Chemical suicide involves mixing common household chemicals to create lethal gas, like hydrogen sulfide or hydrogen cyanide, in an enclosed space such as a car or small room. This type of suicide is not very common so many first responders may not fully know the dangers.
A recent hazmat incident in a California hotel is being investigated as a chemical suicide. One person died and nine others were hospitalized. First responders are at risk of becoming victims, too, when responding to these incidents. Before rushing in to assist an unconscious victim, it is important to assess the scene.
- Are signs taped to doors or windows warning of dangerous chemicals or gas?
- Is tape sealing the edges of doors, windows or vents?
- Are there chemical containers or a chemical fog in the room?
- Do you smell a chemical odor?
Resources to learn about the risks
The San Diego Department of Environment Health conducted a chemical suicide study to determine the risk to first responders and public. They created a training video to explain what chemical suicide is and the dangers to the public.
The Department of Health and Human Services Chemical Hazards Emergency Medical Management (CHEMM) offers “Chemical Suicides: The Risk to Emergency Responders.” This web page lists the common toxic gases and response considerations for managing size-up, securing the scene, decontamination, air monitoring and officer safety.Source: CHEMM