The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has adopted a position statement on Drug and Alcohol-Free Awareness.
"Drugs and alcohol should never be a part of our fire and emergency service," said Chief Hank Clemmensen, IAFC president and chair of the board. "Just as we would never tolerate such irresponsible behavior from those whose hands into which we place our lives, so should the public demand the same from us."
The position supersedes the 2003 Zero-Tolerance for Alcohol & Drinking in the Fire & Emergency Service, mirroring much of the content from the older alcohol-specific position and adding new guidance on illegal substances, legal prescriptions and over-the-counter medication. It also encourages department support of assistance programs that can help responders avoid or address substance abuse.
"The use of illegal drugs and the improper use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs have an enormous impact on not just firefighter safety, but the safety of all members of the community," said Matt Tobia, chair of the IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section, which authored and recommended the updated position statement. "We must be proactive and assertive in tackling such tough issues head-on in a responsible, compassionate but resolute way."
The negative effects on judgment, decision-making and reaction time while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are well-documented. Ignoring and failing to address signs of drug and alcohol impairment put the user, his or her fellow firefighters, the fire department and the entire community at very high risk.