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Reno fire officials open to changing drug and alcohol policy

RENO, Nev. -- Reno fire officials may be willing to negotiate change to a policy allowing firefighters to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol while working.

If a co-worker or supervisor believes a Reno firefighter is drunk or high, Chief Michael Hernandez said they are required to report the incident. "He just picks up the phone, he initiates the process, we get that person tested and it is either positive or negative."

Under the same policy, however, Reno firefighters can have traces of alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines and even cocaine in their system while on the clock.

The City of Reno wants to alter the policy and Chief Hernandez said he is open to the change. "Just to remain consistent within the community and other public safety industries."

Hernandez is not sure why this policy was adopted more than a decade ago. He said Reno firefighters are not coming to work under the influence, but understands why the policy is concerning. "Any policy would have to spell out, you know, marijuana, opiates, barbiturates. So you want to have those individually spelled out, as well as a threshold for each one."

The chief said this code is not contractual and negotiations with labor unions can be done at any point. "We're going to meet with the city manager and see if this is something that he would like to sit down with the labor groups and talk about. We'll go from there."

In his four and a half years in charge, Chief Hernandez said firefighters have been reported under the influence three times. Under the policy, employees are given the chance to remain with the department after a successful rehabilitation.