Officers trained in clandestine lab drill

To continue combating the ongoing trend of illicit drug labs on-island, 13 Kaua‘i Police Department officers were re-certified in hazardous materials detection and procedures, officials said yesterday.

The exercise to qualify them was conducted at the Historic County Building on Friday. The former Emergency Operating Center was used as a simulated clandestine laboratory, Mary Daubert, county spokeswoman, said.

“Clandestine” labs are makeshift areas where drugs are produced or prepped for sale, police said.

While the initial certification class encapsulated 40 hours of classroom instruction and 24 hours of on-the-job training, the re-certification took eight hours.

Proper preparation for dealing with potentially explosive combinations of lethal chemicals, such as those necessary to create methamphetamine, is a key component to ensuring public safety and shutting down drug labs, Acting Lt. Michael Contrades said.

“It is extremely important having individuals with knowledge in how to deal with it,” Contrades said.

It is this type of training that provided officers with the skills they needed to shut down a clandestine lab last year, he said.

Such preparation includes being able to properly put on Tychem suits, which can take up to 20 minutes.

Police wore the protective clothing and self-contained breathing apparatuses while practicing entering the lab to assess what was there and determine how to dismantle it.

“You have to know what chemicals are involved and you have to know safety precautions in dealing with them,” Contrades said.

“The first thing you’re going to do is recognize the hazards. After going into the lab, they can be determining at what point they can dress down to a lower level to process the lab.”

That determination is made after air quality tests are done, he added.

Fire personnel assisted KPD by setting up decontamination zones on the lawn of the Historic County Building so officers could be trained in proper decontamination procedures.

Other participants in the training exercise included the state Department of Public Safety, Narcotics Enforcement Division personnel, a Utah police officer and a Las Vegas Metro chemist.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill requiring the Environmental Protection Agency develop health-based guidelines to cleanup methamphetamine drug labs. The bill, H.R. 365, requires the EPA to establish guidelines for cleaning up meth labs by February.

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