For St. Louis Crime Scene Cleanup services, please call the professional crime scene cleanup team you can trust at Benecorp (877) 305-1095 for 24/7 assistance.
How Crime Scene Cleanup Works
Death, people say, can be messy. It’s bandied about in a figurative way, as in the complexities of human existence. But death can be literally messy, and shockingly so. As in blood on the living room walls. Hiring a St. Louis Crime Scene Cleanup team such as Benecorp can help.
Most of us, if we’re lucky, only know this from TV. “CSI” and “Law & Order” show us all the post-death activity. Police officers, paramedics, crime-scene investigators and coroners are at the scene of a violent incident, checking the victim, questioning, collecting evidence, recording the scene and finally removing the body. What you seldom see on TV is what happens after that: All those professionals gone, family members standing in a room still covered in blood, facing the prospect of living, even temporarily, with that scene. Because one thing those professionals do not do is clean it up.
Removing the evidence of a violent death is the responsibility of the victim’s family. And as recently as the early 2000s, there were very few cleaning companies that would handle that kind of job, so the family members had to do it themselves – an almost unimaginable task for the shocked and grieving. If ever there were a situation begging for capitalism to step in, this was it.
The late ’90s saw the birth of a whole new industry called crime scene clean-up. That’s the common name, anyway. It’s more accurately called CTS decon – crime and trauma scene decontamination – since most of the events these cleaners deal with aren’t crimes [source: Whitmarsh]. But crime or not, mopping up after a traumatic death is not only a potentially horrific task. It also requires a significant amount of training and special knowledge to complete properly, and companies charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their service. Most people, though, would pay even more. The job is hazardous, grueling and not for the faint-of-heart. Or stomach.
Crime scene cleanup is a niche market within the cleaning industry, and it involves cleaning up dangerous material. This could mean the biologically contaminated scene of a violent death (homicide, suicide or accidental), the chemically contaminated scene of a methamphetamine lab, or an anthrax exposure site [source: Sahadi]. Crime scene cleanup experts come in and restore the scene to its pre-incident state, known in the business as remediation.
When a violent death occurs in someone’s home, the family typically doesn’t move out [source: Darr]. The cleaners’ job is to remove any sign of what happened and any biohazards that resulted from it. Federal regulations deem all bodily fluids to be biohazards, so any blood or tissue at a crime scene is considered a potential source of infection. You need special knowledge to safely handle biohazardous material and to know what to look for at the scene – for instance, if there’s a thumbnail-size bloodstain on the carpet, there’s a good chance that there’s a 2-foot-diameter bloodstain on the floorboards underneath it. You can’t just clean the carpet and call it a day. You also need permits to transport and dispose of biohazardous waste. CTS decon specialists have all of the necessary permits, training and, perhaps most important, willingness to handle material that would send most of us running out the door to throw up in the bushes. A lot of them come from medical fields that prepare them for the gore — they may have been EMTs or emergency room nurses. A construction background is helpful, too, because some clean-ups (especially meth labs) require walls and built-in structures to be removed.
While crime scene cleanup companies will clean up practically anything, the most common scenes they’re called in to address are suicides, accidents and “unattended deaths” (a.k.a. decomposing bodies), according to Andrew Whitworth of Aftermath, Inc., an Illinois-based remediation company. And they arrive at these scenes with an enormous body of equipment. Once they assess the damage, they decide which tools will help them them return the room, house or business to its pre-incident state. The gear they choose from typically includes:
•Personal protective gear: a non-porous, one-time-use suit; gloves; filtered respirators and chemical-spill boots
•Biohazard waste containers: 55-gallon (208 liter) heavy duty bags and sealed, hard plastic containers
•Traditional cleaning supplies: mops, buckets, spray bottles, sponges, brushes
Hard-core cleaning supplies (can include):
•Ozone machine (to remove odors)
•Foggers (to thicken a cleaning chemical so it can get all the way into tight places like air ducts, usually for odor removal)
•Enzyme solvent (to kill bacteria and viruses and liquefy dried blood)
•No-touch cleaning system (to clean blood-coated surfaces from a safe distance – includes heavy-duty sprayer, long scrubbing brush, wet vacuum)
•Putty knives (to scrape up brain matter, which dries into a cement-like consistency)
•Razor blades (to cut out portions of carpet)
•Shovels (in about two hours, large amounts of blood coagulate into a jelly-like goo that can be shoveled into bags)
•Truck-mounted steam-injection machine (to melt dried brain matter that cleaners can’t remove with putty knives)
•Chemical treatment tank (to disinfect and store matter sucked up by vacuum systems)
Carpentry/restoration tools: sledgehammers, saws, spackle, paint brushes
•Camera (to take before-and-after shots for insurance purposes)
•Van or truck for transporting all of the tools and for hauling waste to a disposal site
Each type of clean-up scene comes with its own unique horrors. In the case of a violent death, there are bodily fluids to deal with, each tiny drop carrying the possibility of infectious disease. In something like a suicide where a person cuts his wrists or shoots himself in the head, there’s tons of blood; if someone is shot in the chest, though, there’s very little blood because the lungs suck it in. But no matter how much of it there is, the cleaners have to approach it as if it were carrying bloodborne pathogens like HIV, hepatitis and hantavirus.
That’s part of why crime-scene restoration is a specialty in the cleaning industry. It has to go beyond cosmetic.
The Hazards: Blood and Guts
The site of a messy death poses dangers not everyone can see. In addition to the infection that can result from bloodborne pathogens, any bodily fluids that remain in floors, baseboards or walls can end up making people sick months or years later. The area has to be truly clean, not just apparently clean.
Cleaning up after a violent death can take anywhere from one hour to 40 hours or more [source: Sahadi]. It all depends on the type of trauma and the amount of biohazardous material at the site. Cleaners use hospital-grade disinfectant to wipe or scrub every drop of blood from all surfaces, including counters, ceilings, walls, light fixtures, glass trinkets, family pictures, artwork and appliances. They scrape brain matter off of walls and collect any bone fragments embedded in the drywall. They rip out and discard blood-soaked carpeting and remove blood-soaked upholstery, window treatments or rugs. Sometimes, they need to collect and remove small pieces of the body – the coroner takes most of it, but if it was a particularly violent death, there may parts left behind.
The Hazards: Poison
In terms of health risks, a meth lab clean-up is about as scary as it gets. The laundry list of poisons used to make street-grade methamphetamine (including acetone, methanol, ammonia, benzene, iodine and hydrochloric acid) leaves a toxic residue that coats and infuses every surface and stays in the air. Most of these poisonous substances are absorbed through the skin, making a meth lab one of the most dangerous places a person can walk into. Exposure to a meth lab can cause reproductive disorders, birth defects, blindness, lung damage, liver damage and kidney damage, and that’s just for starters. The scene remains toxic indefinitely unless it’s properly cleaned – an apartment that housed a meth lab can make its tenants sick a decade after the lab has been removed.
Proper clean-up of a meth lab involves disposing of everything porous and everything that can’t be submerged in detoxification chemicals (several times). Crime-scene cleaners get rid of all furniture, cabinetry, light fixtures, carpeting, electronics, basically everything that isn’t part of the structure. And in the worst cases, they also dispose of most of the structure – they sometimes have to pull up all of the flooring and gut the walls, removing all of the drywall until nothing remains but studs [source: International Association of Firefighters]. Article source: science.howstuffworks.com