INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- More than 30 police officers have learned this week how to decontaminate themselves after being sprayed with methamphetamine lab chemicals and how to operate breathing equipment in preparation for dealing with the dangerous labs.
The officers are taking a crash course in detecting and securing meth labs at the West Virginia State Police Academy, and will take a certification exam to become meth lab technicians Thursday.
On Wednesday, Mark Fitzgerald, an instructor with hazardous waste company National Environmental Systems, displayed a table of ingredients and briefly explained how to make the dangerous drug.
He showed the officers how to read air-quality levels with a meter and explained steps to secure a meth lab scene. The first steps are to ventilate the area and establish downwind points to take hazardous materials.
State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous said this is the first time the academy has brought in an expert to train officers in meth control. He said that, normally, officers would be sent out of state for certification classes.
The need for more certified officers is rising as methamphetamine labs have become more common in West Virginia, Baylous said. More than a decade ago, very few state authorities had experience working around meth labs.
"I know an officer who had to retire because of all the breathing problems he developed being around these meth labs," Baylous said.
The meth makers have since become more sophisticated and the ingredients have become more readily available, State Police Sgt. Michael Smith said.