NES Awarded DEA Clandestine Laboratory Training Contract

Written by: Joe Mangiardi, NES, Inc.



Written by: Joe Mangiardi, NES, Inc.

NES Clandestine Laboratory Training Participants in PPE Pictured above, clandestine laboratory training participants in level A personal protective equipment (PPE) strike a pose in front of the NES office in Folsom, California.


DEA Renews Clandestine Laboratory Training Contract with NES

On December 1, 2017 NES was awarded a clandestine laboratory training contract with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) carrying a maximum value of nearly $13.4 million over the next five years. With this contract NES (legal name ‘Network Environmental Systems, Inc.’) extends its already 30-year tenure as the firm DEA has been using to provide clandestine laboratory training since the inception of the program in 1987.

The catalog of courses sought after by DEA under the renewed contract includes Clandestine Laboratory Safety Certification, Site Safety Officer, Site Safety Officer Advanced, and Container Management courses, which have previously been conducted by NES as part of the DEA clandestine laboratory training program. However, with the new contract DEA has opted to expand the catalog of courses available for agency personnel. NES is now contracted to provide Advanced Clandestine Laboratory, Clandestine Laboratory Recertification, Confined Space, and Container Management Recertification courses.

The awarding of this contract to NES was featured in the January 15, 2018 Sacramento Business Journal article Folsom Company Nabs $13.4 Million Federal Drug Lab Training Contract. NES Clan Lab Program Manager and Principal Instructor Brian Escamilla was interviewed for the article, stating, “Clandestine laboratory training and certification are required under Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] guidelines for federal agents who investigate and clean up drug labs . . . The NES training starts with correct protocols for donning protective clothing and respirators, then moves on to collecting evidence and stabilizing the lab, and ends with cleaning up.” As the article mentions, this training is provided for DEA primarily in Quantico, Virginia, but NES regularly trains law enforcement personnel and other first responders on the dangers of illicit drug labs in numerous locations across the United States and internationally.


What is a Clandestine Laboratory?

Clandestine laboratory, or clan lab, is a term used to refer to an illicit drug manufacturing operation. These are typically very hazardous environments due to the toxic chemicals used to synthesize such illegal drugs as methamphetamine, PCP, fentanyl analogs, and various other synthetic opioids.

Even improperly managed marijuana grows can present biological hazards (mold) and chemical hazards (pesticides). Appreciating marijuana grow hazards is becoming increasingly relevant in a landscape that sees California and other states legalizing and regulating the marijuana industry. Regulatory agencies will need to train their personnel on how to identify, recognize, and protect themselves from the physical and chemical hazards inherent to many marijuana cultivation and extraction operations. (To provide for this need, NES has designed a course entitled Marijuana Grow Hazards Safety Training for Regulators.)

In short, as the Sacramento Business Journal article reports from the interview with Escamilla, “One thing most illegal drug labs have in common is that they are dangerous environments filled with volatile and hazardous materials.” NES is committed to helping all personnel affected, or potentially affected, by these hazards stay as safe and protected as possible.


Clandestine Laboratory Training Prepares First Responders

Clandestine laboratory training prepares first responders and other affected personnel for encounters with potentially hazardous sites such as the one shown here.


NES and DEA: A History of Clandestine Laboratory Training

The history of NES providing clandestine laboratory training for DEA goes back to the foundational years of the program. In 1986 DEA initiated the research and development process for a clandestine laboratory safety program, an effort that largely coincided with OSHA’s endeavor to establish the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard, a collection of safety mandates for hazardous waste workers now widely known and adhered to throughout many industries.

Click here to view NES’ open enrollment HAZWOPER training course listings.

The HAZWOPER standard, which primarily regulates workers responding to chemical release emergencies and/or performing remediation operations at hazardous waste sites, was determined by DEA to apply in many significant ways to the seizure, investigation, and processing of clandestine laboratory sites. Notably, the HAZWOPER standard requires certain employers to develop and maintain a safety program consisting of elements such as medical surveillance for assigned personnel, initial safety training, and an annual refresher that further mirrored the areas DEA was looking to cover.

These similarities suggested the need for a complex training program tailored to the unique specifications of law enforcement that landed squarely in the burgeoning areas of expertise of NES, which was at that time a newly founded company. As a result, beginning in the late 1980s, NES became, and has continued to be, instrumental to DEA in helping the agency design and implement its Clandestine Laboratory Safety Certification Program (in fact, the first ten sessions of Clandestine Laboratory Basic Safety Training were conducted in Sacramento by NES). The product has been an ever-evolving suite of safety training courses that draw from pertinent OSHA, DOT, and EPA regulatory requirements to ensure law enforcement personnel are properly trained on how to safely approach and assess a known or potential clandestine laboratory site, how to handle and transport hazardous materials evidence, and how to deliver credible expert testimony in a court of law.


The Opioid Epidemic and Fentanyl for First Responders Training

As reported by NES in the July 20, 2017 article Increased Access to Naloxone is Saving Lives, the opioid epidemic is ravaging the United States and beyond in a critical and woefully unanticipated manner. Some notable statistics from the article include:

  • In 2015 more than 33,000 Americans died from a combination of prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly processed fentanyl.
  • In 2015 an estimated two million Americans struggled with prescription opioid drug use disorders.
  • Between 1999 and 2015 more than 183,000 Americans have died from opioids and opioid-related causes.
  • More than 90 Americans die from opioid overdose on a daily basis.
  • The epidemic imposes a $78.5 billion annual economic burden on the U.S.
  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent of opioid patients develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

Given this alarming trend, the need for information about the drugs behind this epidemic may be more critical now than it has ever been. Focusing on fentanyl, the now-infamous frontrunner in the current drug abuse landscape, NES has developed a series of training courses entitled Fentanyl for First Responders. Popularly presented by NES on numerous occasions throughout recent years as a 2-hour webinar, in-class courses have now been established in 2-, 4-, and 8-hour iterations, varying by subject matter depth, detail, and hands-on activities.

These fentanyl courses incorporate the most recent scientific narcotic data, field testing equipment, and personal protective equipment (PPE) available for students to better prepare themselves for the hazards that exist in the narcotics field today. They are designed for patrol officers, clan lab responders, narcotics and clan lab investigators, firefighters, code enforcement employees, social workers, EMS personnel, hazmat operators, SWAT team members, or any other HAZWOPER-certified first responders who handle suspected fentanyl or fentanyl synthetics and other related clandestine operations. Courses involve classroom and live practical training on the history, dangers, toxicology, sampling, PPE, site control, and protocols for assessing and processing fentanyl synthesis operations. Fentanyl analogs and other synthetic opiate drugs as well as the use of naloxone are also covered.


NES Clandestine Laboratory Training: Continuing the Tradition

NES thoroughly appreciates DEA’s commitment to ensuring the health and safety of law enforcement personnel and strongly believes that the same commitment is reflected in the approach taken by our Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) and instructors in designing and delivering the most comprehensive clandestine laboratory training courses available for the past 30 years. NES continues to lead the world in clandestine laboratory safety training for first responders in law enforcement, hazmat, firefighter, and civil support teams. We provide training programs and products for first responders to clandestine laboratories, chemical suicides, marijuana grows, marijuana extraction labs, and other potentially hazardous sites. (Visit the NES clandestine laboratory page for additional information.)

NES regularly provides on-site and open enrollment clan lab courses to law enforcement and first responder personnel across the nation and internationally. To learn more about our clan lab training and consulting capabilities, contact NES at 916-353-2360 / 1.800.NES.ADVISE (1.800.637.2384) or



Sacramento Business Journal Article: Folsom Company Nabs $13.4 Million Federal Drug Lab Training Contract