Accidental Shooting: Cleaning the Aftermath

Kevin GeickCrime Scene Cleanup

If you are in need of accidental shooting cleanup services nationwide, call 1-888-752-5001 for 24/7 assistance.

The unintentional firing of a gun is often referred to as a “negligent discharge”, and while most of these incidents result only in damage to physical property, they unfortunately also lead to traumatic injury and death.

The Center for Disease Control’s latest data indicates that accidental shooting fatalities are on the decline, but that’s no consolation to those who’ve lost a loved one to an accidental shooting. Nor is the feeling of regret and sorrow that follows when a person’s injury or death resulted from a friend or loved one’s improperly stored, cleared, or maintained firearm.

How accidental shootings happen

Police alarm after shootingWhile guns don’t simply “go off” by themselves, even experienced gun owners, former and active military personnel, and law enforcement officials can forget to clear the gun’s chamber before storing or handling it. Part of the process required to maintain many pistol designs includes pulling the trigger to release and remove the slide, and one training technique—called “dry firing”—involves aiming an unloaded rifle or pistol in a safe direction while practicing trigger pulls.

While the first rule of gun safety is to assume every gun is loaded until you personally check the chamber, complacency causes most accidental firearm deaths and injuries. But what if the victim or shooter doesn’t have gun safety training, or is accidentally shot by someone else? Curiosity combined with improperly stored guns causes many of the heartbreaking news stories about children and teens killed by accidental gunshots.

“Your employees were very gracious, compassionate, and thorough. Never once did they appear to pass judgment, even though we ourselves were devastated by guilt after our preventable loss. Thank you once again for looking after us and for your excellent work.”

– New York homeowner and Bio Recovery client

While hunting-related accidental gunshot deaths are only a small fraction of overall firearm fatalities, they do happen. Hunting requires traveling over rough, brushy terrain where triggers may catch on branches and shrubs. When hunters don’t wear safety orange clothing and accessories, other hunters may fire into your area without realizing you’re there.

In October and December 2018, two non-fatal yet mind-boggling freak accidents involved dogs “shooting” their owners on hunting trips. Both incidents could have been avoided if the hunters had engaged the trigger safeties.

It’s not quite appropriate to suggest that gun safety be taught in dog obedience school, but in the case of children, when they have the opportunity to learn how firearms work—and how dangerous it is to handle them incorrectly—there’s less chance of them being treated like toys.

The aftermath of gunshot fatalities and injuries

Negligent discharges, whether or not they result in death, typically cause significant blood spill and severe physical trauma to bone and soft tissue. High-velocity ammunition can spread biohazard contamination far beyond the immediate trauma scene, and those who find a deceased shooting victim or who attempt to assist the injured person usually track body fluids and tissue to surrounding areas and surfaces, thus widening the biohazard contamination zone.

Even before the victim is removed from the scene, residual tissues and blood at the accident scene begin to decompose, releasing unpleasant odors and harmful pathogens. Body fluids penetrate walls, furniture, flooring, and even ceiling surfaces, and if the incident occurred in a car, RV, truck, or boat, it seeps through thin upholstery into hard-to-reach spaces: the vehicle’s chassis, hull, wiring, and air vents, for example. Such infiltration is common inside buildings, but in close quarters trauma cleanup is—per square foot—more complicated.

Cleaning up after an accidental shooting death or injury

Unskilled biohazard cleanup after a shooting, particularly when there’s been a significant blood spill, usually results in pervasive decomposition odors, insect and rodent problems, and mold and bacteria growth. Most shocking is coming across undiscovered human tissue in unexpected places. (It’s common for our teams to find biological material in, under, and behind furniture, appliances, fixtures, and wall art, especially where first responders have had to move things around to access the victim.)

Those who attempt to clean up after gun accidents may experience significant emotional trauma and overwhelm. It’s best to bring in crime scene cleanup professionals who are fully prepared to confront and remediate gruesome trauma scenes. Here’s how our Bio Recovery teams return your property or vehicle to safe, clean, and comfortable pre-accidental shooting condition:

1. We’ll provide an estimate and work with your insurance

When you call us after an accidental gunshot incident, a customer care associate will ask you a few questions about the nature of the damage and prepare a service estimate and timeline. It’s likely your liability, property or auto insurance will cover the full cleanup and repair costs. Most of the time, they compensate us directly. We can also direct you to victim advocacy groups who might assist with deductibles, coverage gaps, and trauma counseling referrals.

2. Our trained and highly-skilled teams respond within hours

Our Bio Recovery trauma cleanup technicians are on standby around the clock. Upon arrival, they’ll begin a comprehensive step-by-step process that exceeds OSHA, EPA, and local health department standards. Should you wish to stay on the premises, they’ll make sure you’re safe and reassured.

3. Experienced supervisors create an incident-specific action plan

Our checklist is extremely thorough, but every shooting scene is different. Bio Recovery teams assess the property layout, identify primary and secondary contamination zones, and set up staging areas to prevent contamination spread.

They’ll also organize the delivery of any needed roll-off waste containers (also known as dumpsters) and designate a discreet means of carrying specially-labeled biohazardous materials to our vehicles for safe and legal disposal. They’ll use moisture-detection instruments to determine the extent of blood saturation in walls, subfloors, and framing, and professional solutions to detect fine blood droplets within and outside the primary trauma scene.

4. Our teams remove body fluids, tissue, and destroyed materials

We start with the obvious signs of an accidental shooting and then move on to the not-so-obvious as described above, using proprietary and non-toxic cleaning products to neutralize, wipe down, and soak up excess organic and ballistic residue.

Our crime scene cleanup technicians do their best to preserve what they can without sacrificing your safety. When walls, flooring, or furniture can’t be adequately cleaned and decontaminated, our teams will cut out the affected portions for legal biohazard disposal. Once we’re finished, the site’s safe for contractors to step in and repair any damaged or deconstructed areas.

5. We clean, sanitize, and deodorize all surfaces

We clean before we clean.

We shampoo and sanitize furniture and carpets with modified industrial machines that remove far more moisture than rental or even professional carpet cleaners. Whenever possible, we apply non-toxic, enzyme-based anti-microbial solutions, meeting EPA and OSHA standards without further damaging finishes and textiles. By avoiding unnecessarily harsh chemicals you can return to a home that’s healthy and free of telltale odors.

Our deodorizing process removes the source of decomposition odors. We don’t simply cover them up with irritating chemical fragrances. Once our job is complete and our sanitizing solutions have dried, there is no unpleasant smell to trigger reminders of the event. We even remove odors and residue from gunpowder and tear gas.

6. We check our work

After every phase of our gunshot trauma cleanup process, we review the scene to determine if we’re ready for the next step. At the end of every project, our teams thoroughly inspect the site to make certain they haven’t missed anything. Once we’re satisfied that your home, business, or vehicle is completely clean, sanitized, and odor-free, you’re welcome to join us for a final inspection.

You Have Our Support

We at Bio Recovery treat all our clients with the respect, compassion, discretion, and dignity that they deserve. If you need help cleaning up after an accidental shooting death or injury, reach out to us day or night, seven days a week.