Monday, June 25, 2012

Does Connecticut Need a Uniform Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy for Firefighters?

What do you think about the issue of random testing in Connecticut fire departments? Should the state have a uniform policy for all departments? Comment below or on the main article. 

Fire departments across Connecticut have very different dynamics in terms of the department makeup. For example, Ansonia has about 300 active volunteer firefighters and no career firefighters. Milford has all career firefighters and some departments like Branford and Wallingford have both. Applying a uniform statewide policy on random testing would be difficult.

Milford Fire Commissioner John Healey said that comparing volunteer and career fire departments is like comparing apples to oranges. 

For example, lets say the state decided to model a testing strategy around New Haven's policy, which mandates that at least half of all the department's members in safety-sensitive positions have to be tested. That could potentially amount to about 150 annual tests for Ansonia's department. 

Every fire chief I spoke to thought a random testing policy had many more benefits than drawbacks. Wallingford Fire Chief Peter Struble said one of the main concerns is typically over the implementation of the policy. Branford Fire Chief Jack Ahern also said that implementation was the main concern when the issue came up years ago.

The issue of why CDL regulations don't apply to certain groups is another issue in itself. Struble said that it depends who you ask and that he's heard everything from military and volunteer firefighter lobbying to lobbying from career firefighter organizations.




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