Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007
Companies help clean trauma scenes
A foreman said it takes between eight and 12 hours to clean a crime scene.
By SARAH POULTON
YOUNGSTOWN Crimes happen at unexpected times in unexpected places, and after the ambulance leaves and police are finished writing the report, someone is left with an unexpected mess.
This can consist of blood, bodily fluids and even body parts. If death is a result of a suicide or homicide, it may be too emotionally difficult for a family member of the victim to clean the crime scene. Police departments don't have the resources to dispose of body matter properly, so someone must bring in an outside source to clean and decontaminate the area.
Detective Sgt. Joe DeMatteo, of the Youngstown Police Department Crime Lab, said the only time authorities are responsible for cleaning anything is if a crime occurs on public property. A lot of times, he said they will call in the Youngstown Fire Department to wash some things down, the coroner's office to collect body parts, or call in a repair team.
DeMatteo said his part of the crime scene cleanup deals mostly with gathering evidence, such as slugs and spent shells, DNA samples, or anything else that could be used as evidence.
He said that it's not unusual for the police run into difficult situations when it comes to crime scenes. DeMatteo said that usually in suicides or homicides, family members are present and this makes it tough for the police to do their job.
"It makes the scene very difficult to clean," DeMatteo said. "It makes it very traumatic."
Rick Jamrozik, Mahoning County coroner's investigator, said he usually goes to the worst scenes. He said a lot of times extended family members will take care of the cleanup, or he will suggest places they can call.
Jamrozik added that his preferred company, Funeral Home Services of Boardman, comes with him to pick up the body and usually cleans up a bit on the side.
"They're not obligated to do it," and the cleanup job isn't thorough enough to make a premises livable, Jamrozik said.
Funeral Home Services makes it easier for the professional cleaners to come in and get the job done. There are pro trauma scene cleanup companies that accomplish the same tasks, but in very different ways.
Aftermath Inc. is a national company based out of Plainfield, Ill., that specializes in crime scene and tragedy cleanup, as well as biohazard recovery. Gary Allen, area foreman for the Columbus branch of Aftermath, said it usually takes between eight and 12 hours to thoroughly clean a trauma scene, depending on the severity. Most of the time, its service is covered by homeowners insurance.
He said that through its three-step patented wipe-down system, consisting of three lines of specialty chemicals produced by Aftermath, they are able to properly clean up and decontaminate an area after a suicide, homicide or unattended death.
"We're an end company," Allen said. "We go to the end of the line; removing all blood, fluid and hazardous waste."
Allen said he tends mostly to unattended deaths and suicides, but he has cleaned his fair share of murder scenes and situations of that nature. He said he sees a little bit of everything while he's on the job. He said that last summer, a man overdosed on drugs and climbed into his attic. He was left there for two weeks, Allen added.
He said when a crew is cleaning a scene, or even before they get there, people should not be on or near the premises because there will be things in the air that can make a person sick. He added that most police departments aren't large enough to have the specific training or materials required to fully decontaminate a crime scene.
"You can't just throw the remains in a trash bag then pitch it in the Dumpster," Allen said. "You don't want someone in there, especially someone who's untrained."
National Fire Repair, based in Boardman, is a general contracting firm specializing in insurance restoration work including fire, water damage and trauma scene. Paul Clouser, president, said his company works in two steps.
First, it does the initial cleanup after the police have released the scene, Clouser said. The people who perform this cleanup are specially trained and wear full-body disposable suits with safety goggles and respirators. Their goal is to remove any porous surface that has body fluid on it, he said. The surface then goes into a bag and medical waste disposers take it away. The second step is to put the mess back together, he said.
Clouser said the worst trauma scene he has ever encountered happened about 10 years ago during the holidays. Someone committed suicide in a small room filled with furniture. "It's troublesome to know that you're standing in a room with bits of human being around you," Clouser said. "They are never good scenarios. There's all kinds of disturbing things out there."
Clouser said that most people he's worked with didn't know that the work is usually covered by an insurance company, as long as the situation is sudden and accidental.