Charlotte Herald

Firefighter receives community service award

ENGLEWOOD -- Over 96 percent of children in Florida are either not in child safety seats, not in the proper seat, not placed in the child safety seat properly, or the child safety seat is not installed in the vehicle properly.

So when Lt. Bill Kimberlin at Fire Station 4 in Rotonda heard about those types of statistics from Dee Hawkins, Charlotte County Fire & EMS public information officer, Kimberlin jumped in to help.

"I'm a firm believer that all kids will leave here safer," Kimberlin said.

Kimberlin recently received the Paul Harris Fellow award from the Rotary Club of Placida for his involvement with the Lil' Bits Child Safety Seat Program. Along with his recognition, the club donated $500 to the program in Kimberlin's honor.

Kimberlin, along with two other Englewood area firefighters, Lt. Ray Bauer and Lynn Edmonds, took a 32-hour seminar in safety seats.

In addition to learning what types of child-restraint seats are used for which age, how to properly install safety seats in cars, and how to buckle children up properly in those seats, they were certified to teach parents how to do the same.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, no child under 80 pounds and 4 feet 9 inches tall should be without a child-restraint seat. Kimberlin said many children can receive internal injuries from regular car safety buckles even if they survive an accident.

Once a month, the Englewood Fire Department offers Lil' Bits Child Safety Seat Check Points. The program is initiated through Charlotte Regional Medical Center. It is for every pregnant woman who is admitted into the hospital. It is mandatory for each mother to either see a four-hour safety seat video before going home with their baby, or take a 90-minute class at the fire station.

After taking the seminar, Kimberlin went to area businesses and organizations seeking funds to buy car seats to sell at a huge discount to parents who could not normally afford a safety seat.

The Lil' Bits Child Safety Seat Check Point program is offered at Fire Station 4, 403 Boundary Blvd., Rotonda, Fla., to guarantee a spot or to receive assistance in obtaining a car seat, contact Lt. Bill Kimberlin or Terri Jacobs at (941) 697-6644.

You can e-mail Rachel Alexander at