Volunteer firefighters in Nova Scotia’s Lunenburg County say their lives are being put at risk if accidentally exposed to fentanyl on the job because they don’t have access to naloxone.
RCMP officers, Justice Department sheriffs and paramedics in Lunenburg County currently carry naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids, including fentanyl.
Bridgewater’s municipal police service is also equipped and officers have been trained on how to administer the potentially live-saving medication.
However, none of the county’s 34 volunteer fire departments has a kit.
“We’re first responders. We’re quite often there first on the scene,” said Sherri Dickson, a firefighter in Bridgewater.
“If that call has something to do with the fentanyl issues, we’re at high risk.”
Many ways to ingest fentanyl
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that can be absorbed through the skin, ingested and inhaled. Even a small amount can be fatal.
First responders in other provinces have faced accidental exposure simply from being in the same area as fentanyl at a car crash or inside a house.
Fentanyl hits Lunenburg County
Heather Mackenzie-Carey of the Regional Emergency Management Organization in Lunenburg County said her organization needs direction from the provincial government in terms of accessing naloxone kits.
“Because we’re rural, our firefighters wear multiple hats and they are often the first ones in to a variety of calls,” said Mackenzie-Carey, who co-ordinates and supports first responders on behalf of municipal governments.
“They could be walking in on something they’re not aware of.”
Preparing for the unknown
She said the five municipalities in her area have money set aside for naloxone nasal spray kits for firefighters.
On July 28, her organization sent a letter to the Nova Scotia government on behalf of the county’s 800 active firefighters asking for municipal and provincial co-ordination in making kits available to volunteer fire departments.
Mackenzie-Carey said the organization is aware that fentanyl is in the area.
“It’s not to the degree that we’re seeing in…