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Handheld ResQ prevents panic at Nashville courthouse

Jen Lynch
Jen Lynch
Marketing Director

Handheld ResQ in use on table with envelope and white powder.April 8, 2022 - A staff member held an envelope in her trembling hands. Inside was white powder and a complaint conveyed in letters cut from a magazine.

An evacuation alert sounded at the Nashville Metro Courthouse.

Hazmat officers arrived soon after. The woman who opened the envelope was still waiting for an ambulance, thinking she could die.

The team went to work with their dependable ResQ handheld spectrometer. They scanned through the envelope and got results in seconds. 

It was a false alarm.

“We were able to go in and assuage her fears with relative ease and quickness,” said Captain Michael Armistead of Nashville Fire Department Special Operations. “We even showed her on the ResQ screen that it was just a harmless household product. She was able to catch her breath and realize that it was OK, she wasn't dying.”

Advanced handheld analyzers increase safety and security

Handheld ResQ device on table with testing equipment in background.

This wasn’t a serious threat, but that’s not always the case. The Nashville team investigates overdoses, meth labs and other dangerous cases every day.

Potent narcotics like fentanyl are common. Officers fear accidentally absorbing these drugs through inhalation or skin contact. They need to know exactly what they’re dealing with to ensure safety.

Nashville’s hazmat team takes solace with a dependable ResQ on each of their trucks. 

This allows officers to perform a contact-free test in a few minutes, including unloading and prep time. 

Black gloved hands using handheld ResQ on substance.

The onboard library contains over 13,000 substances — the most on the market. It includes every known narcotic, explosives and other hazardous substances. It also features a durable construction, built-in camera and court-admissible data. 

The ResQ is recognized by the U.S. Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) as a class A analytical technique for presumptive field testing.

“We deal with fentanyl overdoses daily,” Armistead said. “It's great to have Rigaku for peace of mind, not just for the people who are affected, but especially for the firefighters and police who are responding to these.”

It wasn’t always so easy for the hazmat team. 

Armistead remembers when the risk of exposure was far greater. Before the ResQ, his teams were equipped with old infrared spectrometers that required officers to open containers and retrieve samples by hand. 

Then, results took upwards of an hour.

That would’ve caused a lot more stress for the staffer at the courthouse.

Certainty in the field for years to come

Handheld ResQ in use on table with envelope and white powder.

The Nashville hazmat team uses a strict system to ensure safety at every scene.

They check for adequate oxygen levels, as well as volatile organic compounds, explosives, toxins and radiation. 

Then it’s time to pull out the ResQ to scan a suspected drug or precursor sample.  

The Raman analyzer is a part of Nashville’s three-factor authentication system. The system also includes a handheld mass spec device and a handheld FTIR. 

Of the three, Armstead said the ResQ is the fastest and simplest. It’s also the only analyzer that includes frequent database updates.

Overpower fluorescent interference, scan through containers

Armistead said his old Raman units were susceptible to fluorescent interference. That caused some tricky operations. But that’s in the past. 

The 1064 nm Raman laser of the Rigaku ResQ overpowers fluorescence interference and scans right through translucent containers.

“We used to take our fire coats and drape it over the old machine to block fluorescence,” Armistead said. “And then it would take three hours to tell you what the thing was. That’s way too long to do a public safety sample. With the Rigaku’s stronger laser and ease of function, it's a night and day difference between the old and new technology.”

Easy training and operation for everyone on the team

The Nashville team only had their Raman units a short time before the courthouse call. Fortunately, that’s plenty of time. Officers can master the ResQ in just a couple hours.

“Learning to use the ResQ is very easy,” Armistead said. “It’s firefighter friendly when it comes to ease of learning and functionality.”

All 80 Nashville hazmat officers are trained on the ResQ. Armistead said many prefer it over other analyzers because it’s so simple to use. 

“There are some analyzers out there that you just can’t navigate easily,” Armistead said. “Rigaku’s ease of function seems to be what they all like in the field.”

Word to the wise: Invest in a library with free updates

Handheld ResQ in use on table with envelope and white powder.

Armistead recommends the ResQ to any hazmat team leader looking for reliable analyzers. 

Its durable design and free database updates allow your investment to pay off for years to come. 

“We’re really pleased with the Rigaku, so I would definitely steer hazmat leaders toward them,” Armistead said. “Not just because the Rigaku is quick, it's reliable, durable. But the free update of the library is huge. A lot of departments need to raise money just to buy these instruments. It's really hard for them to spend another $3,000, $5,000 every year for software updates. It’s tremendous that Rigaku provides them for free.”

Try a ResQ for yourself

Learn about everything the ResQ handheld 1064nm Raman analyzer has to offer your hazmat team.

Demo units are available. See what your officers think of this advanced technology, free of charge. A local representative will contact you to schedule an in-person or virtual demonstration.

Check out our learning center to read more about advanced handheld Raman spectrometers. You’ll find useful information about working with explosives, narcotics, chemical agents and more.