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By Don M. McNulty

We’ve been cleaning up after our dead since Cane and Abel. But it wasn’t until 1993 that the first company began as a dedicated service to the community. At first it was a dedicated service born from a janitorial company that received many calls for help from people mainly for cleanup services mainly for suicides. Research for these types of companies within the city the janitorial company was operating, they found no one that would be able to help.

Further research could not find any companies in the United States dedicated to this work.

What he did find the victims of traumatic death were left to beg, borrow, or steal anyone they could press into service. Usually, those were friends, friends of friends, or more distant relatives. If those contacts couldn’t be found willing, then the family members had to perform the cleanup themselves. Even if they found someone not connected to the immediate family to help — most only did what we call the gross removal. There was still plenty of work left for the family to do to finish the job. 

One can only imagine the toll on the family involved in this cleanup and restoration of the structure.

Over the years I’ve been able to interview family members who had to do their own cleaning and restoration and I would always walk away with a sense of sadness about what they went through.

At first the original company was born from a profit motive. But it wasn’t long before the owner realized — as most company owners now have found — this is a community service to help hurting families and not just a job to be done.

Unlike the helpful folks who tried to help families if they could, this industry had to develop procedures and protocols to make sure the work was complete, leaving no trace of the incident to further traumatize the loved ones. 

We found early on most of the work is covered by property insurance that covered not only the remediation and cleaning of the incident but the restoration of the damaged area(s). 

Nothing in the world dealing with human trauma is inexpensive and it can be a hardship for some to cover the whole cost of cleanup and restoration. 

Most people believe that these crime and trauma death scene cleaning (CTS) companies just clean. It was unfortunate that the beginning companies had the term cleaning attached to the name. Hence the misunderstanding of what work is really performed. 

Blood and bodily fluids move mush like water damage. But much of the work isn’t connected to cleaning. Most of the time I describe it as controlled demolition. Usually, carpet and pad need removal, as it cannot be cleaned. Carpet is a wick. When liquid hits the top the carpet fiber begins to wick the liquid down into the carpet. 

Once it hits the primary backing it wicks laterally and spreads out. Many times, this spreading can’t be seen from the top. But I’ve seen a spot on the top of the carpet that appears to be no larger than a dinner plate, whereas underneath there’s a pool of blood and bodily fluids four or more feet in diameter. In most of those cases the blood has traveled on to the subfloor or many times a hardwood floor then down to the subfloor.

Now the technicians will have to remove the affected carpet and pad and place it in a biohazard container. Then they set up containments to create and negative air chamber of the room and using saws cutting and removing the hardwood flooring. One some occasions they even remove subflooring so they can remediate floor joist. 

If this area has an apartment or another level under this primary floor, they will investigate to make sure the contamination hasn’t proceeded down to the lower levels.

At times there are surfaces that make it difficult to see the blood and bodily fluids on the surface. We’ve discovered we could use an inexpensive blood indicator that will show exactly where the blood or any bodily fluid containing blood serum is so we can find every small spec of contamination.

CTS companies may use different methods to clean and remediate walls and ceilings, but the result is usually the same. All traces of contamination are wholly removed. 

If the area of concern incorporates concrete substrates in the early days this was a problem but over time the industry developed products and utilized them so we can remove the blood staining in concrete and many other substrates that were problematic in the beginning.

Movies can be very entertaining, but they are not reality. In one movie called the Cleaner with Samuel L. Jackson as the leading star in the opening scene he called to clean a white sofa covered in blood. Lo and behold he returns it to its former beauty, a pristine white sofa.

Like I said, it’s not reality. Those pieces of upholstered furniture will be slashed and trashed, with the contaminated areas placed in a biohazard container. 

There are occasions where the contamination is very slight and on the surface of an upholstered piece, on occasion the technicians may be able to recover such a piece for the family. Antiques, art, and jewelry are handled differently. As is anything else that holds real or perceived value to the family. Even though the family may be reeling with grief — the industry standard dictates all things that may be recognized to hold some intrinsic value will be set aside until a determination can be made by the responsible person. 

Our technicians are trained in many things to do this work properly and keep themselves and everyone else who comes into the work site safe.

Because our technicians come into contact daily with Bloodborne Pathogens and other Infectious materials they are trained in various OSHA Standards such as.

The Bloodborne Pathogen Rule 1910.1030

        Biohazard containment
        Proper biohazard Disposal
        Epidemiology (how disease Transfers
        Proper cleaning and disinfection techniques
Personal Protective Equipment 1910.132
The Respiratory Rule 1910.134
The Hazardous Material Right-to-Know Rule 1910.1200
Fall Protection 1926.500

Plus, several others such as, General Safety and Health, Work surfaces, Care and handling of Tools, Ladders and Scaffolds, Hearing Protection, etc. 

How to properly dismantle and remove flooring of every type.

American Architecture Standards for building and construction materials and substrates for residential and commercial construction.
Placing proper containment and creating Negative air chambers to minimize cross contamination.
Proper removal techniques of biohazards from the structure.

Dealing with the bereaved and handling stressful situations.

Of course, there are a hundred other things to know that come from experience in the field. 

This article has given you the basis of a professional Crime and Trauma Scene Cleanup Company. Don’t try to handle these incidents on your own. Turning to a professional in these situations is really the best thing to do.

If you find yourself or someone close to you dealing with a traumatic loss, please give us a call at 1-800-909-2939 or contact us through this website.