First responders face new dangers with use of fentanyl becoming commonplace

Drug can be 50 times stronger than heroin

First responders face new dangers...

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Latex gloves are not only some of the required equipment they call "universal precautions" to protect themselves from things like HIV or the flu but it's also one of the way San Luis Obispo Firefighters are now suiting up against drugs like fentanyl.

"Illicit drug manufacturers will cut their heroin with fentanyl which potentiates or makes stronger the heroin," explains SLO Fire Chief Garret Olson. 

How much stronger? Sometimes 50 to 100 times more potent. 

Chief Garrett Olson says the new threat makes it harder for them to revive patients who are suffering from an overdose.

"Typically when we give Narcan to someone who has overdosed on pure heroin, we'll give a standard dose and that person will become conscious again and will regain breathing on their own. When someone has an overdose that is heroin involving fentanyl, we may give two, three, four - ten times the amount of Narcan in route to the hospital to get more Narcan on board," Olson says. 

Fentanyl  is often found in powder form, making it easier for first responders to accidentally come in contact with it.

"These universal precautions protect us from fentanyl if it was to get on us - if any powder were to get on us - we would decontaminate the jacket and decontaminate ourselves and our equipment before we go back in service," Olson explains. 

Now even some SLO County Sheriff's deputies put on personal protection as well.

"They're being told that any time you come across a scene where there is a white powder substance or a clear liquid to take personal protective measures and make sure they're protecting themselves so they don't come in contact with it," says Public Information Officer, Tony Cipolla. 

And there's worry this new drug trend will be around for a while. "People are just now starting to understand and realize that this is becoming a problem.We're seeing it more and more in our county and it will probably get worse before it gets any better," Cipolla says. 

The SLO County Sheriff's Office believes fentanyl may have played a role in the death of a 26-year-old man found dead near Lake Nacimiento last month. 

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