A death in the family is something difficult to accept and if the cause is something violent like a homicide or a murder, the grief can be harder to bear. How many times have we heard a home becoming a crime scene? The ghastly details will never be erased from the memory of the family but at least, traces of which in the home can be removed.
Now where do you start? Who do you call? A crime scene cleanup team is probably not on top of your emergency call list. Such tragedies are something we never prepare for. So the best thing to do is to get a referral from the authorities. The police have experience on getting a crime scene cleanup crew take over cleaning duties so they have contacts as to the best company there is.
If all else fails, try the yellow pages. Undoubtedly, they would not give you a list of their clients and the clients themselves would probably not give you the time of day. Study the company by finding out how long they have been in the business and shoot questions at them that would give you peace of mind like how many clients have they had. Remember that these people would be spending time at your home. Your home has already been violated once; you do not want it to be violated yet again by strangers.
Crime scene cleanup companies have different specializations so it would be best to ask what type of job they cater to. Cleanup scenes include any of the following: a decomp or a decomposing body, death by homicide, suicide or accidental, and methamphetamine labs. Decomps and violent deaths would require that the cleanup crew know how to deal with biohazards. Body fluids and tissue are biohazards that can be source of infections. For methamphetamine labs, the scene is chemically contaminated and safety measures such as the wearing of a body suit, gloves, boots, and goggles would be needed. Exposure to these chemicals can be lethal to individuals.
Infectious diseases and microbes can live on the bodily fluids left after a violent death such as hepatitis, HIV and E.coli. It is especially difficult to clean this up if the area of the crime is hardwood floor where blood can seep through right quickly. These areas are also susceptible to become breeding grounds of bacteria, mold, and fungus. Dried blood that starts to flake can become airborne and cause infectious diseases. And sometimes, bone fragments and human matter can be too small too see that usual cleaning is not just enough.
This also holds true for decomp scenes where the skin has started to liquefy and permeate the surrounding areas. Worse, maggots may have already started to live in the decomposing body. The smell, which is actually ammonia that was released once a body starts decomposition, would be terrible. It is important to note that crime scene cleanup also eradicates the bad smell that may have been left behind by the crime.
Crime scenes that involve methamphetamine labs may not be as gruesome as compared to violent death and decomp scenes but the toxicity level is just as bad. Actually, this type of scene has a lot of stuff to be disposed and destroyed, especially porous materials such as paper, textiles, and upholstered furniture. The health of the individuals who may have been exposed is at risk due to the possible chemical contamination. Methamphetamines are composed of methanol, hydrochloric acid, benzene, ammonia, and iodine; the residue of which can seep through the floor, the walls, and can even poison the air. If absorbed by the body, these can cause respiratory problems and defects. The most serious of health risks are liver damage, blindness, and lung problems.
Before choosing the right company for you, ask how fast they can work on the crime scene. Find out the number personnel that the company will be sending over. Better yet, they should be able to have someone at your place as soon as possible to survey and find out the extent of the damage and the amount of work to be done. This way, the company can give you a time line on how fast they can work on the scene.
Remember that cleanup should be done once the police have given the signal to the family that it can be done already. Of course this means that the investigation has already been completed. Call up a crew at once since biohazards may seep through surface areas very easily and removal and restoration of which can be difficult to do. Sometimes, things would have to be taken apart, like floorboards, and replaced. Depending on how serious the incident is, the crime scene cleanup time can range from one hour to 40 hours.
What to Expect from the Cleanup Team
The crime scene cleanup crew will come in with their own gears, equipment, and tools. They usually drive to the scene in a van that also doubles for hauling the stuff they would have to dispose of from the scene. They would be bringing:
* Protective Gear Consisting of Long Gloves, Respirators, and Chemical-Spill Boots – these are used to protect the crew member from the hazard of chemicals or infections from bodily fluids, tissues, and the foul smell
* Cleaning Agent – this includes solvent and disinfectants (hospital grade)
* Cleaning Machines – this may be ozone machines and even foggers that could help remove the smell of biohazards and disinfect as well
* Usual Home Cleaning Devices – this consists of mops, ladders, buckets, and brushes used to do the actual cleaning of the areas affected by the crime
* Garbage bags – this are used to store the waste or items needed disposal such as affected furniture, contaminated cleaning apparatus
Other useful disinfectants include:
Low Level Disinfectant
* Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
Intermediate Level Disinfectant
* Iodine and Iodophor Disinfectants
High Level Disinfectant
* Peracetic Acid
* Peracetic Acid and Hydrogen Peroxide
Whatever it takes to remove the evidence of the crime is handled by the cleanup crew whichever way they can. This includes eradicating the smell that goes with it. It is important to note that cleanup crews bring their own cleaning materials and do not make use of what is found in the home. This is to avoid contamination. Those that may have been contaminated will always have to be disposed.
Securing your Properties
Before hiring the company, you have to be assured of the security of your property and possessions. Naturally, crime scene cleanup companies have bonds and are insured from such things. As precautionary measure, owners are asked to write down their belongings in the area where the crew will work and photos are taken appropriately for proper documentation. The inventory list will be checked by both the company representative and owner.
Another security issue is to ensure that your home is safe for habitation once again. Check with the crime scene cleanup company their protocols and whether they adhere to the guidelines set by OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standards. These standards set the how potentially biohazards should be dealt with through the use of protective equipment during the cleanup procedure. In general OSHA states that:
Universal precautions shall be observed to prevent contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials. Under circumstances in which differentiation between body fluid types is difficult or impossible, all body fluids shall be considered potentially infectious materials.
Since you are looking at a professional cleanup job, the price can be exorbitant. Normally, crime scene cleanup companies charge up to 600 dollars for each hour of work. Sometimes, the price can add up to 3000 dollars especially if the affected area is blood-soaked. Since the work is on a per hour basis, the speed on getting the job done plays an important factor. You have to agree with the company on the number of hours they would have to spend in doing the actual cleanup.
During the period of the cleanup, family members are advised to be away from the cleanup scene. This is for safety purposes because as previously discussed; biohazards are present and may cause infection. Only the cleanup crew is allowed on the scene as they are properly geared and equipped to do the job.
When choosing the right company for you to do the job, speed and quality are the factors you should be looking at. How quickly the cleanup crew can do the job is important so that the biohazards would not cause further damage to the home. Also, speed affects the cost of the whole activity. The quality of cleaning done is non-negotiable. Although some areas will never be the same, the family should be able to let go of the contaminated possessions, as well as give consent to dismantle floorboards and remove wallpapers. In the long run, these affected materials will become a cause of concern since these could become breeding grounds for bacteria, molds, and other possible pathogens.