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  1. #1
    Grit
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs down Wanna work with a deaf firefighter?

    Calling it a violation against the Americans with Disabilities Act, a deaf Maryland man is suing Prince George's County for turning down his bid to become a volunteer firefighter. What do you folks think?



  2. #2
    570eck
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I don't think that there is a politicaly correct way to put this, but no. On a fireground I can not see any safe place fore a deaf firefighter(not to say there isn't just that I haven't thought of any yet) Now an administrative postion of some type might be in order. I don't see how safe it can be in a fire not hearing the noises of a building, outside hearing a wall start to come down or someone yelling this person to move/lookout. I admit I don't know very much about the hearing impaired there might be ways with other senses that are hightened to notice these events but these are first my thoughts, if anybody knows different I'd be interseted to know.

  3. #3
    Exp.chief51
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    How would he hear his pager? Or monitor radio traffic? Doesn't sound very safe to me.

  4. #4
    Station 18
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Wink

    He could keep his pager on vibrate...

    I have struggled with this question myself. I have been trying to recruit for a FD, and have an acquaintance that is deaf, but I think would be great on the FD. He is "rural" and knows how to work with machinery and such, and has been around farm equipment and animals all his life (he's around 30)
    But, I have not found any position on a fire scene that I would feel safe having him in, maybe there is, but like 570eck said I just haven't thought of it yet.

  5. #5
    AlaskanKare
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Talking

    My volunteer dept is very open to letting pretty much anyone in, but again, as with everyone else here, I'm not sure I can even think of a position for someone with a hearing impairment.

    They wouldn't hear crys for help, if they got seperated, (because their team member would be the only contact they would have to the outside) they wouldn't hear a pass device to go after their partner if they got injured. They couldn't hear air horns, radio transmissions. They wouldn't be able to read lips through a fogged mask, let alone in a smoke filled room, so that takes out hand signals too.

    They might be able to sit on a hose outside with someone. That's the only firefighting thing I can think of.

    Salvage and Overhaul...still have to hear airhorn incase of building collapse...but that's easier to envision someone doing.

    Driver - couldn't drive, wouldn't hear radio updates and couldn't look over to Officer while driving to read his lips on updates.

    Engineer: Couldn't hear radio or verbal commands on pressure and lines, etc.

    Would never be able to be an officer, so no advancement.

    What they could do: Clean equipment, apparatus on return, fill in ANFIRS reports on the computer. Do station & equipment maintenance. Do some computer reports, but won't be able to answer the phone, unless they had a TTY set up, as long as it's business lines.

    So, actually, in a very limited capacity, they could volunteer around the station for somethings, maybe. Which, with our dept, (not speaking for my dept) I could see it as a possibility. Except, they'd never be able to go to calls [we don't have vibrating pagers and even if we did, how would they know WHERE it was?/no displays]

    Unfortunately, it doesn't look very promising.

  6. #6
    OLE
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I think that there should be a hearing test along with the physical agility and writtrn exams. If you can't hear, you can't fight fires. That would be an easy way of taking care of it. Just make it a part of the tests that would omit the problem.

  7. #7
    RJE
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Most departments I'm familiar with have a physical as part of the application/hiring process - even the volunteer ones.

    If there's a VALID physical requirement, and it's in writing - then it's valid grounds for rejection/termination of employment (termination w/pension if work related, obviously). So if it's not there on YOUR department - get it in there, now!

    And, as the bottom line - just one more example of how stupid the ADA laws are.

    Personal note: I was sued, because my business did not have proper "handicap" access. Was this because a "handicapped" person couldn't get in to apply? No, it was an "unprovoked" legal action by the ACLU. Was their claim resonable? Hardly: The judge threw it out in 5 minutes. You see, the business is an interstate trucking company. All of the employees are truck drivers (no warehouse, no mechanics, we contract those out). And DOT won't give you a CDL if you're in a wheelchair. So what @#$%$^&#@ difference did it make that my building didn't have a handicap parking space or a wheelchair ramp. There is absolutely NO walkup business!

  8. #8
    Frkoe2
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I feel for the individual who aspires to become a firefighter but lets face it, hearing is an essential part of the job. It is a huge safety factor for him and his coworkers. Its bad enough we are getting out of shape weaklings that take the joke strength and agility tests that allow everyone that has a pulse to pass, now we have to change everything to accomodate something else. Im sorry, thats just not acceptable. When people call 911 for help they do not expect a wheelchair van to pull up with a lightbar on it. I take alot of pride in being in shape and being proficient at my job. Sorry if that offends anyone but thats my take on it.

    ------------------

  9. #9
    Calvertvolunteer
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    As a brand new PG volunteer (Recruit school tommorow), I had to take quite an extensive physical. They tested my heart, vision, hearing, blood chemistry and took a handful of X-Rays. The test is designed to asses physical abilities, and if you can't pass it it is a whole lot better to find this out in PG Hospital, than on a fireground. I can't even begin to fathom how he would function as an EMT. How are you going to ask a patient, "What hurts or are you on any medications?"
    At 5'8", I know I will never play professional basketball, but does that mean I should sue the NBA because they discriminate against my lack of height?

  10. #10
    firefighter15_wv
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Originally posted by Station 18:
    He could keep his pager on vibrate...

    I have struggled with this question myself. I have been trying to recruit for a FD, and have an acquaintance that is deaf, but I think would be great on the FD. He is "rural" and knows how to work with machinery and such, and has been around farm equipment and animals all his life (he's around 30)
    But, I have not found any position on a fire scene that I would feel safe having him in, maybe there is, but like 570eck said I just haven't thought of it yet.

    True, he could keep his pager on vibrate, but how would he know where and what the tone was for?

  11. #11
    SmokeEater31
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    You know, I like to think of myself as a "forward" thinking guy. Unfortunately, in this delicate topic, I would have to agree with everyone that has posted here.

    Let's think here what it would entail.
    1). I saw that someone ha typed that he could put his pager on vibrate.
    The problem I can see with that, is, 1). how would he know if it was an emergency call, or just a pager test, or pager test? I know that here, we get "informational pages" all of the time, for example, Tornado watches, thunderstorm watches, informational, in that they are just trying to advise us that there is a POSSIBILITY of us going into action. Would he be flying down to the station at every page?

    2). I too, have a friend that is deaf, and have NO doubt that hehas the determination and stamina, and strength to perform the tasks asked of him.
    But, unfortunately, he would become a liability no matter WHAT he did at a fire scene, because they are so incredibly unpredictable. There have been times, that walls have shown NO signs of sagging or leaning, but once my team and I were set up to fight the structure, it would collapse, and once it missed me by a matter of a few feet. The sounds that it gave were enough to make us move enough to move away. So, in my mind at least, it would preclude even having him sit on a hoseline.
    3). Overhaul. Like was said, this person would not even be able to hear collapse warnings while inside. Well, we ALL know that statistically, more firefighters are injured and or killed in overhaul evolutions than in active firefighting. There would be NO way that this person could SAFELY perform tasks for himself in that situation, MUCH LESS, his CREWS safety.
    The more I think about this topic, the more I think of how ridiculous it is. I cannot help but think that the idea of him suing PG HAD to be PUT into his head. BEcause NO sane person would HONESTLY think that they could qualify "all the way around" for the posistion.

    This reply sounds like I am SOOO bigotted, but I am one of those that evaluates all scenarios on how it will affect the team(s) that are involved. I would personally NEVER even THINK about admitting this person. If someone was not fit enough to pass the testing, or if you are on a dept. like mine that has no real testing procedures, if they are grossly overweight, and would possibly become a liability to yourself, your team, and ultimately the department, they are just told that they do not meet theminimum guidelines for acceptance.

    Enough said by me.
    My .02.

    ------------------
    Your Brother In The Service,
    Rob Herpel
    FF/EMT
    Vice-Pres./Asst. EMS Coordinator
    Fremont Rural Fire Department

  12. #12
    lady_in_turnouts
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I am a volunteer firefighter and mother to a 7 yr old deaf son. I have always told my son that if he wants to be a firefighter, he can be. He may have to work a little harder at it than most, but it can be done. I suggest you all buy the book "Silent Alarm-On the Edge With A Deaf Emt". Its about a man who spent 15 yrs as a EMT/Firefighter. Maybe if you read what he went through and how he adapted, it may open your eyes.

  13. #13
    dfwscotty
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Cool

    huh?

  14. #14
    eCappy
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Angry

    When I signed on back in '68 the fire department had a deaf member (born that way - his mom had measles), an amputee member (one legged - he lost it in WW2), and a myopic member (one eyed - lost it in the Korean War).

    While I doubt the three would be eligible under today's requirements I think I should mention that each and everyone of them was a valuable asset to the department despite their "limitations" and despite the preconceived opinions of others.

    I wish I had a nickel for each SCBA bottle the deaf member changed, each ladder he helped raise, each length of hose he racked, the ropes he cleaned and coiled, the lights he set up at night, and for all the times he administered oxygen, first aid and CPR.

    I also recall how his ability to use sign language came in handy a couple of times, and how he read lips in noisy industrial locations.

    But what I remember and treasure most was the size of his heart - something few of us have today.

  15. #15
    fffd1vfd
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    I believe that a deaf firefighter may not be very benificial in actual emergency situations, but could be benificial in others. Firefighting is not just a job that is done 24-7 on emergency situations. A deaf person could get in community envolvement and learn to train in other aspects. I dont know I am like you guys, I like the thrill of doing things on emergency scenes and I would not feel safe with a deaf person behind me, but if he could help in some way then I would think it would benificial to us all. If it is just something as minute as getting me water, i would be appreciative, im sure there are plenty of aspects that he could share with us if we could only give him a chance.

  16. #16
    Dalmatian90
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Cool

    A handicapped firefighter who knows his limitations on a fireground is far safer than a perfectly formed firefighter who doesn't know his limitations.

    --------------------
    On the pager issue, 1) He's in PG County and they almost always respond only from the station, so no need for the pager. 2) There is much better technology out there -- Alpha-Numeric pagers, and within 15 years almost all the fire service will replace their voice pager systems with them. I'll eat my New Yorker if Motorola ever develops a new voice pager to replace the Minitor III line. I honestly believe it's the final generation of voice pagers, and I doubt you'll ever see another major manufacturer other than one serving fringe markets.

  17. #17
    Brian Dunlap
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I have to agree that there are jobs besides actual firefighting that a deaf member can do. Like eCappy Said...The Guy could Raise Ladders, Roll Hose, Coil and Re-Stock Ropes -- Clean Equipment, Set up Lighting and Yes Perform CPR. The list could go on and on and on. Actual Firefighting/Search and Rescue ?...I would have to say no but The Fire Service could benifit from this person especially when someone who knows sign language is needed...Sounds like PG County is in for One Hell of a Suit If this Guy Wins --- HE DESERVES A CHANCE AND I THINK PG COUNTY SHOULD GIVE IT TO HIM.

  18. #18
    mongofire_99
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    While I'm not fond of this ADA mess, the issue the judge will deal with is reasonable accomodation. Can the person peform some or all of the duties with a reasonable accomdation. In this case the answer is clearly yes.

    And we're not told here about how well his hearing is with hearing aids, which are a reasonable accomodation.

    Pagers - alpha pagers vibrate and xmit text, he'd know what and where the call is.

    He may not be an inside guy, but the list of things he can do and reasonable accomodations is long.

    Under existing ADA laws, and if the court looks at vfds like a regular business, he wins.

  19. #19
    DAVE BASALA
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Red face

    HELLO WE HAVE A DEAF FIREFIGHTER AND HE ALSO AS ABOUT 300 HOURS OF TRAINING AND HE KICKS DOWN DOORS AND FEELS THE HEAT JUST LIKE ME AND YOU DO. YES THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH HIM HEARING US BUT BRING A FLASH LITE AND SHINE IT AT HIM AND HE LOOKS AT YOU AND THEN SHOW HIM WHAT YOU WANT DONE AND HE WILL DO IT.BUT IF THE HOUSE IS ROCKING HE DOSE NOT GO IN BUT LET ME TELL YOU THE KID FEELS ALOT OF HEAT. WE ARE A BUSY COMPANY ABOUT 450 CALLS A YEAR AND HE MAKE 300 OF THEM. I THINK HE SHOULD BEABLE TO FIGHT FIRE PUT YOUR SELF IN HIS SHOE.

    ------------------
    ASST.CHIEF DAVID BASALA

  20. #20
    Frkoe2
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    What happens when a medic accidentaly drops a needle and says "watch out, sharp on the floor"...or says "clear!" when he goes to defib?? How about when the radios are not working well and the only signal to pull out of the building is the air horn blasts? How about in the dark cellar when the officer tells him to pull in more line?? Can anyone here remember what its like inside a burning structure?? I am not being insensitive to this individual, but your sense of hearing is so critical I cannot imagine doing this job in a safe manner without it.

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