BASCOM - While firefighters typically hurry to scenes, a method of suicide that is increasing in frequency may have them slowing down and retreating in an effort to be safe.
Garry Ruble, training officer for Bascom Joint Fire District, explained chemical-assisted suicide using a presentation by Firefighters Support Foundation Wednesday evening. He offered the training during a meeting of Seneca County Firemen's Association at Bascom Joint Fire District's station.
Capt. Jim Nagle of Bascom Joint Fire District called chemical-assisted suicide a "hot topic." Rescue crews responded to an incident at Howard Collier State Nature Preserve near McCutchenville in November.
PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE
Garry Ruble, training officer for Bascom Joint Fire District, uses a water bottle to explain chemical-assisted suicide during a training program in Bascom Wednesday evening.
Ruble said chemical suicides originated in Japan, and in 2010, the most recent data he had, there were 30 chemical suicides in the United States.
"It is becoming more and more popular," he said.
Those attempting to commit suicide with chemicals are making hydrogen sulfide and are using confined spaces, such as automobiles or bathrooms. Ruble said they typically leave some kind of sign so first-responders are aware of the situation.
"Chemical components are readily available," he said.
Ruble said the act is relatively quick. A person looking to take his or her life using exhaust from a vehicle lets it run for several hours before the carbon monoxide takes over.
"This is very quick," he said.
Ruble said the typical call to a dispatch center probably would involve a person being slumped over in a vehicle. In the case of the situation in McCutchenville, responders learned of a vehicle with smoke coming from it.
"You may or may not have that information," he said.
EMS crews have to be aware of the situation, Ruble said.
"Callers may not say anything about the smell," he said.
Ruble said no agency, large or small, is immune from the situation. He said the area would be considered a crime scene, and responders should survey the vehicle, observe the patient's condition and check for obvious signs of breathing.
If the person is conscious and responders can create contact with him or her, the responders should step back and use a megaphone or yell toward the person.
Ruble said they should ask him or her to open the door, crawl out and crawl away from the vehicle. Responders then should remove the person's clothing, double bagging it, and put the person through a water decontamination process, he said.
The first deputy on scene, he said, may have to be transported to a hospital or go through a decontamination process.
"Pay attention to the entire scene," he said.