Methamphetamine and Meth Labs
On-Scene Safety for emergency responders

Drug lab sites are potentially dangerous and they are crime scenes. Law enforcement officers at the lab site will decide when and by whom the property can be entered. Lab sites should only be entered by persons accompanied by law enforcement personnel and after a warrant has been obtained.

If a laboratory is discovered while methamphetamine or other drugs are being processed, only officers with clandestine lab response training should enter the area to shut down the equipment and stop the process. Private persons or personnel from any other agency who walk into a lab site should leave immediately, Dial 911, and stay away from the site.

Checklist for first response to a lab

A law enforcement officer, who discovers an operating clandestine drug lab, should immediately accomplish the following:

  • Assure that all persons in the immediate area (including law enforcement personnel) are removed to a safe location. Depending upon the size of the lab and the amount of toxic chemicals being emitted this may involve evacuation of the neighborhood.
  • If necessary, medical aid should be given.
  • Suspects should be detained, or arrested if probable cause exists.
  • Call for fire/hazmat to respond to the location.
  • Do not attempt to stop the chemical reaction.
  • Do not turn any electrical devices/lights on or off. The simple act of turning on an electrical switch may cause an explosion. In an explosive atmosphere even turning on a flashlight might cause an explosion.
  • Do not shut off the water supply to the house or the chemical reaction.
  • Establish an outer perimeter area and keep all unnecessary persons from entering.
  • Call your nearest Clandestine Lab Investigation Team .

[Source: California Department of Justice]

Guidelines for staff from other agencies than law enforcement who are required to enter the scene are as follows:

  • Do not enter contaminated areas prior to ventilation, shutdown of equipment, and removal of chemicals and equipment.
  • Minimize exposure by limiting time on-site and wearing protective clothing as needed.
  • Evaluate exposure and take measures to contain or eliminate it, e.g., by washing exposed skin removing contaminated shoes or clothing.
  • Take steps to avoid transporting contamination on yourself or someone in your care.
  • Seek medical care if needed.


Hazardous Materials – Clandestine Drug Labs (PDF: 30KB/6 pages).
David Peterson.
The article discusses injuries to responders; the kinds of drugs being produced in clan labs; the need for training and safe lab response procedures.

Public Health Consequences Among First Responders to Emergency Events Associated With Illicit Methamphetamine Laboratories — Selected States, 1996-1999
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR 2000:49:1021-1024.

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Updated Friday, 02-Aug-2013 11:35:02 CDT