HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Some first responders in Hawaii are now using a high-tech tool to protect themselves from fentanyl exposure on the job.
It is a mobile laboratory that can identify various drugs – and the results are available in seconds.
It’s called the TruNarc Wearable Spectrometer, and it lets first responders know what drugs they’re dealing with without touching it. This is especially valuable given how widespread fentanyl has become.
Gary Yabuta, chief of Hawaii’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Zone, says the portable spectrometer has become a tool first responders turn to all the time.
“It’s not just about overdose deaths,” he said. “But law enforcement uses it when they seize suspected illegal drugs from a crime scene.” It’s simple. Easy to carry.”
And very effective.
Here’s how it works:
“It has a lens that you put the sample directly on,” Yabuta said.
To demonstrate, he taped a counterfeit oxycodone pill seized in Hawaii to the side of the device.
Less than a minute later, the word fentanyl appeared on the screen.
“We have a positive analysis for fentanyl,” Yabuta announced.
He says the information is critical to making the scene safe.
However, this is far from the only precaution that first responders take.
“Normally, we always wear gloves, if necessary, when dressed. And make sure to wear a mask,” said Honolulu EMS paramedic Manahel Al-Hozail.
Over the past couple of months, Al-Hozail says she has seen an increase in overdoses.
Data collected by the Department of Health shows a similar trend.
From 2021 October month. until September of this year GMP was called to 132 fentanyl-related overdoses.
Nearly 20% of those calls, or 24 overdoses, occurred in September alone.
“In terms of safety at the scene, we try not to touch anything without gloves or tools,” Al-Hozail said. “If it’s a big (suspected drug) situation, we won’t go in until the HAZMAT team determines it’s safe.”
Many local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies now have portable spectrometers. The Honolulu Fire Department HAZMAT team also uses the device.
“This will give them the information they need to really quarantine the area,” Yabuta said.
TruNarc costs about $30,000, according to Yabuta.
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