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Panhandle First Responders to Get Meth Lab Training

10/4/2005

CONTACT: 
Nina Banister     
(850) 413-2842
  
DESTIN—About 100 first responders from throughout Northwest Florida began a three-day training program today on how to identify, investigate and dismantle a methamphetamine laboratory.  The State Fire Marshal's Office is providing the program for free to help prepare law enforcement officers and firefighters to respond to meth labs housing combustible chemicals and deadly booby traps. 
 
 "Methamphetamine addiction tears families apart and destroys lives," said Tom Gallagher, who serves as state fire marshal and initiated the free training.  "And those who make meth are the equivalent to the makers of any terrorist bomb anywhere in the world."
 
The meth lab program will be held at the Destin Community Center located at 101 Stahlman Ave.   The program will begin each day at 8 a.m. and will include nationally recognized instructors on topics ranging from how methamphetamine is manufactured to hazard assessment and evidence handling.  Instructors are being provided by the Multi-Jurisdictional Counter Drug Task Force, which is a partnership between the Florida National Guard and St. Petersburg College. 
 
This is the fourth meth lab training program the State Fire Marshal's Office has hosted this year, and others are scheduled into next year around the state.  To see the schedule or learn more about this issue, visit www.fldfs.com/fightmeth.
 
In August, Gallagher announced an expanded, comprehensive strategy to combat methamphetamine, including a call for increased coordination between state agencies, the creation of a Meth Strike Force, increased criminal penalties for meth producers, and the establishment of trust funds to clean up meth lab sites and help meth victims, including children.  More than half of children found in meth labs test positive for the drug. 
 
A recent survey by the Drug Enforcement Administration showed that the number of meth labs found in Florida jumped from 28 in 2001 to 332 in 2004.  The State Fire Marshal's Office has responded to more than 40 fires or explosions at meth labs in less than two years. 
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. Gallagher also serves as the State Fire Marshal.