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HazMat Illicit Laboratory courses prepare responders for call to suspected drug lab

3/2/2012 12:00 AM

"22 pounds of Meth-making Materials Found in Bryan House"
"5 Police Officers Injured in Suspected Drug Lab"
"Suspected Drug Lab Explosion Injures Three People"
"Meth lab seizures rise 6% in Missouri"

COLLEGE STATION - The daily headlines are reminders that law enforcement officers and other emergency responders often face dangerous situations and even explosive chemicals during otherwise routine calls. That's why the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) offers grant-funded training that helps prepare emergency response personnel and other public servants who may encounter an illicit laboratory used for manufacturing illegal drugs, or even chemical or biological weapons.

The new "HazMat Illicit Laboratory" group of courses offered by TEEX's Emergency Services Training Institute (ESTI) are designed to meet the competencies outlined in the 2008 NFPA 472 standard for chemical, biological and drug laboratories, said HazMat Training Specialist Elizabeth Morris. The courses are funded by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and are offered at three levels: awareness, operations and Pro Board certification.

"This is an important group of courses that meet the needs of the emergency response community," she said. "There is a lot of misunderstanding about these labs, and there has been no training that addresses many of these issues for the first responder."

Since the pilot of the new course was offered last summer, it has become very popular, Morris says. The 8-hour awareness course is one of the most popular courses offered under the TDEM grant, she added. And those who complete the 16-hour course are eligible for Pro Board certification.

"These courses are designed for individuals who may discover or respond to an Illicit Laboratory Incident," said Morris, who served as a member of a clandestine drug lab team for more than five years. "Instruction is focused on the initial response to a possible Illicit chemical, biological or drug laboratory. We cover recognition and identification of these labs, their unique hazards, and possible response options."

Students in the courses may experience hands-on response scenarios at a new, simulated illicit lab constructed at the Brayton Fire Training Field (shown in photo).

"Responders need to know what dangerous chemicals might be present in a suspected lab, such as anhydrous ammonia, phosphine, ether, acetone and hydrogen chloride. The new NFPA standards address how to properly deal with a suspected lab - from recognizing booby traps, using PPE (personal protective equipment), conducting decontamination and other special response issues associated with these illicit labs."

This is important for both tactical law enforcement and hazardous material specialists - responders from both backgrounds may be involved, she said. Furthermore, the awareness level even applies to other public sector workers who may encounter these labs, such as electric lineman or meter readers.

Information and Resources

Texas responders may register for the grant-funded HazMat courses by visiting http://www.preparingtexas.org and searching the Training Catalog for "TDEM-HazMat."

Find more information about the Hazardous Materials training offered through TEEX's Emergency Services Training Institute at: http://www.teex.org/hazmat.

Contact Information

Kathy Fraser

Associate Director of Marketing and Communications

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