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  1. #1
    Grit 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 Guest


    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 Guest


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

  4. #4
    Station 18 Guest


    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 Guest


    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 Guest


    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 Guest


    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 Guest


    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 Guest


    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 Guest


    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 Guest


    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
    Vice-Pres./Asst. EMS Coordinator
    Fremont Rural Fire Department

  12. #12
    lady_in_turnouts Guest


    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 Guest



  14. #14
    eCappy Guest


    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 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 Guest


    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 Guest


    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 Guest


    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

    Red face



  20. #20
    Frkoe2 Guest


    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.


  21. #21
    spo0k Guest


    I am very much aware that people with imparements begin to use their other senses much more accuratly than we ever can. I also know that in a fire, sometimes hearing is all you have.

    We have all been in that fire where you just couldn't see your hand unless it was flat on your facepiece. So imagine for a moment that you are doing a primary search with your deaf partner and you enter a room to search it. You fall down a hole, and have no way to contact your partner.

    Another situation.. lets say there is a downed firefighter inside a building. We all know that an activated pass device cuts minutes off finding a downed brother, minutes that could save that firefighters life.

    In my opinion, verbal communication is just too important in our business.

    FF. Mike Burnes
    Whitehall Fire Division

  22. #22
    wrongWAY Guest

    Thumbs up

    I feel fortunate to have served on fire departments that allowed and encouraged people with physical and mental challenges to become active members.

    It's true that the officers had to remember that these members each had a list of "can-do" and "can't-do" and at NO time could any assignments be given to them where their safety or the safety of others could be compromised .... but isn't that almost the way it is with so many of our "normal" firefighters; you know, the ones afraid of height, or much too overweight and out-of-shape to perform, or too undisciplined to stop freelancing and follow simple orders, or those that can't accept the fact that someone other than themselves were elected as officers or as chief?

    Based solely on my experiences I'd prefer having a deaf firefighter performing in his or her limited role at a fire scene than any of the type I've descibed above.

  23. #23
    NozzleHog Guest


    I can't believe anyone would even consider supporting this idea, at least not anyone who actually does this job.

    Fortunately, the NFPA has a standard, NFPA 1582, "Standard on Medical Requirements for Firefighters". The NFPA's requirements list diagnoses that immediately disqualify individuals from being firefighters and diagnoses that require evaluation of the individual on a case-by-case basis. It is chock full of references to hearing loss as disqualifying, because of inability to perform specific essential tasks including:

    3-2x Rely on sense of sight, hearing, smell, and touch to help determine the nature of the emergency; maintain personal safety; and make critical decisions in a confused, chaotic, and potentially life-threatening environment throughout the duration of the operation.
    3-2ab Ability to verbally communicate effectively under noisy circumstances with a potential for voice obstruction by personal protective equipment.
    3-2ac Ability to distinguish low intensity voice sounds from background noise in order to respond to imminently hazardous situations.

    Of course, the irony in all this is that if they let this deaf guy on the dept. in any emergency response role, they could be sued by the union for endangering the members lives and not following "recognized industry standards". Anyone want to be a fire chief?

  24. #24
    macsen Guest


    To lady_in_turnouts:

    While I empathize with your positive outlook I believe that I can say with some conviction and experience that, given the current technology readily available to the fire service today, there is no way we are ready for a deaf firefighter.

    There is simply no reasonable accomodation possible to place a deaf firefighter on the fireground without placing the public, the firefighter, and every other responder on the fireground at risk.

    I sincerely hope that the future will bring a means to allow your son to become a firefighter, but if he were to apply today I would have to strenuously object on grounds of safety.


    8 years fire captain
    20 years fire service
    BS Fire Science
    Past Volunteer

  25. #25
    Brian Dunlap Guest


    To all of you that are Flat Out saying NO to this Guy I don't think you are seeing the bigger picture. -- Maybe I'm Wrong But....

    He is Not going after a Paid Position with in the County from what I've Read so I can't Understand what Involvement a Union would have in this. He is not/Should not be doing any kind of Interior Work ~ Some of you are making him out to be this Smoke eating, Flame Stopping, Rescue Hero. In the back of Our Minds we know it will never happen and I think this guy knows he won't be an interior man. He may not even be able to attend recruit school in PG County because of the hearing loss. But I find nothing wrong with him being classified as "Support Personnel" --- Also it has been finally mentioned {I was waiting to see how long it would take for somebody to pick-up on this one NICE JOB mongofire_99 } With the help of a hearing aid or aides will this guy be able to hear ? Is this guy 100% Deaf or Partially Deaf? But as usual with alot of these posts We read We see one thing wrong with a guy and we're Quick to Point out all the Bad Points of a situation with-out thinking it through --- This guy has a hearing disability yes...But he has a Heart for this Job bigger than Most....Just the Fact that he wants to try is more than most people in his condition would dream of. But I guess We'll never know unless PGFD gives him the chance --- Department should give him a chance -- Work with him and see what he could be capable of and what he could not be capable of before they give him gear and put him on the street

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