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Unit 5.7 Illicit Laboratories. Terminal Objective. Upon completion of this unit the participants will be able to analyze the hazards and risks of illicit laboratories and identify the incident objectives for safely managing the labs at the operations level of response. Enabling Objectives.

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unit 5 7 illicit laboratories
Unit 5.7

Illicit Laboratories

terminal objective
Terminal Objective
  • Upon completion of this unit the participants will be able to analyze the hazards and risks of illicit laboratories and identify the incident objectives for safely managing the labs at the operations level of response.
enabling objectives
Enabling Objectives
  • Identify clues to the recognition of illicit laboratory operations
  • Identify the types of illicit laboratories
  • Identify the key processes that should be identified at illicit labs
  • Describe the incident objectives for operations at illicit labs
reasons for illicit laboratories
Reasons for Illicit Laboratories
  • Laboratories may be developed and operated for many reasons:
    • Domestic or International terrorist groups
    • Antigovernment groups
    • Abortion related
    • Ecoterrorism
    • Animal rights groups
    • Illicit drug manufacturers
  • May be difficult to find – hidden from view
  • May be difficult to determine what final product was intended to be during production process
  • Potential for multiple products being made at same location
overt discovery
Overt Discovery
  • EMS call for sick person or difficulty breathing
    • Labs will be tightly sealed to keep odors from escaping and being discovered
  • Odor complaint
  • Fire or explosion call
  • Assistance to agencies who have information regarding what is going on
covert discovery
Covert Discovery
  • Subjects are not aware of the discovery of the laboratory
  • May be recognized during the response to another related or un-related incident
  • May be identified during an undercover law enforcement investigation
  • Require close coordination to maintain security of information
potential or actual labs
Potential or Actual Labs
  • Not all labs are illegal
    • Labs not involved in illegal activity, may generate harmful environmental waste
  • Response may include multiple agencies
    • Fire and hazardous materials
    • EMS
    • Law enforcement
    • Health department
    • Federal agencies
types of illicit laboratories
Types of Illicit Laboratories
  • Explosives
  • Biological agents
  • Chemical and CWA
  • Drugs
  • Radiological
key processes used
Key Processes Used
  • Synthesis makes a chemical from another substance
  • Extraction uses raw materials to produce finished product
  • Conversion refines raw product with chemicals
  • Fermentation is used to produce and refine a product
hazards of illicit laboratories
Hazards of Illicit Laboratories
  • Booby traps
    • Trip wires around site tied to explosive device, gun, or device to ward occupants
    • Boards with nails protruding in path of travel covered with leaves or foliage
    • Trigger devices attached to windows or doors that need to be opened in a special sequence
hazards of illicit laboratories1
Hazards of Illicit Laboratories
  • Explosive ordinance
    • Suspicious packages or devices
    • EOD bomb disposal personnel needed to evaluate packages
      • X-ray equipment
      • Containment devices
      • PPE for blast protection
      • Packages and devices may be destroyed
hazards of illicit laboratories2
Hazards of Illicit Laboratories
  • Fires may occur during the cooking and manufacturing process with multiple hazards present
    • Volatile liquids
    • Anhydrous ammonia
    • Match heads
    • Sodium, lithium metal
    • Aerosol cans of starting fluid
hazards of illicit laboratories3
Hazards of Illicit Laboratories
  • Oxidizers may be present
  • Corrosives may be present
  • Flammable gases may be present
  • Poison gases may be present
  • Liquids may be unidentified
  • Run away reactions
explosive lab recognition
Explosive Lab Recognition
  • Selected types
    • Ammonium nitrate mixtures
    • Black powder
    • Chlorates and perchlorate mixtures
    • Glycerin and glycol mixtures
    • Peroxide mixtures
    • Acetone peroxide
    • Urea mixtures
  • Look for
    • Fuels
    • Oxidizers and oxidizing acids
    • Grinding and mixing
    • Ice baths
    • Use of powdered metals (Al, Mg)
biological lab recognition
Biological Lab Recognition
  • Selected types
    • Bacteria (growing)
    • Toxins (growing or extracting)
    • Viruses
  • Look for
    • Intentional warm, moist, nutrient rich culturing
    • Lab apparatus suggesting working with microscopic organisms, living tissue, plants or animals
biological lab hazards
Biological Lab Hazards
  • Highly toxic end products
  • Precursor or reagent materials present
  • Incubators, fermentators, petri dishes, and cultures being grown
    • Bacteria
    • Viruses
    • Toxins
common steps to a bio lab


Grow out



Scale Up /


Produce larger



Remove bacteria

from media

and dry

Finish and


Powder or

freeze dry

Common Steps to a Bio Lab


Seed Stock


or isolate

toxin production
Toxin Production
  • Extraction processes
    • May use columns
    • Solvents
    • centrifugation
    • Filtration
    • Drying
  • Example: Ricin
    • Sufficient toxin in 5 seeds for 2 lethal doses
    • Grind, remove oil, extract ricin, concentrate, dry and mill to size
  • Fermentation Process
    • Using fermentation obtain toxins from bacteria
production of virus
Production of Virus
  • Viruses are cellular parasites
  • Three common ways of cultivating viruses
    • Grow in embryonated eggs
    • Grow in tissue cultures
    • Grow in living animals
chemical weapon labs
Chemical Weapon Labs
  • Many times requires highly protective operations
  • Look for –
    • Deliberate generation and collection of gases
    • Highly protective apparatus (gloves boxes and nitrogen inerting systems)
    • Other situational intelligence
drug lab recognition
Drug Lab Recognition
  • People and activities
  • Numerous types of labs (Meth, GHB, LSD…)
  • Precursor materials & essential chemicals
    • Cold medicines
    • Paint thinners, solvents
    • Plants
    • Acids and alkalis
  • Apparatus and processes
  • Intelligence
distillation process
Distillation Process
  • Separates liquid mixtures based upon differences in volatility and boiling point
  • A physical separation not a chemical process
  • Some types
    • Simple distillation
    • Fractional distillation
    • Vacuum distillation
reflux process
Reflux Process
  • Condensation of vapors and return to the liquid from which it was generated
  • Enables a liquid to be “cooked” without losing it to vapors
  • Can also be used to obtain greater purity in the distillation process
ionizing radiation
Ionizing Radiation
  • Gamma is the primary concern
    • Easily detectable and travels equally in alll directions
    • Penetrating life safety risk to personnel even if wearing PPE and SCBA
    • Alpha and beta sources present minimal risk to personnel in PPE
  • Use scintillation detector or gamma spectrometer
ph determination
pH Determination
  • Moistened pH paper in air
    • Red change to vapors indicates and binary or fuming acid
    • Hydrochloric, hydrofluoric, hydroiodic
    • Sulfuric, nitric, phosphoric
    • Other acids that have been volatilized
  • PH paper direct contact to liquids or solids
chemical warfare agents
Chemical Warfare Agents
  • May be indicated for chemical labs of unknown purpose
  • Screening for nerve agents, blistered agents and cyanide compounds
  • Use multiple technologies due to potential false positives
    • APD 2000, HazMat CAD, M256A1 and others
combustible vapors oxygen
Combustible Vapors & Oxygen
  • Combustible vapors
    • Most commonly encountered hazard
    • Highly volatile solvents may be used
  • Oxygen concentration
    • Reduction in concentration may indicate high concentrations of contaminates
    • Increase concentration results in significant fire hazard
photo and flame ionization
Photo and Flame Ionization
  • Photo-ionization detectors
    • Range 0 – 2000 units (ppm)
    • Detects many large organic molecules and some inorganics
    • May be blind to smaller or diatomic molecules
  • Flame ionization detector
    • Range 1 – 10,000 units (ppm)
    • Will detect any organic compound
  • Will detect trace amount of any flammable vapors long before CGIs
  • Joint response
    • Unified command – law enforcement lead agency
  • Fire department/hazardous materials
    • Site characterization
    • Container identification
    • Product information
    • Identify storage of seized materials after samples are taken for evidence
  • Drug enforcement agency (DEA) will typically be a lead law enforcement agency and take responsibility for disposal of materials seized.
  • FBI may be involved
  • Environmental agency may have a role in environmental crimes and site remediation
law enforcement agencies
Law Enforcement Agencies
  • Take responsibility to secure scene – no booby traps for responders
  • Windows of building normally covered to hide laboratory initiatives – may be opened from exterior
  • Entrances must be checked for booby traps
  • Radio frequency may trigger devices
  • Instruments, like flashlights, intrinsically safe
  • After scene is secured – all clear should be called
scene command structure
Scene Command Structure
  • A single or unified command structure can be utilized – depending on scope of incident and agencies involved
  • An incident action plan should be developed unless entry must be immediately made
  • A site safety plan should be developed and made available to all agencies
components of an iap
Components of an IAP
  • Incident Action Plan forms:
  • ICS 201 Incident briefing form
  • ICS 202 Incident objectives form
  • ICS 203 Organizational assignment list
  • ICS 204 Assignment list
  • ICS 205 Communications plan
  • ICS 206 Medical plan
  • ICS 208HM Site safety plan
regulatory considerations
Regulatory Considerations
  • OSHA 1910.120(q)(3)(i) and EPA 311 requires an incident commander to be in charge of an incident involving a hazardous material.
  • OSHA 1910.120(q)(3)(vii) requires a safety official to be designated who is knowledgeable in the operations being implemented
unified command
Unified Command
  • Unified command should be staffed with lead agency personnel that will have a major role in the stabilization of the incident.
  • Law enforcement may be lead agency in unified command structure.
  • Fire, HazMat, EMS, environmental may be in a support role
  • As with any incident, documentation of activities are critical
    • Personnel operating at the scene
    • Incident objectives/strategic goals and tactical objectives
    • Evidence samples – chain of custody
selection of ppe
Selection of PPE
  • OSHA 1910.120 (q)(3)(iv) and EPA 311 requires incident commander to require positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus until such time, through the use of air monitoring, that it is same to use a lesser level of protection like a PAPR or APR
selection of ppe1
Selection of PPE
  • OSHA 1910.120(q)(3)(iii) and EPA 311 requires the incident commander to determine the appropriate level of protective equipment to be used and to enforce its use. As a minimum structural firefighting equipment found in OSHA 1910.156 (e) shall be worn if the hazards are fire.
evaluate hazards presented and select appropriate ppe
Evaluate Hazards Presented and Select Appropriate PPE
  • Thermal – both heat and cold
  • Radiation
  • Asphyxiation
  • Chemical
  • Etiological
  • Mechanical – shrapnel and falling objects
  • Electrical
  • As with any exposure to dangerous materials a proper decontamination is critical.
    • Use hose lines for emergency decontamination
    • Use HEPA filtered vacuum for particulate
    • Use mobile or portable decontamination stations
mass decontamination
Mass Decontamination
  • When large numbers of victims may have been contaminated a mass decontamination line should be established
  • Removal of outer garments may remove as much as 80% of contaminant
  • Moving victims through a water spray will help remove contaminant
technical decontamination
Technical Decontamination
  • If Level A or B garments are used, technical decontamination is the appropriate method of decontamination

First wash and rinse

Second wash and rinse

Doffing of equipment

Capture decontamination water

k9 decontamination
K9 Decontamination
  • If particulate matter is present use a HEPA filtered vacuum to remove particles.
  • Wash with soap and water
  • Due to thick hair multiple washes may be needed
tactical protective garments
Tactical Protective Garments
  • Tactical protective garments such as bullet resistant vests and bomb suits are not easily decontaminated.
  • They should be removed and bagged for later decontamination at a special facility
  • Leather equipment, such as belts, is easily contaminated as leather is very porous
evidence collection
Evidence Collection
  • Securing evidence is a critical part of the investigation
  • Samples taken in the contaminated area should be packaged so that they may be decontaminated and placed in another package after the decon process
  • Typically the evidence is processed and decontaminated within the view of the evidence control officer
twelve step evidence collection process
Twelve Step Evidence Collection Process
  • Prepare for evidence collection
  • Approach scene cautiously
  • Secure and protect scene
  • Conduct a preliminary survey
  • Evaluate physical evidence possibilities
  • Prepare a narrative description of scene
  • Photograph scene
fbi twelve step evidence collection process cont d
FBI Twelve Step Evidence Collection Process – cont’d
  • Prepare a diagram and sketch of scene
  • Conduct a detailed search
  • Record and collect physical evidence
  • Conduct final survey
  • Release scene to responsible party
remediation plan
Remediation Plan
  • Florida DEP can provide assistance
  • The lead agency will have the lead to develop a remediation plan to render the site safe
  • Scenes where waste has been dumped and spread may take considerable time to test and clean-up
  • Local hazardous waste authorities may be able to assist with disposal
activity 5 7 illicit labs
Activity 5.7

Illicit labs

scenario 2 chemical lab setting
Scenario # 2

Chemical Lab Setting

scenario 3 environmental crime from illicit lab
Scenario # 3

Environmental Crime from Illicit Lab

scenario 4 environmental crime from illicit lab
Scenario # 4

Environmental Crime from Illicit Lab


A. Response to illicit laboratory incidents pose many unknown hazards, including booby traps.

B . The illicit operations may be discovered as part of an emergency response for EMS, fire, or odor complaint.

C. Generally the lead agency will be from law enforcement or an environmental agency and fire or hazardous materials will provide a supporting role.