Chemical suicides present myriad threats to emergency responders
The possibility of encountering hazardous materials should be considered when responding to any incident
Editor’s Note: Chief Adam K. Thiel cautions us to be prepared on even the most benign-appearing calls, especially given the hazards at chemical-suicide scenes.
This story, and others like it recently, highlights the increasing prevalence of chemical suicide in jurisdictions across the United States.
The possibility of encountering hazardous materials should be considered when responding to any incident, no matter how “routine” or benign it might seem at the time of dispatch.
While some people who attempt suicide want you to know it, others are either ignorant of the risk to responders and bystanders, or worse, intentionally trying to take somebody with them.
There are many different ways that chemical suicide can be accomplished; it’s important to understand the various combinations and their hazards. It’s also vital to know the capabilities and availability of your nearest hazmat team.
Since these emergencies are inherently multi-disciplinary, and sometimes multi-jurisdictional, you also need to understand your law enforcement agency’s and hospital’s protocols for handling exposed and potentially contaminated patients, responders, and facilities.
Stay aware and be safe!