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First Responders Exposed to Fentanyl in San Marcos

San Marco CA— Thursday morning, November 8, 2018 at approximately 10:45, Senior Volunteers from the San Marcos Sheriff’s station spotted a subject possibly drinking in his vehicle. The vehicle was parked in the parking lot of Double Peak Park, located at 800 Double Peak Drive in the City of San Marcos. Deputies responded to the location and contacted a 29-year-old man sitting in the driver’s seat of a gold Infiniti sedan who appeared to be unconscious. Deputies observed an unknown white powdery substance on his shirt and immediately believed he may have overdosed on the unknown substance. The man was disheveled and profusely sweating. Deputies woke him up and he stated he believed the substance to be a type of synthetic opiate. Deputies believed the substance may contain fentanyl, based on the man’s reaction and symptoms to the substance.

Example of the Thermo Scientific TruNarc and packaged fentanyl. (Photo courtesy: SDSO)

Fire and Paramedics responded to medically evaluate the man and notifications were made of the possible fentanyl on scene. Deputies used a Thermo Scientific TruNarc device and conducted a presumptive test on the white powdery substance which tested presumptively positive for fentanyl. County Health and Safety along with San Diego Fire Hazardous Material teams were contacted and notified about the incident. Both Hazardous Material Teams responded to the scene and tested the white powdery substance, which was determined to contain fentanyl. Proper decontamination procedures were enacted for all parties who came in contact with the white powdery substance including the man and his vehicle. During the contact, the man’s health appeared to be deteriorating and he complained of breathing difficulties. He was ultimately transported to Palomar Medical Center to be evaluated medically.

There is a significant threat to law enforcement personnel who come in contact with unknown dangerous substances through routine law enforcement contacts. Fentanyl and other opiates which come in a number of forms can be absorbed through the skin and eyes as well as inhaled. First Responders exposed to even the smallest amount of fentanyl can suffer significant complications, including respiratory failure and death.

Recently the Honorary Deputy Sheriff’s Association donated a number of Thermo Scientific TruNarc handheld narcotics analyzers to safely test potentially dangerous unknown substances both in the field and at patrol stations. These devices can determine what drugs are present without opening the packaging or handling the substances.