Government Technology

First Responders See New Risk in Suicide by Chemicals

March 16, 2009 By

Two recent cases of suicide by hazardous chemicals prompted author August Vernon and Red Hat Publishing to develop a set of guidelines for first responders to consider when approaching a scene that could involve suicide and hazardous materials.

The two cases involved men in their 20s who sealed themselves inside a vehicle with tape to prevent the gas from escaping. The household chemicals mixed together produce a flammable, noxious gas and cause victims to go unconscious and eventually suffer heart failure.

The following are some of the guidelines for fire, EMS and law enforcement to consider when approaching a potential suicide scene:

o Responders should look for unusual indicators such as notes, chemical containers, taped windows and vents, and unusual smoke or fumes.

o If noxious fumes are detected, respiratory protection should be donned as soon as possible while backing away from the scene. Re-enter the scene only after proper respiratory and dermal protection are worn.

o Scan the area with binoculars before entering.

o Responders should be warned that air-purifying respirators (APR) or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR) are not adequate for this type of response.


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