In memory of Frank Koutnik

On December 21, 2015, the Florida (and National) Emergency Management community lost a unique man of great talent, integrity, love and faith.  On that day, our friend and partner, Frank J. Koutnik passed away at home in Tallahassee.  This unexpected and tragic loss has shaken his family and friends, his beloved church family, his coworkers at Disasters, Strategies and Ideas, and many Emergency Management professionals nationwide. 

Frank retired from the Florida Division of Emergency Management in January 2006, after serving the State for 24 Years.  A few of the positions he held during his tenure included Bureau Chief, Bureau of Recovery and Mitigation for 4-1/2 years; Administrator, Office of Policy and Planning for six years, and Planning Manager for five years.

Frank had extensive experience in plan development and review pertaining to emergency management, which includes catastrophic plans, strategic planning, Public Assistance recovery, and Mitigation.  He also developed and conducted training and exercises on these functions for local and state government agencies, and the private sector. 

He served as the Florida Division of Emergency Management Representative on the South Florida Hurricane Evacuation Study Task Force for the Florida Keys, which established evacuation strategies in collaboration with the Florida Department of Transportation, Miami District.

Frank lived, loved and breathed emergency management for over 34 years, with (as mentioned above) over 24 of those years in service to Floridians through the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM).  His many professional contributions in his chosen field had a fundamental impact on many agencies and his personal leadership touched hundreds of professionals who worked with, around and for Frank.  He truly was a man of incredible talent and among the finest professional strategic thinkers and planners in the Country.  Every project he touched was embraced by Frank as the most important he had ever done—and in his mind it was never completed until it was perfect. This standard of excellence was not beat into the heads of those around him—but his desire for perfection was highly contagious to those around him.  Frank took exceptional pride in helping smaller agencies build their programs and he really enjoyed working with individuals at all levels to improve collaboration, coordination and the ability to serve people in their most serious time of need.

Working in all areas and disciplines of emergency management, one of his most important assignments was toward the end of his career with FDEM.  He was tasked with leading the enormous statewide disaster recovery efforts in the aftermath of the historic 2004/2005 Hurricane Seasons.  This multi-year effort involved many billions of dollars in damaged local and state infrastructure and many thousands of homes and businesses statewide.  His calm, steady leadership didn’t garner many headlines, but Frank was the key to that recovery. 

Frank’s strong, yet quite, leadership and personification of excellence in everything he did made him a natural and valuable teacher and a mentor to many.  More important he made true lifelong friends with many who encountered Frank in professional dealings and the human walk of life.  Frank treated everyone with respect and humility—and always had time to help out a friend, or a total stranger.

Frank’s professional affiliations over the past 34 years were numerous—with his involvement in virtually every major effort to improve the National Emergency Management system since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  His leadership in the National Emergency Management Association initiatives and the Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference was of great significance.  If there was an important problem to be solved, everyone wanted Frank as part of that effort!

Frank was recognized often for his dedication and hard work, including the:

  • 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award, Governor’s Hurricane Conference
  • 2006 Distinguished Service Award, National Hurricane Conference
  • 2006 National Emergency Management Association Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2006 Al Keaton Distinguished Service Award, Florida Emergency Preparedness Association
  • 1992 State of Florida Executive Department Distinguished Service Award
  • 1986 Florida Department of Community Affairs, Distinguished Special Achievement Award 

When DSI CEO Joe Myers was called upon by former Governor Lawton Chiles to build a new and better emergency management system in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, Frank Koutnik was among the first people he met at FDEM.  Remembering Frank on the morning of his passing, Joe said, “I also immediately figured out that Frank was the smartest person in the room—not the loudest, just the best.   In the 23 years since that first meeting my respect, love and faith in Frank only grew greater and stronger.  I have received no greater gift in life than the friendship and partnership of Frank Koutnik.”

But, as many know, Frank was not just about emergency management.  He was an amazing “complete” person as well.  Frank was an avid outdoorsman and lover of nature.  He loved hiking and exploring and among his most treasured memories was a recent trip to Alaska with his children, Andy and Esther—whom he cherished with all his heart. 

Most important to Frank was his understanding that he was a servant to God and his fellow man.  This servant’s heart was shown during his last weekend on earth.  On the Saturday before he passed, Frank worked with a group of others, helping feed the homeless and under-privileged in Tallahassee. When a co-worker asked Frank about this experience, Frank said, “I get a lot more out of this than I give.” 


We will all miss the incredible talent and work of Frank Koutnik.