Fire/emergency medical services Law enforcement Military Federal agencies Drugs Workplace exposures

New Department of Justice video offers fentanyl safety recommendations for first responders

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Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Washington — The Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, has released a video intended to protect first responders who face potential exposure to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid considered up to 50 times more potent than heroin.

According to the video, 19,413 synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths occurred in 2016 – a 639 percent increase from 2012. Using testimonials from federal medical personnel, the video offers recommendations to law enforcement as well as fire, rescue and emergency medical personnel.

Signs of fentanyl exposure include drowsiness or unresponsiveness, slow or no breathing, and constricted or pinpoint pupils. The video advises workers who anticipate exposure to fentanyl to wear personal protective equipment, including gloves, respirator masks and eye protection. Fentanyl may be present as a powder, tablet, capsule or other form and may be inhaled as an airborne powder or absorbed through contact with skin.

Workers who suspect they have been exposed to fentanyl should:

  • Prevent further contamination.
  • Refrain from touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wash the exposed area with soap and water – not hand sanitizer.
  • Remove exposed clothing via standard decontamination processes, as needed.

“The threat of fentanyl is real, but we’re showing a multilayered defense that will keep first responders safe while they do their job and keep the rest of us safe,” Dr. David Tarantino, senior medical adviser to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in the video, released Aug. 30.

The video accompanies safety recommendations for first responders exposed to fentanyl issued in November 2017 by a Federal Interagency Working Group coordinated by the White House National Security Council.

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