Guide to Drug Test for Firefighters

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Do you want a career in firefighting? Are you concerned of being disqualified due to drug testing? This article will help you understand every aspect of a firefighter’s drug test.

Even if you meet all the criteria to be a firefighter, a positive drug test report might become a huge obstacle on your way to become a firefighter.

A firefighter’s position needs a lot of responsibility, decision-making skills, and courage to put your life under threat. A person habitual of consuming drugs may lack these skills.

Do firefighters, wildland firefighter and volunteers, get drug tested?

Firefighters do get drug tested mostly during the hiring process. A drug test report has an immensely important role in your selection as a firefighter.

In the case of wildland firefighters, not everyone has to go for a drug test during the hiring process but one should be ready for it. After your selection, you might be called anytime 24 hours prior to the scheduled drug test.

Also, drug tests can be expensive and that’s why many agencies do not conduct them. Conducting fewer tests also gives them the flexibility to hire more candidates. Now, coming back to the drug test-related chaos, you might have to go through a drug screening during the hiring process. That means even if you volunteer you cannot skip drug screening.

When do firefighters get drug tested?

If you are planning to make your career as a firefighter, you might witness drug testing at various times. Drug testing during the hiring process, drug tests due to suspicious activities, drug tests after returning to work, and drug tests after a mis-happening are the main incidence when you might get tested.

1. Drug test during the hiring process

It is the most common and obvious time when you might be called for a drug test. Firefighting agencies do not want to hire individuals addicted to drugs. All firefighting agencies look forward to hiring the most potential employees.

The job you are looking for needs resilience and devotion. You have to work for the people and save their lives in deadly situations. If something wrong happens with you, your team, or the public; questions will be raised upon the agency and no agency wants its name to be degraded.

Sometimes, you might be called at midnight to save people stuck in the fire. You need to be quick and active as one wrong step could affect the lives of many individuals. Now, you would have understood how responsible you have to be to get hired as a firefighter.

The Fourth Amendment in the US constitution restricts firefighters to go for arbitrary drug testing and, thus safeguards the privacy of all individuals. But the pre-employment drug testing is legal and around 54 percent of US employers conduct a pre-employment drug test.

If you choose to apply for a firefighter role, you also agree to take your drug test whenever necessary. It is believed that you cannot deny drug tests during the hiring process as you were not forced to apply for this job.

The fire departments ideally inform the aspiring firefighters about the drug test during the hiring process and also provide the list of drugs they will be tested for. Therefore, you can easily decide whether you are the right fit or not.

2. Suspicious activities

One of the main reasons behind random testing might be your suspicious activities. The fire department closely monitors all the firefighters during an emergency mission or normal days for uncommon activities.

If you are found indulged in any such activities, you will be immediately called for drug testing. However, the drug test is usually conducted after 24 hours of informing you. And if you are secretly consuming prohibited drugs, you shall be dismissed.

Sometimes, on a very minor fire incident, the firefighters become very impatient and anxious and it might come under suspicious activities depending on the fire department. 

The real issue is how will you manage and fight big fire accidents in the future if you cannot operate a minor one. Firefighters are trained for such incidents and that’s why this mismanagement by a firefighter is possibly a side-effect of drug consumption.

How difficult the mission was? How many lives could have been saved? How many are actually saved? Did the firefighters show wrong intent? These are some questions fire departments find answers for and take action accordingly.

Not just during fighting with fire; but your actions also get monitored in the department and the way you behave with your peers is also ground for your drug test.

Plus, if you are found accused of any drug-related crime such as illegal drug use, drug distribution, and traffic, you will be either dismissed or called for a drug screening to assess your current state.

The situations we discussed above might not be true as per your jurisdiction. It is recommended to know about the laws in your state before applying for firefighting jobs.

3. Drug test after returning to work

If any of the above scenarios happen with you and you are being called for a drug test and your report comes out to be positive, you shall be called for a drug test while or after returning to work. Fire departments are legally protected to conduct such drug screenings.

Also, sometimes firefighters accept that they were indulged in drugs before joining the fire department and thus they are being called for a drug test.

If you belong to any of the above cases, you cannot legally challenge the drug test conducted by the department and will have to go through drug screening, or else you might lose your job.

4. Drug Test after Mishappening

If you are applying for a firefighter’s role, you would be aware of the injuries and accidents firefighters face in day-to-day life.

Now we have two aspects in such situations- one is that the firefighter was the victim of a sudden accident and the other is that the accident happened due to irresponsible behavior by the firefighter. In both cases, the drug test is necessary for everyone’s safety.

Let’s know-how...

For instance, a firefighter gets badly injured in an accident and goes through proper medication as advised by the doctor. The medicines also contain drugs that can provoke certain emotions which might not be good for a firefighter.

That’s why firefighting departments call firefighters for a drug test after an accident to check whether the body contains any element prohibited for this job or not.

You don’t need to worry if the report comes out to be positive. These drugs do not last long and we shall discuss them later in this article.

Now, the other aspect of mis-happening is when the firefighter is held responsible for all the loss. In such a case, the fire department asks you to go through a drug screening to find out whether it was due to the side-effects of drugs or some other reason.

The later actions depend on the fire departments and your drug test report.

Again, it depends on the laws in your state. Therefore, you should check out the laws first before taking any action regarding such issues.

Drugs that you might get tested for:

Although the fire department informs you about the drugs you will be tested for, you should know this beforehand so that you can avoid their consumption through any means.

1. Prohibited or illegal drugs

There should be no doubt in your mind regarding this. No matter what the case is, illegal drugs will not be tolerated. Heroin, cocaine, marijuana, crack comes under illegal drugs. If you are tested positive for any of these, you might lose the job opportunity.

2. Alcohol consumption

You might be thinking that why consumption of alcohol is prohibited in fire departments. You have the right to consume alcohol but not while working.

You cannot drink alcohol in the fire department or work under its influence. The suspicious activities that we talked about mostly happen when firefighters consume alcohol. If you are fighting with fire under the influence of alcohol, things might go even worse than you think.

Working after consuming alcohol means you don’t care about the lives of people and being a firefighter it’s a huge offense. You might even lose your job if you found working under the influence of alcohol.

The drug tests are conducted in laboratories certified by the Department of Health and Human Services. Your sample will be tracked throughout the testing.

If the minimum amount of drugs varies from department to department, are found in your sample, you failed the drug test. If the body contains no such substance, you can continue with your job or with your job application.

How many times do firefighters get drug tested?

If you are a firefighter, it is legal to call you for a drug test in case of any suspicion, accident, or during the hiring process.

There is no certain no. of times to conduct a drug test. It depends on the fire departments and their budget. Some conduct tests once a year whereas others go for once in two years.

Some departments go for it in case of any unavoidable reason and some might conduct it when they have enough budgets.

Fire departments also conduct them on very short notice of time to ensure that firefighters do not consume drugs even once a year.

After how long do drugs leave your body?

If you have mistakenly consumed drugs in the past, you will have to wait until they leave your body to become a firefighter.

Though different drugs leave your body at different times it does not only depend on the drugs. Your age, sex, ethnicity, amount of drugs consumed, and physical condition also plays a crucial role.

Cocaine leaves your blood and urine after two and four days respectively.

Heroin leaves your blood and urine after 12 hours and 4 days respectively.

Alcohol leaves your blood and urine after ten days and five days respectively.

Marijuana exits from your blood and urine after 14 days and around one month respectively.

These are some of the main drugs you might get tested for. The duration mentioned above is just to give you an outline and there are huge possibilities that it might vary.

Most Common Drug testing Kits used by Firefighters

Firefighters are generally tested for alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine.

Alcohol breathalyzer is one most common drug testing kits used by firefighters.

The alcohol breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol present in the blood. It is one of the finest drug testing kits.

It is not only easy to use but also provides quick results. Every test takes up to around 1 minute. The suspect blows air into a disposable straw-shaped device. The device shows one of the four possible results- “zero”, “pass”, “warn”, “fail”.

If the result comes out to be “fail” during your work hours, you will probably be dismissed. Though, the final action solely depends on the fire department.

Other testing kits test the urine of the suspect for various drugs. It might be collected in a cup or a strip might be used for the test. But drug tests do not always fetch accurate results. Sometimes the kits are at fault and other times we aren’t doing it the right way.

Many people react the same way after consuming various drugs and that makes it difficult to figure out the drug the person might have consumed. If the reports show that the body is 100% clean, you might have tested for the wrong drugs. Sometimes, the kits might also show wrong results due to technical glitches.

Bottom Line:

A firefighter should never fear drug testing. Every time you get a negative drug test report, your credibility increases. You would have understood what drug testing is and how it works. Even if some drugs are legal in your jurisdiction, you should never consume them.



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