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Home>Topics>>Marijuana Grow Operations, Part 2

Marijuana Grow Operations, Part 2

Fri, 9 Sep 2011|

Part two of this free training program from Firefighters Support Foundation details the nature of indoor marijuana grows and describes the very real but under-appreciated dangers associated with them.



PPE. Personal protective equipment. What is PPE? Well it's protective clothing for chemical exposure hazards. Wear protective equipment for chemical and or other physical hazards that we might find in the indoor grow environment. Do we need personal protective equipment when in an, when in an indoor grow? Absolutely. What are some of the hazards. We have chemical hazards. We have electrical hazards. What are our risks of exposure? To cutting? Cutting of our hands, feet? Handling of all these dangerous materials and, ultimately, the dismantling of the lab? It definitely calls for personal protective equipment. What types of personal protective equipment? What might we need when working in indoor marijuana grow? Well, chemical protective suits, boots, booties, gloves, respirators, other equipment we might need, ion face protection, a hard hat, and electrical safety equipment. Of course, we can do a hazard evaluation to help us with the selection of our protective clothing. We identify and evaluate the hazards that the protective clothing must protect the user against. Chemical hazards: identify the chemical. What are the concentration levels of these chemicals? What are the physical properties which we discussed earlier and what are the quantities of it that we are dealing with? What are the electrical hazards that we're looking at or looking for? What are the lighting hazards to include wires, ballast and various types of lights. Some not compatible with the other. And then, what is our risk of exposure? What are tasks that you have to perform in that indoor grow to either dismantle it or investigate it? What's going to be the duration of your exposure, and what are the environmental conditions? Remember the following rules for protective clothing. No material is good for all chemicals. Chemicals will eventually permeate all materials. Layers add protection. Chemical protective gloves sensitive to cuts and punctures. You may wanna put on one set of gloves then put on some type of needle or cut protective gloves. And then put another layer of protective glove over that to work in these environments. There are various types of protective suit materials. Based on the mission, you'll have to determine which type you need. Or whether you wanna use disposable or reusable suits. A great resource to law enforcement on protective suit materials is the fire department n your local area. The Hazmat technicians there will be more than happy to assist you in your selection of the proper protective clothing. Either during a class room environment or at the scene. I'll talk about too chemical protective suits now. Tyvek, what are the properties of the tyvek suit? One, small pores allow some water vapor exchange. Liquids tend to sheet off of the surface, but could still permeate it. Pours also allow gases and vapors to pass. It's really good for particulates only. And then tie chem. It's a series of protective fabrics. Tychem QC, SL, and F are coated TyVek suits. Tychem BR and LV and TK are lament on TyVek. Lamination of two or more micro thin layers of different protective materials onto a suit like TyVek. What about our choice of protective gloves? Our outer gloves. I recommend nitrile or neoprene as the best choice when dealing with ammonia. Then there's PVC, butyl rubber, PVA and others. Again, I recommend that law enforcement officers. Go to their local hazmat units. Or even go to Hazmat Technician Schools to learn about these type of materials and how to use them properly. For law enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, grow operation recommendation is the following. A full faced APR with a P100 respirator. Gloves, [INAUDIBLE] suits, Tyvek disposable suits, hazmat boots with a dry decon when done. Spores can travel. Just realize that when you get into this business there are rules. Let's talk about respirator fit testing. Employees must be trained in limitations and selection of respirators prior to use. The fit of the respirator must be judged prior to use. Fit testing and training must occur annually. And it can be combined with other refresher trainings. Ready carefully, 29, CF4, 1910, dot 134 F and K. These are OSHA regulations that must be complied with when you start to wear respiratory protection. Let's talk about site safety, the site safety officer, and site safety officer selection. Number one, an employer must assure so far as possible, a safe and healthy working environment for every man and woman with that agency or department. The employee must take reasonable care to protect the worker's health and safety and the health and safety of other works. 29 CFR 1910.5. What is a site safety officer? A site safety officer is a person who or the person who. Is responsible to the employer, and has the authority and knowledge necessary to implement the site safety and health plan, and verify compliance with applicable safety and health requirements. Unfortunately. Under 29 CFR 1910.120 has whopper does not apply at this time to marijuana grow operations. Because indoor marijuana grows do not fall under the has whopper requirements. Most departments do not provide a site Safety Officer at the scene of a marijuana indoor grow. However, what you could do is bring a fireman in to fill that role as a site Safety Officer while your department is actively working the marijuana indoor grow scene. When working in indoor marijuana grove, law enforcement need to insure that all departments are represented at that scene, their agency, the local fire agency, and EMS. In other words you want to have police, fire fighters, and paramedics. All at the scene of an indoor marijuana grow. The entire team should be debriefed based on their expertise, to gather information on the status of hazards, which could be chemical and/or physical hazards of where the team will be operating. Again, fire departments are an excellent resource to utilize when assessing the hazards of the scene. The site safety officer or designated site safety officer, which again may be a hazmat trained fireman, need to conduct a site safety briefing. They need to conduct equipment checks and then do a hazard evaluation and prioritization. A good example would be where is the power located. Once law enforcement has gained control of the scene with warrant service and arrest being made. The fire department is also an excellent resource for breaching capabilities and being able to getting in and out of different spaces, using the equipment that they have on hand that your department doesn't. Let the fire departments help you establish your site control. By helping to identify some offsite target locations that contamination may effect in the area. For instance is schools, preschools, day cares and local businesses that the firefighters may be aware of that as law enforcement, you're not. There will be several phases to this operation. First, most likely tactical entry. During tactical entry, your SWAT team can move forward, serve the warrant, and control suspects. But very close by should be a fire truck and EMS in case a fire were to break out or one of these tactical officers were injured with electricity, a chemical, or some other atmospheric hazard. Next, you'll assess hazards, physical, biological, chemical, and monitor the atmosphere, again. You may not be able to view this without the help of your local fire departments who actually own this valuable monitoring equipment. Know how to use it. And are typically more than happy to assist you in this operation. It may be time to call the utility company cuz we gotta do what. Control the electricity. Turn off the grow operations, but you've also gotta leave some power. Again, firefighters may have valuable tools, such as a hot stick, that will let you know what circuits are, are living, and which are dead. And always ensure that backup is available. This means several things. Fire, hazmat, possibly urban search and rescue teams mostly made up volunteer firefighters and then any utility company that has ownership in the building that you're working in. But with that, always remember that site control must be maintained. It's not a circus or a merry go round, and not everybody gets to look. Only necessary personnel need to enter and exit the [UNKNOWN] and handle the evidence. You'll want to be able to monitor changes. Again, many fire departments offer units that are available to help you do such things as. Monitor the environment, weather, anticipate emergencies, fire and electricity and personnel, ems is always good to have on hand on a hot day when people may need iv's when they get over worked and dehydrated. That's why all first responding personnel need this valuable training. On indoor marijuana grows. It's definitely a joint effort. As the site safety officer, you must enforce the hazard control hierarchy; engineering, administrative and personal protective equipment chosen and worn. Multiple rolls or hats may have to be worn by the same person. Multiple tasks may have to be performed by the same person, the site safety officer and whoever is standing by to help them. It would good to pair up maybe a law enforcement site safety officer with an equal firefighter site safety officer, have two co-captains working together at this scene. [BLANK_AUDIO] Then the processing and dismantling of the indoor grow. Sure, a majority of it's evidence, but there are a lot of things to consider. You have to receive and process information from your assessment team, they're the ones that have been in there looking at it. Evaluate their data and compare it to standards for the level of protection and determine what personal protective equipment is gonna be worn by the teams going in to work the crime scene. Ensure decon procedures are followed. This is where your fire department can be extremely helpful. Most police departments don't have a decon team or decon equipment. You can have you local fire department set up a decon station prior to any officer even entering the scene other than [INAUDIBLE] your tactical officers. EMS and paramedics equally as important. You can have them there [INAUDIBLE]. To monitor your team for heat stress, hypothermia, dehydration, pulse, and breathing. You also want your, your EMS and your paramedic there in case there is some type of a chemical exposure to bare skin, nasal passages, or lungs. And more for the role of the site Safety Officer at an indoor marijuana grower. You must monitor the processing activities continuously. You'll want to look for safe work practices and is the proper protective equipment being used. During dismantling, what do we need? What don't we need to touch? Plants, ballasts, lights, chemicals, etc. Maintain site control and ensure that a decon team is ready in case decontamination is needed. But your site safety officer role won't end there. It goes far into post incident and follow-up operation. You must restock used safety items. Inspect, clean and maintain equipment. Or insure that your personnel have done so. Document an address any exposure incidents. Maintain compliance with required programs. Now for some case studies on cases I've been directly involved with. On Saturday, May 10th, 2008, a local sheriff's department office requested the assistance of the State Police Special Services Unit for assistance with a confined space. Marijuana grow. Sheriff's deputies from their narcotics unit worked the case. Myself and another agent responded, made the confined space entry and assisted the sheriff's office by providing safety advice, equipment, and protective gear. Sheriff's Office personnel develop further leads and discovered a second, indoor marijuana grow that was associated with the confined space grow. If you'll see on slide 105, we have the Chateau de Weed. A beautiful residence, set somewhere in a hilly area. But what's this? Is it a tool shed? A new spare bedroom? Or an underground indoor marijuana growth? If you guessed an underground indoor marijuana growth, you were right. Well, as you can see, we weren't the only ones involved. As I've said throughout this production. Fire and EMS and even an urban search and rescue team in this particular case were needed to be successful. On slide 108 you see what looks like a normal floor. On side 109 you see a garage door opener in my hand. On the next slide you see that normal looking floor coming open after I push the button on the garage door opener. Looking down through the hole in that floor on slide 111 you can see a completely underground confined space. Indoor marijuana growth starting to appear. On the next slide, it's a little bit different image and the floorboard is all the way open. You can begin to see marijuana plants, fertilizers, and other grow media. You can also see me now on slide 113. In level C dress, on surface supplied air. With confined spaces, it's a totally different situation. An SCBA won't do. If I were to become trapped or pinned in this underground [UNKNOWN], I would at least have a constant and consistent air supply using surface supplied air. You can see that the inside of this grove was constructed of steel and cement. On slide 115, it's actually a picture that I took looking out, or up, out of the confined space indoor grove. You can see the mother plant in slide 116 that was used for cloning in this grow operation. In the next slide, you start to see chemical pesticides, grow foods and acids and bases. On the next slide you see some of the equipment associated with indoor grows: pots for planting, various liquids, paper towels, a pesticide bottle, and you start to see some electrical wiring. On slide 119, the reason I took the photograph. Of this, what looks like a desk organizer is that because inside this desk organizer was the suspects credit card, receipts where he had ordered stuff to build his grow operations, and an illegal hand gun which you'll see in later photographs. In slide 120 we start some of more elaborate electronics that were being used in this underground indoor marijuana grow. A homemade ventilation system, and again you can see some wire starting to cross across the ceiling. Another photograph of the ventilation system inside this grow. Remember this is completely underground. Some lighting and the tops of the marijuana plant. This is myself and my partner starting to send plants and other materials up to investigators. On the surface, to be photographed and documented and then ultimately destroyed as evidence. In the next photograph you see us pulling up the mother plant. And in the next photograph, slide number 126, always a good find. An illegal handgun. Inside the indoor marijuana grow. As you can see from the next size, the pile gets really large. Slide 127 and 128 shows you everything that was contained in that underground indoor marijuana growth. Look, look carefully in the right hand corner of the picture, at some of the pesticide, and some of the fertilization bottles. Note there's chemical contamination all over the tops of them. They've been opened, stuff has spilled and leaked down the sides. In the next photograph you'll se PVC piping and just other things. Water. Water trap. Tubing. And you can see that the ground is wet around this stuff, so there was definitely electronics and water and electrical current flowing through this indoor. Underground marijuana grow. That suspect once caught decided to tell us about another indoor marijuana grow upon arrest. And the indoor grow was located in a converted attic. In this picture, slide 131, you see the stairs leading up to the attic through a closet. But once you get to the top, it's no ordinary attic, is it? You again have an indoor marijuana grow. Definitely note at the top of this picture, what do you see, see screwed into the wooden ceiling? Electric ballast. Now. As I've stated earlier when you unplug these balists. They can stay electrically charged for up to 15 minutes. But firefighters, what I didn't say about these electric balists is they heat up as they run the lamps. And you'll note that there's one, two, three, four, five of them all screwed in to a wooden ceiling. Is this a fire hazard? Yes, absolutely. In slide 133 you'll notice marijuana, the ballast boxes, wiring everywhere. I mean, as you can see. None of this is to code is it? I mean, if you were the fire inspector going in here, do you think this would pass? Absolutely not. Slide 134, again, a very good view of the ballast screwed into the wooden ceiling, a good view of the marijuana plants. You see fans, you see electrical cords hanging everywhere and coiled up with current going through them. Now, notice on the bottle in slide 135 it says PH down. That would mean they're wanting to change the PH of something and they're wanting it to go down. So what would actually be inside that bottle? Probably a very strong acid. So obviously this bottle was open and then a strong acid was added to this bottle. And then the grower simply wrote PH down on the side. Now, go back to what we were learning earlier and I said it was important to learn PH and the PH scale. This is why. You could then take out a PH paper, sample it, and see if there was actually an acidic liquid in there. Slide number 136 you see floralicious plus, just a type of plant fertilizer, some type of epoxy, which is definitely flammable, and a water bottle that looks half full. Of something other than quite the color of water. So we don't really know what it is, do we? So how do we have to treat that? As an unknown chemical. In slide number 137, just wanted to give you a good shot of the marijuana plants and the way that they were budding. In slide 138, you can see the buds really starting to form on these plants. Slide 139 is just a look at some more of the electricity. The lighting systems that they were using, and it's interesting that their lighting system was also part of their ventilation system. Again, I'm sure not up to any code. Slide number 140, another picture of the marijuana bud. Slide number 141, the same thing. You can see that this is a successful. Indoor marijuana grow operation by the way this marijuana looks. Now it's time for case study number two, which I pretty much have found to be one of the most interesting confined space indoor marijuana growths that I've ever worked on. This clandestine hydroponic indoor marijuana grow was found in August of 2007. It was actually located two stories underground. The home builder prior to building the home dug out an area and placed a sea land container in it then built a small room from the ceiling container leading up through the crawl space to the house. And then built the house over the secret rooms. The confined pace indoor grow could be accessed through a trap door in a closet of the house. Now you can see from slide number 144, this is a very normal looking residence. Looks like any other home in that particular residence. Now look at slide number 145, and I have it labeled as air condition, unit one, used to cool the house. In the next slide, slide 146, I have air conditioner unit two, used to cool the indoor grow operation. One way to find or to investigate these indoor grow operations is to look for multiple air conditioners attached to the house that don't belong. If the house is too small to need two, or three, or possibly four air conditioning units, there's a good chance you may have an indoor marijuana grow. In the next slide, slide 147, air conditioner unit number 2 basically we pulled the label off of it and we used the label to provide the serial number and date of purchase of the air conditioner that was cooling the underground indoor grow. By having the date of purchase or the manufacturers date it gives us some idea how long this indoor grow's been operating. Now, look at picture number 148. Trap door leading to the first underground level. You don't see any trap door. You just see some carpet in a closet. But look at slide 149. That's with the carpet peeled away and the trap door open and the stairs leading down into the first room. In picture number 150 notice that behind the stairs. leading down into the first room we've opened another trap door. That trapdoor leads to another set of steps that actually takes you down into the buried see land container where the indoor grow is contained. Also look carefully in the righthand side of this photograph is what type of canister. CO2. So this guy is artificially providing carbon dioxide to his plants in this indoor grow. Could this be dangerous? Yes. Think back to earlier lessons where we start to talk about parts per million of carbon dioxide. The next slide is the interior level one room, approximately 13 feet underground. Now look to right, lower right hand side. We see two more CO2 canisters, don't know whither their empty or full yet. This is basically the indoor grow operator's maintenance room. Look. Also hanging on the righthand wall. You'll notice a box with like a utility box with pullout slides that contains screws, nails, and various other things that this indoor grow operator needs to. Needs to use to repair the grow below. In slide 152, you'll notice that you'll see electric and water leading down below, piping and wiring. Now, remember that the indoor grow operator happens to be the same person that built this house specifically to run this indoor grow. In slide 153 it's just a simple photograph of an electronic panel. We're still on the upper level, we are not down in the CLAN container yet. In photo number 154, you'll see that the guy's got an entertainment system and just wires all hanging down from the ceiling and we're not even in the grow yet. Yeah. He's also got some pictures of aliens and different stuff in there that I guess, he liked to look at when he would smoke his weed. Okay, picture 155, you're looking down into level two, 30 feet below ground into the buried sealand container, where the actual indoor marijuana grow operation is housed. I have slide number 156 labeled level two, chamber one, the grow. This is actually the largest part of the grow operation. This was one of the most incredible underground, indoor grow operations I've ever seen. You can see the quality of the marijuana under the lights in this photograph. In slide number 157 level two chamber one the water, electric, and timers. Now, look at this closely. You see a balise box hanging. You see wires routed everywhere. You see water pipes crossing over electrical wires, all of this non-standard and definitely not to code. And definitely, definitely, a confined space and a danger to anybody going in it. Slide number 158 you can see the electric and CO2 delivery system in level two, chamber one. There's also a bag of grow media on the left-hand side of the photograph. Photograph No. 159 another picture, a close-up, of the carbon dioxide bottle being used, the CO2 tank. We found nine of these tanks being used on level two. Could this have been an atmospheric hazard? Yes, absolutely. Could there have been more carbon dioxide in the air than oxygen? Yes. Absolutely. Again, confined space gear and surface supply air had to be used during the course of this investigation and during the dismantling and processing of this underground indoor grow-op operation. In picture number 160, I'm showing more close-up photograph of the CO2 delivery system as set up by the indoor grow operator. SLide number 161 just two more of the CO2 tanks, always remember atmosphere. I labeled the slide number 162 the redneck ventilation system. Actually it was an outstanding ventilation system. Inside the house, upstairs in the residential area of the home, you could not smell this grow or smell marijuana whatsoever. Slide number 163 I've labeled Chemicals Known and Unknown. Known by the labels on them, unknown because they've already been opened. Although notice that one of them even says Ph Up Base and this is as labeled on the container. Now of course that doesn't mean that's what in there, but again you pull out your pH paper and check it. Photograph number 164, more chemicals. Floralicious Bloom seems to be a favorite of the fertilizer or plant foods among the indoor grow operators in this state. Slot number 164, more chemicals. Slot number 166, more chemicals. One of 'em showing Ph down. Again, most likely, a strong acid. Slot number 167, level two chamber two. This was actually. This grow was actually sectioned off in to different areas. We've got the mother plants and then the cloned children plants growing to later be moved in to the actual full grow area. Photograph 168, sweet buds. Look at the buds growing on this marijuana. It is obvious. That the grower knows what they're doing in this grow operation. [BLANK_AUDIO] Slide number 169, more electrical genius. Now look at that, fireman? Is this to code? Absolutely not. Notice the timer. Watch this stuff happening inside this indoor grow based on timers, not necessarily the grower being down there working in that environment. Never, ever enter a confined space environment without the proper training. You would have to be at least. Confined space operations level trained to enter this indoor grotto. In other words OSHA does mandate whether you can enter this environment or not because it is an OSHA defined confined space. The site safety officer should at a minimum be a confined space technician.

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