Central PA Bravest

DETERGENT SUICIDE IN SWATARA TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY

     

Thursday, May 17, 2012 CASE SUMMARY
On 05/03/12 around 1000 am Swatara Township Police and Fire (49, 41, 40) along with Lifeteam were dispatched to the Super 8 Hotel off of Eisenhower Boulevard for a barricaded person involving hazardous materials. When police and fire arrived we found a 2 story hotel with all guests evacuated except a suicidal person on the second floor of the hotel. There was distinct “spoiled egg” odor in the hotel and just outside the hotel.
The scene was immediately secured and Dauphin County Haz Mat Team (77) were requested to assist. A unified command was established along with an evacuation zone. The command consisted of Swatara Fire, Police, Dauphin Co Haz Mat, and Life Team.
A plan was organized and put into action. Two Police Officers with Firefighting Experience and Two firefighters made entry in full PPE to the room to discover the person deceased in the bathroom by way of “Detergent Suicide”. The hazard and deceased were removed from hotel after approx. 3 hours on scene. Following will describe the chemicals used and how the person used them. I will also described lessons learned good and bad so other firefighters will better prepared for this increasing events.
 
DETERGENT SUICIDE can be found easily on internet and is a common method of suicide in Asian Countries but growing in America. All chemicals are legal and can be obtained easily.
Chemicals mixed
The Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner - Hydrocloric Acid
Hi-Yield Improved Lime Sulfur Spray- Calcium Polysulfide
 
The person locked his hotel room, then constructed a enclosed “bubble type” area in the bathroom tub and sealed the bathroom with expansion foam. He then enclosed himself in the bathtub and mixed the chemicals. He was in the bathtub for extended period of time prior to a 911 call from the hotel.
 
LESSON LEARNED:
 
Do not rush the incident. Insure everyone is evacuated to a safe distance including emergency personnel. Insure scene security.
Gather as much information as possible. We were able to identify the person, his background, and that his vehicle was parked in the lot. His vehicle was searched prior to entering hotel. Our intell developed that person was suicidal. We also discovered he had received a package at the hotel the day before the incident was reported.
Gather all resources needed, develop a plan, and execute plan with safety. Keep the amount of exposed personnel to just enough to complete the task. Have a RIT Team established and ready to act. Control citizens and other firefighters trying to enter the hazard area out of curiosity. A good accountability is important.
 
A common action was observed by the first entry team. The suicidal person wrote a warning on the bathroom door warning emergency personnel of chemicals used. This is often recommended on the internet sites describing “Detergent Suicide”. The crew also found a will and notes to family.
 
All firefighters who entered the scene wore SCBA and PPE. They were all de-coned after operating on scene.
 
We did not have de-con in place prior to executing plan and we learned to make that operation happen earlier. We learned that de-con suggested was just to shower but we stepped it up to the next level with a full wash down as crews exited the scene.
 
Overall the incident was well handled and we all went home safe with no further incidents. I hope to share scene photos soon showing the bathroom set up so you can see what it looked like. 
 
 
Any questions or need for more information feel free to contact me Pat McKenna, Chief 91, 717-564-2551. I hope this will help prevent any injury or death to any emergency personnel.