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Clearwater Police facing exposure during drug raids

Police now carry Narcan to protect officers, K-9s
Posted at 6:58 PM, Feb 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-23 18:58:28-05

Law enforcement officers are now facing a dangerous new threat: exposure to fentanyl and heroin.

All Clearwater Police officers are now trained to administer the overdose-reversal drug Narcan to each other in a worst-case scenario, which means an officer has been exposed and isn't breathing.

"The effects can be felt within seconds," said Major David Dalton of the Clearwater Police Dept. "That's why we're wanting to give our personnel that tool to be able to save a life."

They say in cases like this, mere seconds matter.

"Treatment is immediate, as opposed to it may take us four, four and a half minutes to get to the patient," said Lt. Chris Hoyne of the Clearwater Fire Department. "When you're not breathing, that's a long time."

Officers received special training from Clearwater Fire & Rescue and started carrying the drug in October. Now, there are around 50 units of Narcan in the field.

"You're not expecting something small that's a molecule, that's something small that could potentially kill you," Dalton said.

This comes after 11 members of a Hartford police SWAT team became ill when they arrived to make arrests at a suspected drug house in September.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency also has released this video talking about dangers to officers on drug raids.

In that clip, they interview officers who describe the effects when they became exposed to airborne fentanyl.

"A bunch of it poofed right up into the air," one officer from New Jersey said. "Right in our face."

They said they felt the effects instantly.

"You actually felt like you were dying," another officer said.

In Clearwater, officers said they have not had to use the Narcan in the field yet. However, with overdoses happening often and drugs on the streets, they said it could be a matter of time.

They also plan to use the drug to save overdose victims if they are on scene before emergency medical workers.

Narcan can also be administered to K-9 dogs who may become exposed as well, Dalton said.