ASHI and MEDIC First Aid Blog

April 27, 2018

EMS and Fentanyl Exposure

Among the many impacts of America’s ongoing opioid epidemic is the risk of fentanyl exposure for EMS providers. What can first responders do to protect themselves?

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) explains that:

“The increased prevalence of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in the illicit drug market means that first responders need to understand how to protect themselves from exposure in the field. Law enforcement, fire, rescue, and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel must balance safety with mobility and efficiency when responding to scenes where the presence of fentanyl is suspected.”

The ONDCP has created a “Fentanyl Safety Recommendations for First Responders” sheet to “provide unified, scientific, evidence-based recommendations to first responders so they can protect themselves when the presence of fentanyl is suspected during the course of their daily activities such as responding to overdose calls and conducting traffic stops, arrests, and searches.”

The sheet includes recommendations on what to do when exposure occurs and best practices for protecting against exposure, including:

  • Wear gloves when the presence of fentanyl is suspected.
  • AVOID actions that may cause powder to become airborne.
  • Use a properly-fitted, NIOSH-approved respirator (“mask”), wear eye protection, and minimize skin contact when responding to a situation where small amounts of suspected fentanyl are visible and may become airborne.
  • Follow your department guidelines if the scene involves large amounts of suspected fentanyl (e.g., distribution/storage facility, pill milling operation, clandestine lab, gross contamination, spill or release).

Click here to download the recommendation sheet.

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