INDIANAPOLIS -- In movies, police detectives often cut open a package of powdery drugs, stick in a knife and bring it to their lips to determine whether the substance is illegal.
That practice is long gone, said Amit Kapoor, president of First Line Technology.
“We all joke about it, right? But the methodology is changing,” Kapoor said during a demonstration of emergency response equipment sponsored by CBRNe World magazine.
The publication reports on issues related to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives (CBRNe) threats.
The CBRNe Convergence drew 350 law enforcement and bio-threat experts to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for three days this week. They held sessions and training to respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction and improvised explosive device threats.
A major component of the conference dealt with chemical threats.
“As much as we might like to think that terrorists won’t use this, you see a lot of terrorists using a knife, a gun and vehicle attacks. What we’re actually seeing is not only terrorists but also criminals starting to use these kind of hazardous substances,” said Gwyn Winfield, editor of CBRNe World.
“There’s a whole range of hazardous substances that people (emergency responders) around here need to be able to deal with.”
From a suitcase-sized kit, Kapoor pulled a spray gun that emits a small shower to decontaminate fentanyl from clothing and gear in under five minutes. Kapoor’s DeconTect unit was developed by the military, and his Virginia-based company bought a license for distribution, he said.
“It’s really not the skin exposure that’s the issue,” Kapoor said. “It’s the exposure to membranes, to your eye and what you’re breathing in.”
Kapoor hasn’t tasted the deadly fentanyl but says others have claimed it emits a shock like you’d get from licking a 9-volt battery.
In May, an Ohio officer suffered overdose-like effects after he accidentally touched fentanyl. In September, nine Kokomo officers were taken to a hospital after they were exposed to a chemical agent, reportedly a powdery substance, while serving a warrant during a drug investigation.
Fentanyl, a painkiller that’s more potent than heroin, and carfentanil can be mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, or included in counterfeit prescription-type pills.
On Tuesday, the Indiana State Department of Health issued White House-guided safety recommendations for first responders’ handling of fentanyl. The recommendations include wearing gloves if fentanyl is suspected at a crime scene and avoiding any activity that makes the drug airborne.
Most of the equipment on display at the conference is used in handling responses such as evacuating patients with highly contagious infectious diseases.
Locally, efforts tie the Indianapolis FBI office with measures to prevent attacks.
The FBI participates in the Technical Response for Incident Prevention (TRIPwire) program, a national online system run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for sharing resources daily to prevent improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.
“Basically, the TRIPwires ... are more for the different kind of toxic chemical locations that would have those on site and just making them aware of what they can do if it was to get into the wrong hands,” said FBI Special Agent Bruce J. Guider, WMD coordinator for the Indianapolis office.