Drugs & alcohol okay for on-duty firefighters in Reno, Nevada

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The Reno Gazette-Journal reports a more than decade old policy allows Reno firefighters to work as long as their blood alcohol content is not over .08 percent, the legal limit for driving. The same policy permits marijuana, amphetamine and cocaine use. According to reporter Anjeanette Damon, the cut off for marijuana is five times the legal limit for driving and it is twice the legal limit for amphetamines and cocaine.

This policy was negotiated in 2002 in the contract between the union and the city. It can’t be changed without collective bargaining. According to reporter Damon, neither Fire Chief Michael Hernandez or union president Dennis Jacobsen see changing this as a high priority issue.

“The policy seems to work,” union president Dennis Jacobsen said. “If you could show me eight or nine occurrences where you’ve proven the policy is inadequate, then absolutely we would sit down with the city. But I don’t want to try and fix something that is so rarely used.”

Reno Fire Department Chief Michael Hernandez
Reno Fire Department Chief Michael Hernandez

“What I’m sensing is you’re trying to make an issue out of something that really isn’t an issue,” Hernandez said. “Granted it’s a higher threshold, but does that mean firefighters are coming to work drunk? No.”

The policy is rarely used, according to both the chief and the union president. Hernandez said he has had three firefighters tested under the policy and all three came back negative in the four years he’s been chief. A firefighter can only be tested if two coworkers independently observe signs of intoxication.

Read entire Reno Gazette-Journal by Anjeanette Damon


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