PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Two officers in our region recently passed out after coming into contact with what was believed to be the synthetic drug fentanyl, and now, the Allegheny County medical examiner has come up with some new protocols to help police and other first responders stay safe on the streets.
East Liverpool, Ohio, Officer Chris Green got an awful shock when he returned to the station house after searching a car for drugs.
“[Someone told him] ‘Hey, you got something on your shirt.’ He just kinda wiped it off. Didn’t think anything of it. He just continued talking and then he passed out,” East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane said last month.
Heroin laced with the powerful synthetic drug fentanyl now poses a danger not just to the addicts — but to the police who enforce the law and the paramedics who try to save them.
Officer Green needed to be revived with Narcan — and just last week, an officer in Washington Township, Westmoreland County, needed the same.
“So you just do not know what that white powder will be at any scene that you’re at,” Allegheny County medical examiner Dr. Karl Williams said.
In response, the Allegheny County medical examiner’s Office has developed a set safety protocols for first responders, starting with some protective items.
“Gloves to protect skin contact with it. A mask to make sure you’re not inhaling any,” Williams said. “I wear glasses normally but you would wear a set of safety glasses also, to [prevent any from] getting into your eyes.”
Dr. Williams says the universal precautions can be easily adopted and has sent them to all first responder organizations in the county.
“But this is just what we feel is the minimum you should be doing to prevent exposure to the drugs,” he said.
The quick work of first responders in this drug crisis has saved many lives, but now these safety protocols have become a necessity to ensure their own well-being.