What to Expect
CTS Decon — crime and trauma scene decontamination — involves cleaning up dangerous material. This could mean the biologically contaminated scene of a violent death (homicide, suicide or accidental) or the chemically contaminated scene of a methamphetamine lab or anthrax-exposure site. Crime scene cleanup cleaners come in and restore the scene to its pre-incident state.
When a violent death occurs in someone’s home, the family typically doesn’t move out of the house. The cleaners’ job is to remove any sign of what happened and any biohazards that result from such an incident. 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. Companies that clean up crime scenes 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.
What can you expect from your Crime Scene Cleaners?
Below are the steps involved in the clean up process
1. Contact Service – When you call our service you will be both efficient and sensitive. We understand that at this time you are grieving. We will get all the information we need from you with a minimum of intrusion into your grief.
2. Arrange a Time to Come Clean That Works for You – usually the sooner the better but we will work with you.
3. Upon Arrival – Crime scene cleanup cleaners are usually “secondary responders” — they arrive after the police, firefighters, paramedics and coroner. The scene is typically already secured, but the clean-up crew needs to confirm this and continue to make sure the public can’t enter the scene, because it’s a biohazard.
4. What the Cleaners Will Bring With Them – Crime scene clean up comes with it’s own special equipment needs. These include
a. Personal protective gear – a non-porous, one-time-use suit, gloves, filtered respirators and chemical-spill boots
b. Biohazard waste containers – 55-gallon heavy duty bags and sealed, hard-plastic containers
c. Traditional cleaning supplies – Mops, buckets, spray bottles, sponges, brushes, etc.
d. In addition some other equipment can include:
i) Ozone machine (to remove odors)
ii) Foggers (to thicken a cleaning chemical so it can get all the way into tight places like air ducts, usually for odor removal)
iii) Hospital-grade disinfectants (bleach, hydrogen peroxide)
iv) Industrial-strength deodorizers
v) Enzyme solvent (to kill bacteria and viruses and liquify dried blood)
vi) No-touch cleaning system (to clean blood-coated surfaces from a safe distance — includes heavy-duty sprayer, long scrubbing brush, wet vacuum)
vii) Razor blades (to cut out portions of carpet)
ix) Truck-mounted steam-injection machine
x) Chemical treatment tank (to disinfect and store matter collected by vacuum systems)
xi) Carpentry/restoration tools – sledgehammers, saws, spackle, paint brushes
xiii) Camera (to take before-and-after shots for insurance purposes)
xiv) Van or truck for transporting all of this stuff (and hauling waste to disposal site after clean-up)
The thing about crime scene clean up is that the scene has to be truly clean, not just apparently clean. In addition to the infection that can result from bloodborne pathogens, any bodily fluids that remain in floors, carpets, baseboards or walls can lead to mold, bacteria and fungus, which can cause sickness months or years later.
5. Issues Involved with Your Particular Type of Cleanup
i) Violent death (homicide/suicide/accidental)
In the case of a violent death, there are bodily fluids to deal with, each tiny drop carrying germs, bacteria and, possibly, infectious diseases. 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, herpes, E.coli and hantavirus.
ii) Decomp (a decomposing body)
In a decomp, the scene is usually not quite as spread out as in a violent death, but a decomposing body can be even more gruesome than a suicide. A body that has been deceased for days, weeks or months has gone through some changes. In decomposition, the body swells, insects move in, the organs digest themselves and the skin liquifies. It’s not pretty, but most people will tell you that the sight of a decomposing body can’t compare to the smell.Most people are brought to their knees by that smell, which is partly a result of ammonia gas released during decomposition. The coroner removes the body before the clean-up starts, but usually leaves behind lots of liquefied body matter and odors as well as maggots that are carrying the person’s blood. In addition to cleaning up the mess, cleaners sometimes have to track down and kill (by burning) any maggots that scurry out of the body and try to hide, because they’re carrying germs and might be carrying viruses.
iii) Methamphetamine labs
Cleaning of a methamphetamine lab, while not gory, is often a lot more dangerous to clean up in terms of health risks. 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 cleanup 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.
6. How Long Will It Take? – To truly clean the scene of a messy homicide, suicide, accidental death or undiscovered death and restore the area to its previous state can take anywhere from an hour to 40 hours. It all depends on the “degree of trauma” and the amount of biohazardous material at the site. Clean up after a methamphetamine lab can be even more extensive and take longer.
7. Removal of Evidence – Regardless of the type of scene, the final step in any cleanup is disposing of the evidence. This is actually a more complicated task than it may seem. You can’t put hazardous or biohazardous waste in regular trash dump. Crime scene cleanup cleaners need a special permit to transport it. To dispose of it, in the case of the blood and gore they have to pay (typically by the pound) to burn it in a medical-waste incinerator. Some incinerators have minimum amounts they’ll burn, so the cleaning company might have to pay to store the refuse in a sealed, refrigerated area until they’ve collected the minimum amount. In the case of poisonous chemical waste, you can only dump it in special areas not accessible to the public, which costs additional cash. Transporting and disposing of waste can be a big percentage of a clean-up bill.