Firefighters Responding To Chemical Suicide

Suicide, unfortunately, is a more common call to first responders then we would like to admit.  Of those suicides, chemical suicide is becoming more prevalent in today’s world.   How are firefighters responding to chemical suicide keeping themselves safe?

If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please click this link to the suicide and crisis lifeline website or text/call 988 for help now.

What Is Chemical Suicide?

Chemical suicide is when someone uses household chemicals to commit suicide.  They research which household chemicals can be mixed to create a toxic gas that can potentially kill them.  These chemicals can be purchased at any local grocery store or hardware store.   

What 911 Dispatchers Need To Know

It starts with the call takers working at 911 dispatch.  They need to know some of the key components involved to help identify chemical suicide incidences and relay that information to first responders BEFORE they arrive on scene.  This could be the difference between life and death for us.

We have included a downloadable PDF document of the  Chemical Suicides Identification Guide for 911 Communications for the State of Florida as a resource for your use.  This document contains helpful information for dispatchers and first responders to assist them.

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Why Do First Responders Need To Be Aware?

First responders can easily become victims in these circumstances.  For years now, we have been informed of the increasing incidence of chemical suicide.  The numbers of these suicides are increasing due to many reasons, specifically to the readily available information on the internet.  If you think it isn’t happening near you, it’s only a matter of time before it does, and you need to be aware.  

Toxic Gases

Just a few of the toxic gases covered in the following presentation:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide
  • Hydrogen Cyanide
  • Helium
There are obviously more toxic gases that exist, but these are a few of the most utilized gases we found.  View the presentation that discusses chemical suicides in depth and what you need to know about responding to them!

Firefighters Response To Chemical Suicides

The response of first responders varies based on the local jurisdictions SOP/SOG.  What is included are topics like the following:

  • Contact the HAZMAT team
  • Evacuate people to a safe distance and secure the area (may be a crime scene)
  • Recon the scene from a distance using binoculars if possible, along with your ERG (Emergency Response Guidebook)
  • Wearing the appropriate PPE and SCBA

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has an excellent article discussing firefighters response to chemical suicides titled Chemical Suicides: The Risk to Emergency Responders

If you are interested in learning more approaches to events like this, look into taking our Incident Safety Officer Course.

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