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Marijuana Grow Operations, Part 1

Fri, 9 Sep 2011|

Part one 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.


Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Today. -- -- -- and today will be talking about indoor marijuana grows. A growing problem and concern across the United States of America. For law enforcement and other first responding personnel. Indoor marijuana grow operations. Are regularly found -- the law enforcement and appear to be increasing in numbers. Indoor grows affect everyone from the community. -- first responders. Local criminal elements there organized crime. And even terrorist organizations. Or in fault in this illegal activity. As you'll see from -- presentation. These grow operations can range from the very simple to be extremely complex. But keep in mind all of them are dangerous from the smallest total -- Marijuana is the most -- way -- used illegal drug in the United States. I've noticed during my law enforcement career that some criminal elements don't even -- something illegal that are doing. During interviews and interrogations I've often heard suspects say. I hope you'll drugs I -- so marijuana or I don't use drugs I just use marijuana. But it is an illegal drug and it is a lord and growing problem. -- -- operations have been increasing. In both Canada and the United States since the 1990s. We're going to focus on the indoor grow operations rather than the -- fields found both in California. North Carolina. And others states. This is marijuana was grown in a home. Trailer garage. Any indoor environment. Making it very different from those Al Gore -- that many law enforcement officers and been responding fire departments are used to dealing with. In recent years the United States has seen a drastic increase in the number of indoor grow operations. Just as we have in the state were -- police. As a law enforcement officer. I'm coming at this program from several different perspectives. Most importantly. To include. Firefighters. And EMS. Paramedics -- -- -- and the entities. Put out the fire fighters and the paramedics. Won't work but would not be able to operate. In the indoor grow environment. Nor be able to investigate them it is absolutely. They usually services -- -- investigation. -- In recent years a survey in Canada and the United States has indicated that some law enforcement officials. Have suffered from various illnesses and injuries associated. To responding to indoor grow operations. Common health effects of an indoor -- include. Headache. Nausea. Breathing difficulties. Sinus congestion. Sinus irritation and skin rash sounds like an allergic reaction. A few officers reported more curious old missiles. What we have to do -- law enforcement first responders. Is take dealing with marijuana. In a more serious manner. And treated. In a more safe manner as we dismantle these dangerous indoor grows. We all of them won't -- involved in marijuana grow operations. In their dismantling discovery investigation. Often we don't think about fire department were the -- rolls. But both you have roles in these -- grows. Police departments when responding to these grows -- coal fired -- performance. As back due to the dangerous lighting and electrical bit cold -- That they encounter while dismantling them. EMS can easily take a call for a heart attack victim not realizing that they just stepped into one of these dangerous indoor marijuana grows. What's now -- -- reported illnesses and injuries. Form these indoor marijuana -- The following two examples. Were reported in the country of Canada. And officer worked in a small overall operation. Fifty plans for less than one hour. The next morning the officer experienced a very sore throat nasal just short and people -- Over time -- call developed. And shortness of breath. After four business to the doctors including one emergency room visit. The position determine the symptoms were considered consistent with the reaction to mold exposure. In the next incident. And officer worked at large wrote 15100 -- for nearly five hours. At the end of the shift the officer noted -- small cut on his finger. The following day the officer and -- chills. Sweat and over time experience sore and swollen ankles. Tight caps -- joints and muscles twitching. After visiting a position and eventually. An internist it was determined that the officer had suffered from pesticide poisoning. So that's two incidents already. Won for mold exposure. Which the -- could have gotten by inhaling the -- the second pesticide poisoning. From the -- -- his finger from handling the pesticides. That are inside these indoor grows. That would lead me to believe that both of these officers were working in these -- worries. With no personal protective equipment whatsoever. Which is been the standard in the United States and Canada for years. But it's not just law enforcement officers that are being injured in these dangerous indoor grows. -- firefighter. Was electrically shocked while attacking a fire in a residential structure. A 277. Bold step up transformer. Had been wired directly. To the electrical panel for indoor marijuana grow lights. This more than doubled the voltage potential. And prevented the fifteen amp breaker from working properly. The wiring to the grow lights had -- slices. Not contained within junction boxes and expose the casing and more directly contacting the -- The Expos fans of the energized wiring contacted the pools of water. From the fire hoses and call electrical shock to those firefighters. In other incidents a firefighter was seriously electrocuted. Course I don't know any other way to be electrocuted other than seriously it. While battling a fire at an indoor grow operation in Alameda California. Firefighters are experiencing numerous. Indoor grows and indoor grow operations that are catching fire in the state of California. And then a law enforcement officer -- was electrocuted while dismantling an indoor grow operation. In Phoenix Arizona. She you can say this problem doesn't just apply the law enforcement. -- -- law enforcement paramedic. All are involved in these indoor grow operations. This means to me that it's time for all first responders to do -- health and safety audit. We need to evaluate our current practices when dealing with these indoor grows. And we need to talk about standard personal protective equipment. Including respiratory protection requirements while working these indoor grow operations. It's my recommendation. Now. -- we have a -- safety officer at all indoor grow operations. Just like we do at -- -- -- methamphetamine laboratories. Let's talk for a second about some of the common hazards founded and -- grow operations. Faulty electrical hookups flammable gases. Dangerous moles. The use of fertilizers. Pesticides and other chemicals all within a confined environment. Not necessarily confined space. Have -- disasters. Booby traps and violent suspects they all exist sound familiar. Just like a clandestine laboratory. The problem is. The law enforcement firefighters and paramedics across United States have a very inconsistent response to these indoor grows. Some departments -- personal protective equipment. Some of whom have training involved -- to officers want to these indoor grows. Some apply -- clandestine laboratory training principals. And even used -- lab trained personnel. Which we do in my state. Other -- -- say it's just marijuana it's no big deal. This has been the attitude across the country for years but it's time to change. We need to get ahead of the curve now. Some departments -- -- a wait and see mode but there's no time to wait and see it. The problem is here now. Is an indoor marijuana -- a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory no. But the same -- lap principles should be applied. We should go in and assess the hazards. That can control what happens. Use the proper protective equipment. Maybe include a respirator. And then each department should establish policies and procedures for dealing with these -- indoor marijuana grows. Unfortunately. Nothing in an indoor marijuana grow is directly covered by -- specific OSHA standard. There -- the performance or held to any specific standard. A little bit now about marijuana -- campus horticulture. The air what's got to have enough carbon dioxide and low pollution. Which would mean filtration. Plus a good relative humidity temperature and ventilation. Carbon dioxide or CO2. Can be added during the vegetative growth. It can increase the growth up to 25%. Resulting in a greater yield -- better all of us to the indoor marijuana growth. -- -- A normal amount of carbon dioxide in the environment would be 300 ports per million. Optimal for marijuana grow to -- 14100. Pork per million. Deadly to the plan. 18100 -- per million. And dangerous extremely dangerous to the first responder. 5000 pork per million. Please realize. -- just because the plants -- okay that doesn't mean that you're okay. A mistake could have been made by -- -- on the afternoon that you go and execute a search warrant. -- receive that call for a heart attack victim. The indoor grow operator might have missed calculated that afternoon. About how much carbon dioxide was being pumped into the environment. And could correct that that night and the plants would be okay. But you're not okay that afternoon walking into that environment. Relative humidity. Optimal for plant growth is sixty to 70%. Disease and pest -- at higher relative humidity -- And plants could dry out at lower relative humidity especially the younger plans. However. -- sixty to 70% relative humidity is also optimal for mold growth. So it's a two sided problem you've got brake plant growth. But now you've got dangerous mold growth in the same environment. Temperature. Marijuana grows best at a temperature of 68 to 72 degrees. What else grows right at a temperature of 68 to 72 degrees dangerous small. Let's start with some fun facts about mold. Morals reproduced by performing -- and -- worst ended the year. -- require three things to grow nutrients. Some level of heat. And water. Marijuana requires the very same things. -- can produce chemicals to fight off other species of moles. Molds can appear to dry up dialog. And then suddenly -- back stronger than ever. Aisle but word of -- come wrong. -- was found and every outdoor environment throughout the world. -- -- -- so small they are easily dispersed through the air all around us. Since homes are not build air tight. -- worst constantly and hurt -- residences. And are normally found within buildings at lower levels and -- the worst. Even in the building that I'm standing in right now. We encounter Mowlds every day all day at all. Mold becomes an indoor air quality concerns when amplification. -- -- -- amplification occurs when the -- species and total numbers. Within an indoor environment. Becomes significantly different from the outdoor levels. More or less meaning there's more -- into worse -- there is mold outdoors. Amplification. Can be the result of an increase in the total number of -- -- The establishment of a dominant species differing from the -- of the -- worst. Or the increase. In population. Of -- species different. From those in the out there were. How can mold amplification occur. -- needs some level of nutrients heat and water to grow. Sound familiar. Like an indoor marijuana grow. Mobile require sources Corbin in order to grow -- with the change in building materials in the early 1970s. More organic materials such -- sheet rock and cellulose ceiling tiles were being installed in homes. These materials -- a rich source of Corbin for -- to digest. New homes promote more mold growth and water damage. Many other materials. Present within buildings are good sources of Corbin for multiples well. Corporate blues -- -- Foodstuffs. Paper products. Exposed wood products and ceiling tiles. Next heat and temperature. -- require certain amount of heat to be able to grow. In -- -- map there is with little. Air movement create pockets of -- necessary to facilitate mold growth. Molds can create their own temperature rich environment through the act of metabolize and building materials in other words while they. They produce their own He. So why is it that we don't see mold and every building wives or not -- giant sheet of mold behind me on this wall. -- water is -- limiting factor needed by Moulds to amplify. Within an indoor environment particularly wet nutrient sources. When building materials become wet. The mold -- normally in the error weigh -- on the -- material. And -- to visibly grow within 48 hours. But by having an indoor grow and a home. Or room or -- -- attic. The Grover create some micro climate. Relative humidity within a building should be no higher than 60%. To prevent mold growth. Remember the relative humidity for plants optimal sixty to 70%. The same for mold. Disease and -- -- at higher relative humidity and plants can dry out that lower relative humidity. I'm repeating myself but it's an important fact when it comes to mold growth. Let's talk about another incident involving -- -- formulas when it comes to marijuana. Up 34 year old man who'd undergone a bone marrow transplant for chronic leukemia. Was reported to have developed a fatal. Disseminated. Fungal infection. Associated with a contaminated batch of marijuana cigarettes. -- heavily for weeks prior to his admission and -- hospital. Not very smart on his -- and also illegal. Marijuana growth. Has been associated with many types of bacteria and fungus but opportunistic. Pathogens. Can be produced. Post horror of us and with the storage. Of marijuana. Mold cannot brewing plant material that's below 15% moisture contact. Properly dried marijuana contains a 10% moisture content. Infested marijuana. Produces a musty or stale -- Do any of my law enforcement officers in the audience. Recognize the possibility of this no -- evidence room. Might be -- to look into. Contaminated marijuana that is undergoing rapid decay may actually feel warm to the touch. But now what's really start to examine the health implications. Of -- associated with indoor marijuana grows. Amplification. Creates an indoor mold environment different from the outdoor environment. And may contain some species which produce toxic chemicals. Since the indoor environment has changed compare what we are used to encountering. Sensitive individuals. Those with allergies ask my immune system deficiencies. The age toward the very -- are susceptible. -- adverse health effects related to mold amplification. Health effects. Now like every won't -- an officer in the audience to be honest with yourself have you ever -- any of these facts. When you've got done working. In any marijuana -- environment. -- no personal protective equipment whatsoever. Flu like responses. Running those sinus irritation. Headaches body aches congestion. Respiratory complications. Won't -- constriction. Asthma attacks for those with -- And a general more waves. Author increased incidence in flu colds sinus infections. Routine bloody noses or bloody mucous secretions. -- instance specific fatigue. -- Nausea. May be based on the -- of some -- worsening environment. And diarrhea. There are a lot of talk subject species of mold. -- -- those black mold. The talks in present in this worse. Has the potential. In high enough doses. To cause bleeding of the loans. And potentially death a highly sensitive individuals. Young infants elderly. And you know compromised individuals. This is important to know. Maybe is a paramedic you go into a home and or something wrong with an infant and you can't quite figure out what's going on. But you might see the globe -- light. -- in one of the rooms with abortion. It may be an indicator that the advancement exposed one of these dangerous moles. It also produces its own known potent -- -- -- And it's been found an indoor grow operations in Ontario Canada. Asked for -- a small. One of the most dangerous -- person in an indoor marijuana grown bar. It's -- to inhabit and live on marijuana. It's door Green. To black in color and -- -- appearance. Symptoms can be as -- as an allergic reaction similar to asthma. Inhaled -- worse but someone with a depressed immune system could suffer increasingly serious allergies. And they eventually contract the disease. Ask for chelios. Other species of concern. Asked for geo whiz whom we got us considered a human pathogens. Produces toxin that can cause cellular toxicity. NN heroes -- health effects. -- for Julius flavors. Produce. -- watch pox and be 11 of the most potent -- -- known to man. Asked for geely is not reported to cause skin and pulmonary infections. Asked for -- is. Rescue worker produces mild toxins that can cause diarrhea upset stomach reported supporters liver and kidney course engines. All have been found in indoor marijuana grow operations. -- -- the nation. And then these other three species that you can see on your screen. One produces toxic -- -- -- -- -- listed on California proposition 65 known carcinogens. And reproductive toxins list. The next one produces a toxin that was reported to be. Network toxic meaning damaging to the kidneys and the next one potential health effects from the produced talks and included. To organic -- tumor producing. Test for -- causing mouth formations and developing fetus. That is non fatal and happens toxic which of course means that calls liver damage. Although we have or or more importantly distorting. To gather data in -- -- -- to the potential for many species to cause toxicity. The necessary data pertaining to human exposure. With mold -- these -- is actually lacking. There are hundreds if not thousands of species of moles that we do not have data regarding the health effects to human beings -- -- case. First responders. Okay police fire paramedics we know we have -- now what I say. Proper protective equipment. Proper personal protective equipment. -- suits. Goggles respiratory protection. And now let's talk about what makes an -- -- -- -- -- -- meth lab chemical hazards. Ngo chemicals fertilizers. Ammonia nitrate based toxic and reactive. Insecticides. There toxic. Fungus lives they're -- Pesticides are toxic and skin absorbing it should we be picking those open bottles. With no gloves -- -- -- -- -- -- A respiratory toxin. Shouldn't we be in some piper rushed toward protection would work within this environment. And any time we deal with chemicals. Never assume that chemicals -- react the same based on a similar name. Carbon monoxide. -- carbon dioxide. Chemical properties. The physical properties. Characteristic. Behaviors. In the ambient environment -- the environment that you're in. And then there there's -- -- properties of these chemicals the inherent ability of the chemical the calls all. Let's take the time to talk about the following chemical properties -- ability specific gravity. Vapor density vapor pressure. Flammable. And explosive women's. For any of you out there -- have dealt with clandestine methamphetamine labs or had that training all of this should sound familiar. What were having a class now on indoor marijuana grows. Chemistry doesn't change only the illegal activity goes. Saudi ability the ability of the chemical to dissolve in what would. Fertilizers. Are usually very soluble. And if something is very -- -- mobile. That can have to do with the route of exposure into the body if it's very soluble it may increase. The ability of your skin to absorb that chemical win. Chemical specific gravity. Compare the density of the chemical to the density of war. Water always people when war. If it has a specific gravity less than warned it won't float in water typically flammable solvents will do this. Even has a specific gravity greater than -- It will sink in water. Pesticides it's typically. Exhibit of specific gravity greater than one. -- density were comparing the density of gas -- vapor. -- air which would have a density of water. If the density is less than one. It will rise and -- if it's greater than one it will sink. Carbon dioxide. Has a vapor density of one point 53. So it will sink. In the year carbon monoxide. Has a vapor density of zero point 96. It will float. -- -- Vapor pressure that means -- pressure created against the atmosphere. Applies to liquids and solids. -- vapor pressure equals high inhalation hazard to the first responder. Many fertilizers and pesticides. Have very low vapor pressure. Which means they have a low inhalation -- Flammable limits amount of fuel mixed with air but -- -- Defined by the upper and lower limits flammable limits on engine fine. You have a lower flammable -- and an upper flammable when that explosive when -- confined. You have a lower explosive limit and an -- explosive when it. Propane is 2.4 percent to nine point 5%. Natural gas. Five point 3% to 14%. -- remember we're talking about indoor marijuana grow operations. We actually have to be. Concern would. The explosive weapons to some degree because. It's in a confined space that confined space being a house not necessarily. -- tunnels mine basement. Okay. I hope -- sure. Helps to clarify flammable women's. Again it's the amount of fuel makes -- error that will burn if you add a source of ignition. The following compressed gases may be found in an indoor marijuana grow. Propane. Natural gas. And carbon dioxide out. Remember previously it when I said we should assess the hazards. And then control -- chemical hazard controls. Air monitoring. You may monitor the air for oxygen and flammability. You can use color metric -- specific to chemicals. That you may -- in an indoor grow. You can use -- -- track which would not her oxygen temperature relative humidity and carbon monoxide levels. You should constantly. And consistently. Monitor the environment you're in why your team -- in there. During the dismantling of one of these indoor grow operations. If the oxygen levels were to fall below 19%. One of two things would have to happen your team would need to start -- SE BA is rather than regular. Respirators. Or you could fix that hazard by introducing more oxygen into the environment. Opening a window opening doors. And getting the situation under control. The next thing you need to understand is the PH scale which is simply a measure of how acidic. Or basic. A chemical weapons. When using PH test strips. What the entire strip. One group protest. Line outstrip what the -- metric scale that comes with the -- First all of us what the script first -- carefully mixed a small amount of the solid world war. Unknown chemicals. And always bear in mind that -- a bottle has already been opened and the seals been broken. It's an unknown chemical. We don't know what these clandestine indoor growers have put in a bottle that's already been opened regardless of how -- play. Always assume the highest risk category with these chemicals -- them on site. Use an elderly -- leader PH Paper or other instruments if available. Always look. At the -- -- very carefully about any chemicals you come across. The following slides will give you an indication. Of what you're looking for on the bottle or container. And never forget about chemical in compatibility. Chemicals in the same general hazard class may be incompatible. Like acids and bases. Be careful when you're separating these items of evidence that you have -- separated from each other. -- should be on one side of the set up. Bases on the other so that you never have an accidental spill or merger of the two. All of these are reasons. That I believe the most experienced and knowledgeable officers should be sent to the scenes of these indoor marijuana grows it's my suggestion. That agencies use team members that are already trained in clandestine methamphetamine. Operations and laboratory dismantling to handle indoor marijuana grows. Electrical hazards. We've already talked about a firefighter. Who received a prolonged electrical shock while attacking a fire in a residential structure containing -- marijuana grow operation. What we need to talk about now -- safe work practices. We need to train police officers firefighters. And responding paramedics and EMTs. On how delighted to have fired row house and -- potential hazards that it may contain. Attempt to extinguish a fire in an identified grow house without entering the building. Stay out of the structure until the -- been turned off. By the appropriate power authorities qualified and trained work. Now I am by no means an electrician. I've had to learn a little bit of a lot about electricity to keep myself safe. So here just some electricity basics. Hey let us always assumed that all wire for a lot that we come across -- we can prove 100% over watch. Contact your local utility company they will be glad to come out -- assist you. And be aware of all sources of power not all sources of power or gained legally. By these indoor marijuana grow operators. Deal where there there could be wires and electrical hookups that you're completely unaware of we have to concern ourselves electrically -- overheating but what that means -- electrical current. Exceeds the capacity of the conductors. Powell. The amount of current multiplied by the voltage level at -- given -- measured in water to -- -- look at this -- box. At the bomb. It ensures that the proper -- is sent to the -- lamps. And this is required. -- high pressure sodium lamps and then make lamps. It can hold power for up to fifteen. Minutes. After its ban on -- Too much power will decrease the wife of -- land and overheat the system. Not enough power role. Not fire the lamp up. But the most important fact about these ballot boxes is -- they stay electrically neutral or for up to fifteen minutes after they've been unplugged. So if you're working in an indoor grow environment you unplug the ballot box and then you were to set it down on the ground. Not realizing that there was no water around -- feet. You could be in danger of -- high voltage electrical shock. Let's look at some of the effects the electricity can have on news on the human body at different levels. It could be everything from a slight tingling sensation. All those still dangerous under certain conditions. A slight shock felt not painful but slightly disturbing. An average individual could let you know. A painful shock muscular control is lost this is cold freezing current war let go range. An extremely painful shock respiratory arrest severe muscular contractions can occur. Individual cannot let go and death is now possible. Then you have levels it actually calls ventricular. Tribulation. The rhythmic pumping action of the horrors ceases. Muscular contraction and nerve damage occur and death is likely. And -- light shots leading straight to cardiac arrest severe burns and probable death. Understand that indoor marijuana grow operators -- and steal their electricity. Or set up a bypass -- straw. These are extremely hazardous because one the first responder does not know that there their -- where they're located. To. They're ordered to detect. And three. You may accidentally. Stepped on war or not have electricity shut down when you think you did. Keep in mind that these electrical bypasses. Or not done by the local utility company. There are typically not even done by trained electrician. There -- done by the indoor grow operator who is most likely not a trained electricians. These bypasses can lead to fires -- electrical shock to any responder. -- The most common shock related injury is a berm. Burns suffered in electrical incidents. May be one or more of the following three types. Electrical burns they cause tissue damage and or the result. Of heat generated by the flow of electric current through the human body. Electrical burns. -- one of the most serious injuries you can receive and need immediate medical attention. This is why I recommend to any law enforcement agency conducting an indoor growth. Marijuana. Investigation. -- dismantling operation. Bit EMS is capped at the end at the scene the entire time the first responders are there. High temperatures near the body produced by an electric or her explosion. Caused or -- flash -- They also need prompt medical attention. Formal contact -- occur when skin comes in contact with -- overheated electrical equipment. Or -- clothing is ignited in electrical incident. Internal injuries caused by electrical shock all bodies use small electrical currents to transmit signals. Through the nervous system and to contract muscles. Extra electrical current flowing through the body can cause very serious damage. Medical problems can include bleeding. Tissue destruction. And nerve or muscle damage. Internal injuries may not be immediately apparent. To the victim -- observers however left untreated they can very easily result in death. Water. Which is found in every indoor grow operation. Is a conductor of electricity. Conductors or substance -- -- with -- relatively little resistance to the flow of electrical car. Water influences the conduct of properties of some materials drive wouldn't support conductor. Would saturated with water becomes a good electrical conductor. Use extreme caution when working with electricity -- water is in the environment or on the skin. Keep in mind that it's very important tile work electrical hazard may be. A piece of -- -- may not look saturated with water but is saturated with water. An officer or first responder can easily -- -- to an area of the growth and splashed water on to an electrical hazard. Always be aware of the environment that you're working -- and remember that attention to detail save your life. Human skin and resistance. Look at the difference between dry conditions and wet conditions. A low voltage electrocution. Becomes much more hazardous and -- -- condition. High voltage electrical energy greatly reduces the body's resistance. But quickly breaking down human skin. Once the -- punctured the lower resistance results. In a massive current flow. Com electrical mistakes found in indoor grow operations. The overloading of a circuit mismatch of ballast -- and power force. Electrical equipment near waters -- or what materials. Using circuit breakers or fuses what the wrong rating for over current protection. An example of using a thirty -- -- -- in -- system what 15 or 20 -- receptacle. Protection is lost because it will not trip when the system -- has been exceeded. Using modified code words -- tools. An example of that removing face plates insulation. Except for. Using -- -- tools what worn insulation are exposed wire. Using equipment out the worst that is labeled for use only in dry -- locations. There's a final ball to all first responders. If you suspect. An indoor marijuana grows -- potential electrical -- contact your local utility company for help.

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