Why Are We STILL Calling HazMat Teams for Small Amounts of Fentanyl?

Are We Handling Fentanyl Decon at the Appropriate Level?

Here are a few things no one discusses when we talk about the fentanyl crisis.

Most communities do not have dedicated, full-time HazMat teams. There aren’t six to twelve guys sitting around in full personal protective gear that only respond to HazMat incidents. They are usually firefighters that are also trained as HazMat Techs. They respond to fires and other routine calls.

So, when they get called out for small, street level amounts of fentanyl, they are unavailable if a fire or other incident occurs.

In addition, police, EMTs, and healthcare workers often stop and withdraw if they see anything that MIGHT be fentanyl or another synthetic opioid. They then call the HazMat team and wait for them to respond and handle the detection and decontamination of the substance. That often means they are unable to proceed with treatment or response.

That was fine when encountering fentanyl was a rare occurrence. But now, in much of the country, first responders and receivers are seeing it daily.

To be clear, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in powder form can easily be aerosolized with deadly consequences.

In a recent incident, eighteen SWAT officers were taken to the hospital after a suspect kicked over a table with fentanyl on it. But most police, EMTs, and healthcare providers know to retreat and call the HazMat team if they encounter anything much larger than a street level quantity of a substance that might be fentanyl.

But the prevalent fear about fentanyl has often meant that HazMat teams are being called out for quantities that could easily be handled by anyone with a little training and the right equipment.

If a small quantity of suspected fentanyl is encountered, the first responder or first receiver has three key concerns that can easily be addressed:

DETECT – Simple, easy to use fentanyl test strips can detect the presence of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids quickly and accurately.

DEFEND – The only protective gear needed to protect against accidental overdose from small amounts of fentanyl are nitrile gloves, a P100 face piece respirator, and safety goggles. They should also have access to Naxalone (Narcan) in case an overdose occurs.

DECON – Much of the substance can be safely removed using a three-part wipe or mitt called FiberTect.   Dahlgren Decon, an easy-to-mix and apply decontamination solution is peracetic acid based and completely neutralizes fentanyl in about five minutes.

First Line Technology, the developers of FiberTect and Dahlgren Decon offer both training and all the equipment needed for first responders and healthcare workers to safely detect and decontaminate small quantities of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The First Line Utilization Academy offers a wide range of courses which combine both classroom sessions and hands-on experience. These courses include:

  • Synthetic Opioid Safety – A four-hour course for First Responders, Correctional Workers, Healthcare Workers
  • Tactical DeconTect for Law Enforcement/EMS – A four-hour course on field decontamination of individuals and equipment
  • Dry Decon Training – A four-hour course that covers basic awareness of hazardous material threats, contaminant identification, safety precautions, and operational use of Dry Decon to remove up to 95% of the contaminant using FiberTect wipes.
  • DeconTect Train-the-Trainer – An eight-hour course for First Responders, Medical Professionals, and Correctional Workers to enable them to effectively train others in their organization in Hybrid Decontamination

Register for courses

First Line Technology also offers a wide range of easy-to-use kits that bring together everything responders need for the decontamination of Fentanyl and hundreds of other known and emerging threats.