CHELSEA, MASS. — When three police officers had to be taken to the hospital after a call, the Chelsea Police Department established a new protocol for preventing officer fentanyl exposure.
Police cruisers will now carry disposable masks, eyewear and gloves, supervisors will carry water jugs to douse officers in the event of an exposure and the agency is making a biohazard storage unit available for samples.
The officers were exposed after reviving three men that had overdosed on cocaine laced with the lethal drug inside a minivan. The Chelsea cops had unknowingly inhaled fentanyl because it was airborne inside the vehicle, according to ABC News in Boston.
“While I was giving CPR one of the fire lieutenants told us, ‘It might be fentanyl. Be careful,’” said Luis Tarraza, one of the Chelsea police officers recently exposed to fentanyl. “As soon as he said that, I started freaking out because I was in the van trying to pull this guy out; trying to put the vehicle in park.”
Editor’s Note: Update Nov. 6, 2017: Chelsea pulling no punches called a Tier 1 hazmat incident to search a car after the fatal overdose of its driver. Responders administered five doses of naloxone to the 44-year old man, according to the Boston Herald.
Additional safety measures — such as using nitrile gloves, water resistant coveralls, N95 respirators and having naloxone at the ready — are discussed further in a PoliceOne look at transdermal fentanyl exposure.
In October 2017, The Interagency Board released recommended best practices to minimize first responder exposures to synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. Review and download the document: