Suspected Fentanyl Exposure Causes Police to Evacuate Station
In the age of the opioid crisis, new synthetic drugs have become part of the illicit drug trade. Many of these substances are even more deadly than street drugs like heroin or prescription pain medications like OxyContin. In fact, some of these chemical compounds are so potent that even law enforcement and first responders are at risk just by handling the substance.
An arrest led to drugs being discovered
The situation at the California police station all started with a substance that was confiscated from a suspect at See’s Candy. A call had been made that a man was urinating in public. According to police, the responding officers eventually arrested the unnamed suspect on two outstanding warrants in San Luis Obispo County.
At was at this point that police confiscated the bag filled with suspected narcotics. Allegedly, the suspect told police that fentanyl was part of the mix. Results are currently being procured at Santa Clara County’s crime lab. Incidentally, a patrol officer at the Department of Public Safety headquarters was accidently exposed to the chemical. Police have been told it was fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid far stronger than heroin or morphine.
The San Jose Mercury News states that according to the police report, the officer immediately felt “severe respiratory distress.” Symptoms are said to have been felt very quickly, according to Jim Choi, a spokesperson for Sunnyvale police.
Officers were evacuated due to exposure
Authorities did not seem too keen to take the risk of further exposure. Following the initial offer’s reaction to the chemical, six officers from Sunnyvale’s Department of Public Safety were hospitalized and evaluated as a precaution. Thankfully, all of the officers involved have since returned home from the hospital.
Furthermore, Jim Choi states that the building was still under a “Level A” quarantine the next morning while crews processed police headquarters for hazardous materials. Officers state that after the headquarters had initially been evacuated, a hazmat team entered the station to retrieve the suspected fentanyl and “decontaminated the affected areas.” According to a press release,
“The exposure was contained to DPS Headquarters and there is no threat to the community. Police, fire and EMS services were not affected during this incident.”
Needless to say, it is good to know that the officers involved in the incident were not severely injured due to the accidental exposure.
Knowing the risks of accidental fentanyl overdose
Exposure to fentanyl can quickly lead to an accidental overdose. Now more than ever before, police officers and first responders have to be aware of this fact. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA):
- Fentanyl can be 40 to 50 times more potent and lethal than heroin
- An analog of fentanyl called Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
The deadly synthetic drugs can still be life-threatening even when not intentionally consumed. In other words, simply coming into contact with the drug through the skin or breathing it in can cause severe side effects or even death.
Front-line police officers can become accidentally exposed to these substances in a number of ways out in the field. Police can experience exposure while conducting searches on individuals, vehicles or residences. It can even happen while administering first aid or naloxone to an overdose subject.
The DEA has even issued an officer safety alert, warning all first responders of the possibility of such an overdose. The alert describes the symptoms of a fentanyl overdose, and provides instructions on how to respond.
Departments all over the United States have been working together to try and develop strategies for preventing exposure to fentanyl and other toxic narcotics that can harm police officers. Meanwhile, the nation is full of organizations and advocacy groups working hard to find a way to effectively turn the opioid crisis around.