With many departments taking a closer look at Department or member fitness and wellness, what are your thoughts on a Diabetic Firefighter or Paramedic? NFPA talks about this in the 1582 Guideline and many departments have policies in regards to this condition. NFPA 1582 was changed, thanks to the help of the American Diabetes Association, and has a more reasonable method for determining if someone with diabetes is fit to perform the essential job functions. What many departments fail to realize is that the American Disability Act of 1990 restricts the unfair treatment that many Diabetics may encounter during their career. The most recent is Firefighter Christopher Guzzy who filed in Federal Court in Pittsburgh Thursday and wants a federal judge to reinstate him, order back pay, legal fees and compensatory damages after he lost his job for being recently diagnosed with Diabetes Type 1.
I hope to get some feedback from many different members around the nation that is both educational and constructive.
I've been a firefighter/emt-basic for 9 years. I also have had diabetes type I for over 17 years. There is no reason any diabetic who takes reasonable care of themselves, and who's crew knows their history, isn't able to perform the job just as anyone else can. I'm sure one could argue well, what if you have "an episode" while on the job? Well, that would be why you monitor your blood sugars and always have something handy to eat in case you go low. One could also argue that any one of us could have a heart attack at any time too. Not much of a difference. Could probably bring up people with asthma too. Just deal with the cards you've been dealt. As long as the rest of the crew knows, I don't see any problem in it. Just my two cents...
You might want to research the ADA Restoration Act. I'm not sure if this measure is in effect or not. Sounds like you can be too disabled to do the job, but not disabled enough to be considered disabled.
According to the summer 2007 edition of the Epilepsy Legal Defense Fund newsletter, the Supreme Court has “created an absurd catch-22 by allowing employers to say a person is ‘too disabled’ to do the job but not ‘disabled enough’ to be protected by the ADA.”....persons with conditions controlled by medication, such as epilepsy, diabetes, HIV, and cancer, are no longer protected from discrimination in employment under the ADA.
The ADA 1990 Act clearly states that someone with Diabetes is Disabled and protected under this act as proven in numerous federal cases. The NFPA 1582 (Newest) states numerous limits that if your A1c is within normal limits (mine is) or your diabetes is treated by an infusion pump (mine is) etc. and you can perform the essential job functions ( I have never failed a Physical Ability Test), you pass the 1582 medical requirments. The person must be able to preform the job, you just cant discriminate because of a medical condition.
The Federal ADA 1990 and NFPA 1582 are on my side, I can do the job well and I simply have diabetes. I don't think any department wants or can challenge a Federal Mandated Act, the blog was to get a general feel or response from other FF and Medic's across the nation. Please feel free to give any input you can.
I think this whole situation sounds ludicrous. If you are a diabetic in public service it is assumed you would take care of yourself and monitor your health since it affects your lively hood. I do not understand how someone can judge and determine that your life is not worth risking to save other individuals in the line of duty due to the fact you have an element in your life that may require a bit of additional planning and attention, but truly does not affect your ability to be a firefighter and to save people's lives! I think people need to be educated and realize what a controllable issue diabetes truly is. Lastly, I do not recall the last time I heard of a firefighter or public servant perishing as a result of diabetes; heartaches heard that many times. I feel more comfortable having a diabetic next to me going in a burning building rather than a FF has that has a known issue with blood pressure or something to that affect. My guess would be public servants are more at risk by of having a heartache, etc...
I think it is great the people that fight for this cause and help to educate people!
Thanks for the input. My case is only a few months away from court date. Texas Houston office of EEOC found that the City violated the ADA 1990 Act and the Justice Department gave us the right to sue in federal court. I don't want or need money, I simply am asking for my job back. I work for another department now and they are all great with my diabetes. The Chief and EMS Chief have diabetes as well at this new department. I think some agencies are uninformed and not trained enough in Diabetes and ADA Laws. Thanks again!
Thanks for the input on this topic. I am glad to see so many with an open mind about this! My case is only a few months away from court date. Texas Houston office of EEOC found that the City violated the ADA 1990 Act and the Justice Department gave us the right to sue in federal court. I don't want or need money, I simply am asking for my job back. I work for another department now and they are all great with my diabetes. I think some agencies are uninformed and not trained enough in Diabetes and ADA Laws.
I have been a diabetic for more than 10 yrs. there has never been any problem in my volunteer dept. or my paid job with a hospital based ems service. I,ve have recently been put on lantus at night my diabetes doesn't affect my ability to preform my job in any way . And if it ever does i would hope to have the good sense to get out !!!!!!!
I know I replied once to this, but I just had another thought. If this is becoming an issue now, what is going to happen in 5 years, or 10 years? You see in the news all the time how more and more people are expected to get type 2 diabetes based on lack of exercise/eating bad food and choosing the lifestyle they do. If they are going to start nitpicking because of being uneducated about this topic in particular, they are in for a rude awakening in a few years when you start seeing it more and more in our field, and many other fields as well. Just a thought....
As afirefighter/EMT that has been serving since 1992, and as a diabetic myself, I can say that diabettics can very well manage and be able to perform the jobs they are required to do in this line of work. I know myself that it has been a callenge at times but in the long run if you take advantage of your down time and keep yourself healthy you shouldn't have a problem. Many career firefighters and Medics work with disabilities everyday, where is the diabettic any different. I know myself I have used my Diabettes to educate myself on the disease and to better help others that have it. There are pros and cons to this issue, but overall I think the only way this disease will hold anyone back in our profession is that if they don't take care of themselves. People live with Diabetttes every day and function no differently than anyone else, as long as they maintain a good exercise regimen and diet, and I think our profession is one of the best for a diabettic, after all we exercise and work out all the time, and we have to keep healthy to be able to perform our jobs to hte best of out ability. So I guess you could say that our job promotes good health, which for a diabettic is a very good thing. I've been doing this for 16 years now, as a Diabettic, and as long as I have taken care of my disease, it has not been a problem for me. So why hold us back for something we can control. Thanks for bringing up this issue and giving me the opprotunity to voice my oppinion. PEACE OUT BROTHA !!!
I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 16. I was in the hospital after being diagnosed and was put onto the local fire department while I was in the Hospital. I have been on the job now for 22 years after diagnosis. I have been involved with EMS as an EMT and now an AEMT-CC for 19 years. I am now a state fire instructor and chief of an Industrial fire brigade. I am advanced haz mat certified. I now have a pump which I recieved 2 or 3 years ago now. I am still SCBA/interior qualified and still prefer going into the fire rather than sitting outside as IC.
I have found that over the years and many law suits that NFPA is starting to relize that a diabetic is not a liability on the fire grounds. Unfortunately I am at work and don't have access to my personnel favorites. However there is a lot of good information on the web about diabetes and firefighting. There is an organization dedicated to diabetic firefighters."International Register of Firefighters with Diabetes" was started in the UK but is becoming more involved in the US and Canada. They have a lot of good information as well as other links that may help.
This might be a good place to start a posting for diabetic firefighters and those that wish to become firefighters could discussissues that we face. Who knows maybe we can make some steps foward with diabetes and firefighting.
Good luck and Be safe out there.
Im Type II diabetic as a Firefighter Rescue Tech I can honestly say that I have Diabetes.. It does not have Me..
In My 6 Years on the Job it has never been an issue There have been times after overexertion that Ive felt a bit mopey but a Gatorade and Granola bar later and Im back on the up and up..
Ive heard that having diabetes can disqualify You from having a CDL as well .. Truly this is Unfair Just because a person has Diabetes does not mean they cant have a Normal Functioning life .. Watch though I say this and Ill have a heart attack or stroke tommorrow.. ( KNOCK ON WOOD)
Its My belief that if You exercise regularly stay off the fast food ( for those of Us who Dispatch Third Shift it has become a staple) and just monitor Your sugar daily your not going to run into anything major and if it does then Get it taken care of Modern Medicine has came a long way even since I was a Child..
Hope this helps and Inspires
Sgt Bobby J King
Madison County Div of Emergency Svcs
Firefighter Rescue Tech
Thanks, Glad to here this type of feedback. Looks like most departments are ok with this but we still have a few that don't see the big picture! Some think that diabetes is a disqualification from fire suppression. I have had diabetes for over ten years and been a firefighter for eight, I have a case in the Houston Federal Courts against a wellknown fire department. They violated the ADA 1990 as well as allowed discrimination againts me from other firefighters and Supervisors.
Thanks again to all who responded, glad to see the feedback!