David Dunville, national director of the Amputee Firefighters Association (AFFA), says there are two issues that arise when firefighters, police officers and EMTs with amputations try to return to duty.
One is the interpretation of National Fire Protection Association
"Most states go under the NFPA
," says Dunville
"One part of the standards state that, to become a firefighter, your ankles have to be able to move or the wrist has to be able to move.
And that right there means that anyone using a prosthesis, which doesn't have an ankle or a wrist, can't pass."
However, requalifying personnel who lose limbs after passing the initial test is left to local jurisdictions.
In some cases, possibly where concern has been expressed over the liability involved in returning firefighters with limb loss to active duty, NFPA standards may be strictly adhered to.
"The interpretation of those standards is the problem," says Dunville
himself is another example.
He was a firefighter for nearly four years until an accident in the fire station led to the amputation of his lower left leg in 2003.
has not returned to active duty.
"I'm still trying to get back," he
"Unfortunately, it always seemed that whenever I got the door open, it got shut because, 'Now we have this question...' They just like to find new hoops for me to jump through."
says that departments supportive of returning personnel may not strictly follow the NFPA standards or will interpret them favorably, because they see that the standards don't adequately take into account the functionality of modern prostheses.
David Dunville with Karen Scruggs and Kim Duckett, CP
David Dunville (L) with Karen Scruggs,
does not review prosthetics," Dunville
expresses mixed feelings about this dilemma.
"God bless the federal government for providing military personnel the equipment to return to active duty," he
"But when military personnel are encouraged to return to duty, and contract or federal firefighters who are amputees have insurance that won't pay for the right type of prosthesis or are being turned down for promotions, then the government is sending mixed messages.
They have set up a very confusing situation.
And that needs to be fixed at the national level."
Through the AFFA
is advocating for a federal standard that would apply across the board, developed through input from lawmakers, public safety personnel and makers of prosthetic components.
"What would be the ideal for me," says Dunville
, "would be to bring the fire chiefs' association, the police chiefs' association, all the associations to a large facility and have a conference at the same time as the Amputee Coalition conference.