It turns out the cleaners are a lot like you and me.
What’s it like working for a crime scene cleanup company? That’s a question frequently asked of our technicians and administrative staff by customers, news reporters, family, and friends. Since we support one another as colleagues and as human beings, we even talk amongst ourselves about our individual experiences in the biohazard remediation field.
Crime scene cleanup has not only become a more popular profession over time due to the job alone. Television shows, movies, podcasts, and even the newer phenomenon of tourism of famous crime scenes have all played a role in the increased popularity.
Anybody can do it too, as long as you’ve got the stomach for it. In our field, anyone from emergency room nurses and EMT’s, to military veterans and janitors aren’t rare to see.
It’s just not about money, though a salary is, of course, a primary motivation for any career. But many crime scene cleanup specialists take on the unpleasant task of body decomposition cleanup as a calling because they want to give back after their own families benefited from the services of companies that clean up after a death.
Others feel that biohazard and hazmat cleanup is a form of comfort and ministry, easing the emotional suffering of those left behind. One motivation we all share is a vested interest in protecting survivors and property owners from health hazards resulting from insufficient house cleaning after death and trauma.
The technicians and staff at Bio Recovery contributed to this article to help the public better understand what we do, and how we strive to help our clients regain as much comfort and normalcy we can under difficult circumstances.
Cleaning Up Dead Bodies? Job Security Isn’t an Issue, Huh?
This is one of the most common questions—though they’re usually rhetorical—asked of a hazmat cleanup company employee, usually brought up at family gatherings or social events.
“Would you ask the same thing of a first responder, emergency room doctor, or funeral home director?” That’s how Adam, one of our most experienced techs likes to respond. “Death is something we all have to deal with.
Fortunately, crime scene cleaner companies like Bio Recovery can step in and handle the worst of it— blood cleanup, removing human death odors, cleaning up the unpleasant material left behind after a suicide—all those things that a family shouldn’t have to deal with. And when it comes down to death and taxes, I think my job is more meaningful than that of a New York CPA or some IRS agent in Fresno.”
Crime Scene Cleanup in New Jersey? Were You a Sopranos Fan?
The media paints an inaccurate picture of New Jersey when in reality, residents of the Garden State live normal, everyday lives. Part of life, of course, is death. Cleaning up dead bodies in New Jersey is no different than crime scene cleanup in Connecticut, New York, or, for that matter, those states not glamorized by crime dramas.
“I’ve been asked, sarcastically, if steel drums are involved in my line of work,” said Matt, one of our New Jersey technicians. “This is sometimes true, actually. We have to handle bodily fluids and other materials when we’re cleaning out a house after a death occurs, and we do seal them in appropriate containers for safety, but we’re protecting the immediate and overall environment… certainly not dumping hazardous waste into swamps and rivers like the movie mobsters do.”
Matt continued, “These questions are never really serious, but I think they’re asked out of curiosity. I let them know that we have special checklists and government-defined protocols for cleaning up after decomposing bodies, and for disposing of biohazardous materials.”
What Inspired You To Work at a Biohazard Cleanup Company?
This is a legitimate question, and one best answered by Melissa, one of our administrators:
“My husband died violently while I was across the continent. It was an unattended death, so the police had to come and make an investigation to make sure it wasn’t a crime scene. I got home the next day, and one of the officers gave me a list of crime scene cleanup companies near me. It happened to be Bio Recovery. They had a comprehensive unattended death checklist that really made me think about how difficult it would have been for me to clean the house after his death, both physically and emotionally.”
Mel, as we call her, recalls how another family member had had to clean up after a death with the help of a friend because crime scene cleanup companies weren’t as common at that time. “My insurance covered my unattended death cleanup costs, but for my cousin, there’s no way to erase what she went through, mentally, when her son committed suicide in their home.”
Melissa responded to our advertisement for a bookkeeper, and when she found out what our company does, she didn’t bat an eye. “But I do resent Adam’s comment about taxes. I used to be a CPA, and I think I’d rather do that than what he does every day.”
Don’t People Think What You Do is Gross?
Kary, a former paramedic, responds to another common question asked of our techs. “Everyone loves it when there’s an EMT, paramedic, or doctor at the party. Especially Fourth of July, when they joke that they’d be in good hands if someone did something stupid and got hurt. But the same people get freaked out when they hear your primary job is cleaning up after dead bodies. Nobody associates the unpleasantness of bodily fluids with medical professionals, but they’ll actually joke about being queasy about shaking hands with a mortician or crime scene cleaner.”
Kary goes on to compare the protective clothing she wears on the job as a biohazard cleanup technician to the relative exposure she had as a paramedic. “Back then, I might end a shift covered in blood, brain matter, feces, and other bodily fluids, but now, I never come in contact with any biohazard material because of our PPE gear—suits, masks, gloves, boots—and strict adherence to OSHA standards. But try to explain that to people you meet at a dinner party… Ok, wait. Maybe I wouldn’t bring that up at the table, but you get the picture.”
Kary’s often described her sense of helplessness as a paramedic when she’s had to leave a trauma scene with a patient, knowing that family members left behind needed comfort and assistance. “Most Victim Services groups, cops, and even some of us would provide referrals to crisis centers and companies like ours, but in all the chaos I felt that family members needed as much immediate care as the people we were physically trying to keep alive. Now, even though I’m not always interacting with those families, I know I’m giving them a sense of relief that only my trauma cleanup team can give.”
What Kind of Person Would Choose Biohazard Cleanup as a Career?
“That’s morbid,” or “you must hate working with (live) people”. “Who in their right mind would take on the job of cleaning up a decomposing body?” We get comments like that from well-meaning but ill-informed people once in a while. Frankly, it’s an insensitive and sometimes hurtful thing to say to hazardous material cleaners who take pride in their work and feel a sense of purpose in their job.
Here’s how we’d describe the members of our team:
Our technicians go through rigorous training for OSHA compliance, company-defined protocols, personal safety, customer care, and professionalism. They do their jobs without attracting attention, entering and leaving trauma scenes with both biosafety and discretion in mind, removing and donning their PPE in designated “clean areas” out of sight of passersby.
They stay on site until the job is complete, often working in extreme heat and, of course, under circumstances most people are unprepared to endure. When they interact with our clients, they do so with the utmost compassion and respect, understanding that their customer contacts are experiencing extreme emotional stress.
We’re proud of our Bio Recovery team. Few people can step into their boots and perform on so many levels of service. If you want to join us or learn more about what we do and how to become qualified to be a biohazard cleanup professional, contact us for more information.