TAMPA, Fla.--The Drug Enforcement Administration led a first-of-its-kind training in Tampa Thursday, the focus of which was responding to a fentanyl-contaminated scene.

  • Fentanyl can be deadly in small doses
  • During training, teams wore protective suits
  • About 60 participated in exercise

The federal agency partnered with Tampa Police, Tampa Fire Rescue and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for the exercise aimed at helping emergency personnel stay safe in such a situation. The synthetic opioid is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and can be deadly in small doses.

“The fear is that an officer on the street can encounter this and, if he were to pick up a white substance and believe it might be cocaine, it might be fentanyl," Mike Furgason, head of the Tampa district DEA office. "It’s airborne, it can contaminate him… take him down."

“Unfortunately, we respond several times a month to situations like this.” said HCSO Col. Jim Bradford.

During training, the teams who respond to clandestine drug labs suited up to protect every inch of skin from potential exposure.

They found white powder all over a room inside the mock drug house used in the exercise. The substance was also on a pretend suspect.

After taking samples and evidence, the teams went outside to decontaminate. Special tents were set up so they could be sprayed and scrubbed down with a chemical that neutralizes the drug.

Then the responding units participating in the exercise got another wash with a bleach and water mixture.

In and out, all of this had to be done in less than 30 minutes, before the tanks they were wearing ran out of oxygen. It can take hours to process a drug-contaminated scene, so multiple lab teams took turns going in.

About 60 people participated in Thursday’s exercise. The DEA says it plans to do more training like this for Bay area agencies in the future.