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Public safety Ganim: Bridgeport ready if drug outbreak hits here

August 17, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — On the day Fire Chief Richard Thode received a national fire safety award, he, the mayor and Bridgeport’s director of emergency management took the opportunity to warn residents about synthentic marijuana.

“If you are someone who could be someone who indulges in something like this and think its nonchalant, think about it twice,” Mayor Joseph Ganim warned. “This is life-threatening, could be life-altering...this is serious...whether we are prepared or not to respond.”

Their comments came during a week in which more than 100 people required medical treatment after using synthetic marijuana on the New Haven Green.

Both Thode and Scott Appleby, the city’s director of emergency management and homeland security, said Bridgeport has a mass-casualty plan in place should something similar happen here. The city’s plan was developed during the years of the Gathering of the Vibes concerts in Seaside Park. Many overdoses occurred during that annual weekend event, which is no longer part of Bridgeport’s summer.

Even without the Vibes, “the Bridgeport Fire Department responds to 10,000 calls for medical assistance every year,” Thode said. “All our trucks are equipped with defibrillators and Narcan — which is used to counteract opioid overdoses.”

Thode said every apparatus carries multiple doses of Narcan both to be used on the victim and if necessary for firefighters should they be accidentally exposed to fentanyl.

The New Haven Green crisis apparently involved synthetic marijuana, or K2, not opioids. But Thode said that if a similar event happened in Bridgeport, his department would work closely with the police and American Medical Response teams. If necessary, they could call for help from fire departments in nearby towns, he said.

he also said the city’s NexGen radio reporting system would pinpoint outbreak areas quickly.

Moments earlier, Ganim presented Thode with a glass crystal plaque and a fire bell mounted statue from the International Association of Fire Chiefs. The Alan Brunacini Executive Safety Award is presented annually to a chief who exhibits a commitment to fire service, safety, health and survival in his department.

During his time as chief, Thode has obtained grants, traded-in old equipment and purchased new equipment within his budget constraints. These include complete second set of turn-out gear for each firefighter and an extractor to remove contaminants from used gear.

He’s also obtained new radios, new X3 air packs and compressors to fill them, rapid-intervention kits and special meters that check for cyanide in smoke.

“We know we have an outstanding individual leading our department,” Ganim said. “But when peers around the country recognize you...that is probably...the greatest kind of pat on the back award.”

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