Yes. Firefighters get drug tested. Fire departments implement drug testing programs as a part of the hiring process and ongoing employment requirements. Testing may include pre-employment drug screenings, random tests during employment, and post-accident or suspicion-based testing.
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.
Do you want a career in firefighting? Are you concerned of being disqualified due to random drug testing or reasonable suspicion?
This article will help you understand every aspect of a firefighter drug test, how often they get drug tested, fire department drug testing policy, and what kind of drug test fire departments prefer.
Table Of Contents:
- Do Fire Departments Drug Test?
- How Often Do Firefighters Get Drug Tested?
- Drugs That You Might Get Tested For
- After how long do drugs leave your body?
- Drug testing Kits commonly used by Firefighters
Do Fire Departments Drug Test?
Yes. Fire department may conduct a drug test once you successfully complete the interview. A drug test report has an immensely important role in your selection as a firefighter.
In the case of wildland firefighters, the fire department may not drug test everyone but you should be ready for it. After your selection, you might be called anytime 24 hours prior to the scheduled drug test.
Volunteer firefighters also get drug tested but it may vary based on the fire department and jurisdiction. In general, drug testing for volunteer firefighters follows a similar process being done for paid firefighters.
The objective of the fire department drug testing policy is to ensure the safety of both the firefighters themselves and the public they serve.
Fire fighters are safety-sensitive employees and hence they need to aware and alert during the job. Periodical drug testing keeps them in check and hence you will be drug tested even if you are a volunteer firefighter.
Does Fourth Amendment protect Firefighters during the drug test?
No. Fourth amendment may not protect the firefighters from being drug tested. The fourth amendment is against un-reasonable searches or seizures, but the fire departments conduct drug test on three reasonable grounds - pre-employment drug testing, random drug testing during employment, and testing in cases of suspicion or after accidents.
Firefighter is a safety-sensitive job and hence the fire departments need to ensure the employees are drug-free to provide faster evacuation services.
How Often Do Firefighters Get Drug Tested?
Firefighters may get drug tested 4 to 6 times a year as the part of the fire department drug testing policy. The fire department may drug test you during major reasonable occasions as discussed below.
1. Drug test during the hiring process
Once you receive a conditional job offer, the fire department may require you to conduct a drug test to check for illegal drug consumption. The fire department drug testing policy go for a urine drug test, which tests for major illicit drugs - cocaine, THC, PCP, and natural opiates.
But the drug testing panels may vary based on the jurisdiction and the state the fire department is located in. If the state has legalized medical marijuana, the fire department may not discriminate the employee for the usage of medical marijuana.
But if the drug cut off levels of THC goes beyond the SAMHSA's permitted levels, the fire department has the authority to terminate the employee or take adquate action as per their drug testing policy.
The Fourth Amendment in the US constitution restricts firefighters/ fire service professionals or paramedics or police officers to go for arbitrary drug testing and for the protections of 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.
The fire department should ideally inform the applicants about the drug testing process during the hiring process and the drugs they will be tested for. It is mandatory for the fire department to add this requirement in their drug testing policy.
So, if you are attending a firefighter recruitment drive, make sure you are informed about the drug testing procedures during the hiring process.
Make sure you are free from drugs during your drug test. If you are taking any medications, ensure it is informed to the MRO. It is recommended test yourself to face the drug test confidently.
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 24 hours after informing you. If you test positive for any drugs, you may get terminated or stringent action would be taken.
Plus, if you are found accused of any drug-related crime such as DUI, drug distribution, and trafficking, the consequences would be even worse.
3. Return-To-Duty Drug Testing
If any of the above scenarios happen 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 after returning to work. Fire departments are legally protected to conduct such drug screenings.
Failing the drug test during the return to duty drug testing might cause a lost of trust in you and you may lose your job. So make sure that you are sober and clean while you re-apply to a firefighter job after completing your abuse treatment.
4. Post Accident Testing
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.
But if an accident or injury happens during the job, firefighters may get drug tested for post-accident testing on two grounds - severity of the incident, involvement of the firefighter, and reasonable suspicion.
If the drug test comes out positive, it could be confirmed that the accident might be happened because of the drug and hence you may lose the job and even get sued by the police (based on the severity of the accident).
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
Major illicit drugs abused in the USA are considered. This can include commonly abused substances such as marijuana (THC), cocaine, amphetamines, natural opioids, methamphetamine, and others.
Certain prescription medications like the synthetic opiates and painkilers like oxycodone, hydrocodone can also impair job performance may also be included in drug testing.
You should note that the drugs included in the panel might vary based on the state and jurisdiction.
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.
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.
6-MAM 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.
THC 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, THC, 6-MAM, 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 system.
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.
Firefighters get drug tested in the USA.
Fire department drug testing policies can vary between departments and jurisdictions, but they often include pre-employment testing, random testing during employment, and post-accident or suspicion-based testing.
The substances tested for typically include illegal drugs and certain prescription medications that may impair job performance.
The Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures may not necessarily prevent drug testing for firefighters, as safety-sensitive positions and the government's compelling interest in public safety are often considered when evaluating the legality of such testing.
So, if you are aspiring to get placed in a socially responsive job like a firefighter, make sure you are free from drugs to pass the drug test.