and risk reduction that ultimately leads to reduced workplace injuries and property loss which, in turn, results in a cost savings to our clients, both directly and indirectly.”
A typical day for Combs may start with a morning visit to a construction site or manufacturing plant. Next, he might conduct safety training or a fire protection evaluation at one of the area hospitality locations.
“Being able to advise and educate people on the importance of working safely is a very rewarding aspect of my job,” he added. That love of educating others is perhaps why he also enjoys teaching a variety of safety and health-related classes for construction and general industry.
Combs began his safety career in 1985 while serving in the Navy as a fire marshal and safety officer. After 21 years, Combs left the military and journeyed to the private sector in Jacksonville, Florida, as a loss control specialist for five years.
In 2014, he and his family moved to Pensacola where he worked again as a loss control specialist for an insurer and later as a risk control specialist.
“We moved here from El Paso in 2014 after my wife completed her time in the Army,” he said. “We, of course, really love the beaches, the best of any [where] we've ever lived. Pensacola also has a small-town feel and the people here are some of the nicest you'll find anywhere.”
Combs holds a bachelor’s degree in fire science (2007) and a master’s in occupational safety and health (2016) from CSU. He also earned the Certified Fire Protection Specialist and Associate Safety Professional® designations.
“It sounds corny, but I had some of the best college professors in the business while earning my master’s in occupational safety and health,” he said. “They took the time to pass on their wisdom to me and I have a duty and obligation to pass what I learned on to others. In my mind, that's how this works and it's one of the keys to the process of keeping people safe.”