Clandestine Drug Labs Pose Serious Dangers to Responders

If your agency is dispatched to a possible clandestine drug lab, would you know how to recognize one? What happens if your responders find one during routine activities?

  • Do not touch anything in the lab.
  • Do not turn on any electrical power switches or light switches.
  • Do not turn off any electrical power switches or light switches.
  • Do not eat or drink in or around a lab.
  • Do not open or move containers with chemicals or suspected chemicals.
  • Do not smoke anywhere near a lab.
  • Do not sniff any containers.
  • Do decontaminate yourself and your clothing.
  • Do wash your hands and face thoroughly.
  • Do call your local law enforcement or DEA district office


Safety is paramount for all responders during these types of events. Remember to follow local guidelines and procedures as this article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is impossible to cover all the issues that will need to be addressed during a clandestine drug lab response. Each community should have some type of a plan in place to address these types of events. Hopefully you will gain some information to take back to your agency to assist with your planning and training efforts. The more our public safety agencies prepare, the better they are prepared to respond to effectively manage any type of situation that might arise. The community has entrusted us with their let's prepare now.

AUGUST VERNON, a Contributing Editor, is currently an assistant coordinator for a county office of emergency management. August returned to his position at emergency management after a year in Iraq as a security contractor conducting long-range convoy security operations involved in several IED and combative engagements. He has been employed in emergency management for eight years, also served as a member of the fire service and served in the U.S. Army as a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) Operations Specialist. August is the author of the new First Responders Critical Incident Guide published by Red Hat Publishing. RICK HETZEL is currently an assistant special agent in charge (ASAC) for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation where he is the assistant team leader for the NCSBI tactical team and supervises the Clandestine Laboratory Response Unit. Rick has responded to over 400 clandestine drug lab operations and tactically entered over 75 labs.