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What biohazards are, what a biohazard cleanup entails, the risks involved with exposure to pathogens, and everything in-between.
What is a biohazard?
Simply put. a biohazard is a risk pertaining to material contaminated by blood, body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials. This could be in the form of liquid, solid, or sharps-related waste.
Specifically with biohazards, we are concerned with avoiding exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as Hepatitis B, C, HIV, and Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers like Ebola. These pathogens can live outside of the body for up to several weeks in some cases, depending on the circumstances.
What does a biohazard cleanup entail?
The cleanup process typically involves site prep, debris removal, disinfection, inspection and deodorization.
Site prep includes the designation of the "work area" in the affected area of the property and a "clean area" for staging the gear nearby. Plastic sheeting is ran from the property entrance to the clean area in order to prevent the spread of contaminants while moving to and from the truck.
Debris removal occurs when the crew removes the heavily saturated areas of carpet (if applicable) and/or cleaning up splatter or any other visible form of contamination. The main idea during the phase of cleanup is to address large areas on the floor first to prevent the spread of contaminants, and cleaning methodically (left-to-right, top-to-bottom) thereafter to ensure that nothing is missed. One way to perform debris removal (on walls, for example) is to use a spray-wipe-spray method which leads us into the disinfection phase.
By spraying the disinfectant a second time and allowing it to sit for several minutes, the surfaces are then disinfected. Biohazard cleanup crews should always employ EPA regustered, hospital grade disinfectants to achieve the desired result. It is important to note that the site is not being "sterilized" (destroying all contaminants, as what is the norm in a lab or clean room), rather, it is being "disinfected" which means that most of the contaminants are being destroyed.
Next, a crew member will take a work lamp and comb through all the surfaces in the work area to get a close-up look. Anything not previously addressed in the debris removal phase will be immediately noticeable and cleaned on the spot. At that point, a second application of the disinfectant is applied for each new discovery (and it is common to find traces after the disinfection phase).
If any odor exists, any pets and plant life will be rounded up and removed from the premises to ready the property for treatment by ozone generator. All windows and doors on site are shut and fans are turned on to promote circulation while the generator is in operation. Ozone generators produce ozone through ultraviolet rays or corona discharge. The extra oxygen molecule interacts with the airborne contaminants and eliminates the odor over time. Typically, this process lasts between 1-7 days depending on the severity of the odor.
Tools and Equipment
The key to performing a safe biohazard cleanup effort is to treat all blood, body fluids, and surfaces in the affected area as if they were infected. This includes utilizing an array of PPE (personal protective equipment) like disposal gloves, boots, suits, respirators, face shields, and anything that the specific situation calls for. PPE should be donned with a spirit of preventing gaps of protection, and removed in the spirit of not spreading contaminants.
A typical biohazard cleanup crew working in a residential or commercial setting will have standard tools, a jig-saw, a circular saw, work lamps, extension cords, ladders, biohazard and trash receptacles, hand sanitizer, carpet blades, receptacle liners, shears, paper towels, scrubbers, ozone genertors, and more.
If blood or body fluids are suspected to be in an area but are not readily visible, an indicator solution can be used to locate the infectious material. For example, if sprayed on floor planks with seams, indicator will react with the blood underneath and foam u white to reveal that there is indeed blood below the flooring.
Depending on the age of the contaminants in the work area, the biological matter on site can sometimes be difficult to remove with conventional cleaning methods. In this case, enzymes are used to loosen the materials for ease of cleaning.
Crime and trauma scenes pose a high degree of potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens for workers in the environment. To rid the site of pathogens, EPA registered, hospital grade disinfectants are used to combat the risk of contracting HCV, HBV, HIV, or other viruses. These same disinfectacts are used to clean any tools and equipment used throughout the cleanup effort.
Professionalism in Biohazard Cleanup
In residential settings, many people attempt to clean up after a suicide or traumatic incident in the home because they are not aware of their insurance coverage or even the fact that professional cleanup firms exist. It is important for these individuals to avoid any further psychological damage after a homicide, suicide, or other incident. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and anxiety are major risks of prolonged exposure to crime and trauma scenes.
Biohazard cleanup professionals and crime scene cleaners typically have experience garnered over servicing multiple sites that can be leveraged to get a property back up to speed without leaving behind any trace that could spark a negative psychological reaction or pose a biohazard risk to anyone on site. Realistically speaking, the untrained person will neglect the degree of drippage that happens between layers of flooring and the trajectory of splatter that occurs with gunfire, for example.
Common credentials for firms in the industry include OSHA 40 hour HAZWOPER (hazardous waste operator), the 8 hour Annual Refresher, and Bloodborne Pathogens training. Crime Scene Cleaning Technician certification exists in the private sector and is a standard (non-official) pre-requisite for firms in the industry.
Death and injury on the property resulting in the need for a biohazard cleanup is covered under most homeowner's insurance policies. It is typically customary for crime scene cleanup companies to waive the deductible for the home owner, so in many cases, the cleanup is essentially "free" to the family involved. Below is a chart that can be used to determine coverage for cleaning up crime scenes:
HO-1: Named-perils Policy (uncommon, no coverage)
HO-2: Extended Named-perils Policy (no coverage)
HO-3: All-perils Policy (most common, structure covered)
HO-4: Renter's Insurance (coverage for belongings, not structure)
HO-5: Extended All-perils Policy (structure covered)
HO-6: Condo Insurance (belongings, walls/ceilings covered)
HO-7: Mobile Home Insurance (coverage exists, depreciation is a factor)
HO-8: Old Home Insurance (coverage varies)
Cleaning up after Suicide
Unfortunately, suicide is often times carried out by a firearm which spreads contaminants over the property in such a way that requires a detailed inspection and treatment after death. Suicide cleanup is something that is covered by most home owners insurance policies, despite any concerns about the circumstances of the loss.
Homicide Aftermath Cleanup
House cleaning after death is a sensitive undertaking, especially when the loss concerns a crime such as a homicide. These events can stem from knife or gun injuries and may concern a struggle that occurred within the property which also heightens the degree of effort required to bring the property back to normal. In most cases, our advanced bio treatment efforts are finished within the course of a day. Restoration (carpet/paint replacement, etc.) timeframes vary depending on the scope of work required. Swift Cleaners works directly with specific contractors to get the families we work with back into their homes as soon as possible. Other concerns regarding homicide cleanup are whether or not the police have released the scene, and working with police or private investigators to ensure that evidence is not thrown out during the cleanup process.
Atlanta Crime Scene Cleanup
Swift Cleaners operates within a three hour radius of Duluth, GA which includes parts of Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. Response time to these areas varies, but in Atlanta crime scene cleanup response time typically occurs within the hour.
Unattended Death Remediation
In some cases, death occurs naturally to the elderly or those living by themselves and bodies can be left undiscovered for extended periods of time. In an unattended death scenario, our company sends our clean up crew for crime scenes out to perform a site remediation and biohazard waste removal. Part of this service includes industrial strength odor removal and bloodborne pathogens cleanup.
Public Awareness of CSI Cleaning
Because of the graphic nature of the work our company performs, public awareness of our csi cleaning methods is perpetually low. This means that many people who need to find companies like ours in emergency situations do not know what to search for. Other terms that can be used to describe our work are sunshine cleaning, crime and trauma scene decontamination, dead body cleanup, forensic cleaning, and murder clean up amongst others. Essentially what we do is go about cleaning up after death. The scope of this work is described in the aforementioned sections on biohazard cleanup.