Home Podcasts THMG110 – Chemical Suicide Scenarios, Part II

THMG110 – Chemical Suicide Scenarios, Part II


In part two of this two-part series, we continue to discuss how we’d respond to an actual scene in an apartment building. Bob now gives Mike the task of mitigating a scenario with limited response, and he works through it from start to finish.

Complete Show Notes

5:30 Background on Bob’s Scenario for Mike

  • Set at a popular vista in northeast Queens across the bay from Long Island – very exclusive community
  • There’s a running path along the vista with several parking lots along the course
  • One of the parking lots has a late-model Cadillac with a person behind the wheel
  • EMS is already on-scene because a runner reported seeing the vehicle with someone behind the wheel who looked like they weren’t just sleeping – tongue is bulging out and his eyes don’t look right
  • EMS opens up the car and notices the guy has a bag over his head and a cylinder on the floorboard of his car
  • They back up, close the door, and call central to report the chemical suicide
  • Nobody is feeling any effects of the chemical suicide yet
  • Mike’s on the first engine and the first ladder

7:30 Mike’s First Actions

  • Mike and his team are half an hour away – he’d reach out to the incident commander and EMS units on-site for more information
  • Knows the engine company will mostly cover EMS, while the ladder company will be there more for forcible entry – they’ll approach first
  • Both companies will also be thinking about taking a hydrant in case there’s some sort of flame issue
  • Mike starts by doing a size-up through the windows – he’s on air, but most of the others probably aren’t
  • Sign on the passenger window says: “Chemical suicide in progress. Toxic gas. Call hazmat. Do not enter”
  • This probably isn’t an automatic hazmat response in the state of New York, but it might be in other states and regions

15:10 Identifying the Substance

  • Mike assumes it’s an asphyxiant, but confirms that by asking a few questions:
    • Did they smell anything? Bob says no
    • Was there any sound? Bob says no
    • Did anyone open anything up and expose themselves? Bob says no
    • Any additional things on-scene that are out of the ordinary? Bob says no
    • What’s your general size-up of the patient?
      • 30-ish man
      • Cyanotic
      • Plastic bag over his head and a rubber band around his neck
      • Tubing running from the bag down into a pink cylinder that’s shaped like a propane cylinder – no identifying information on it, though
    • Is there anything else inside the vehicle you should know about?
  • From what he’s hearing from people on-scene, Mike assumes they’re dealing with a simple asphyxiant like helium, a halogenated hydrocarbon like freon, or a halon (refrigerants/CFC)
  • Always make sure it’s not actually propane, since it’s flammable and could pose a bigger risk to first responders
  • He then asks EMS if the victim is viable – this dictates the choices he has to make once he’s on-scene

21:10 Bob Plays a Captain Who’s Already On-Scene

  • Bob plays the role of an EMS responder and brings up the following:
    • We’re going to break the window and drag him out that way
      • Remember that this is a crime scene – if they’re not obviously dead, you have to proceed forward somehow
      • Mike advises against proceeding without hazmat, but tells the captain to make sure his people are wearing bunker gear and PPE if they do move forward
      • Remember that you’re always being recorded and that the advice and guidance you provide could land you in a court of law – you have to stand up for yourself
      • Ultimately, the captain/incident commander makes the final decision, so they’re liable and have to be able to explain their actions if they’re not in line with what you (the subject expert) told them
      • At the same time, you’re not on-scene, so they might be justified in their actions – at that point, just apologize and move on
      • You also want to make sure you’ve done everything possible to keep things safe so you don’t feel responsible if a responder is injured or killed

29:30 Mike Arrives On-Scene

  • There’s 20 feet of yellow caution tape set up all around the perimeter of the vehicle
  • Truck and engine company are off to the side at the back of the rig and don’t have SCBA on
  • Ambulance is sitting there with the back doors open and the EMTs are just hanging out
  • Police officers are just hanging out as well – everyone knows the guy is dead
  • Mike comes off the rig in bunker gear (because he doesn’t know what he’s dealing with yet) and SCBA and does his initial 360 assessment – goes just inside the caution line to keep himself safe
  • Doesn’t see anything when he does his 360, so at this point he walks up to the window of the car and does a quick assessment for life – never just assume someone is dead
  • If there wasn’t obvious death, he’d break the window and use his meters and testing strips to figure out what’s going on
  • Finds a .1 increase in CO, a .1 decrease in oxygen, no LEL, no hydrogen sulfide, and nothing on any of his other meters – basically, he’s got nothing
  • As a result, he opens the door and does a quick pulse – there’s nothing, so he doesn’t bother to pull him out of the car yet
  • At this point, it becomes a crime scene – keeping the scene intact for the police is now more important than anything else
  • Check with the police to make sure it’s okay for you to continue your assessment to determine what’s in the cylinder
  • Ends up staying in his bunker gear the whole time because his meter didn’t tell him to do otherwise – he’d switch into Level B if he was dealing with hydrogen sulfide or something like that

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