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Crime doesn't pay — the cleanup does

September 19, 2010
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If blood and gore do not bother you, and you think cleaning is cleaning — whether in the office on the weekend, or a shooting, car accident or suicide in the middle of the night — you may be ready to enter or expand your business into the often-lucrative specialty of crime scene cleaning.

I started one of the largest crime scene cleaning companies in the Southeastern United States more than two years ago. During that time, we have learned a lot through experience, trial and error, and training about how to be successful in this specialized segment of the cleaning industry.

It all comes down to:

  • Learning how to safely work with hazardous waste
  • Conducting effective marketing
  • Knowing efficient ways to clean up a crime scene
  • Dealing with people in very trying circumstances

Preparing for the business
Before even considering offering this service, building service contractors (BSCs) should work with a company already performing crime scene cleanup — seeing first-hand what a bedroom looks like after someone has been shot, or has shot himself.

These are among the cleaning tasks BSCs will see performed:

  • Cleaning blood off walls, light fixtures, paintings, and all kinds of items such as trinkets, rings, pictures, and keys
  • Ripping out and disposing of blood-stained carpeting
  • Discarding soiled furniture
  • Occasionally dealing with a decomposed body
  • Removing the loose remains of a body

It’s not pretty, and most people simply cannot handle it. However, if you can, the next step is education.

Training for crime scene cleaning
After a homicide or suicide in a home, office, school or car, biohazardous waste such as blood and bodily fluids must be properly removed, packaged and disposed. Federal regulations require that no employee or cleaning worker be exposed to these wastes without first going through the following:

  • Receiving bloodborne pathogen (BBP) training
  • Having a written BBP exposure control plan
  • Being provided with personal protective equipment
  • Being offered a hepatitis B vaccine, exposure evaluation, and medical follow-up
  • Receiving information and equipment to remove and store biohazardous waste in properly marked containers for disposal at an approved site

Having grown in the past 15 years, the industry comprises private companies offering training in crime scene cleaning, as well as associations, such as the American BioRecovery Association (ABRA), which provides training and certification programs.

Additionally, BSCs entering the field should look into certification courses offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These courses cover, among other things, the safe handling of hazardous materials and the regulations that govern crime scene cleanups.

Marketing
Starting this type of business is not easy. We had many months with only one job and sometimes went several months with no jobs.

The key to getting the business off the ground is getting to know the people who handle crime scenes — police, paramedics and firefighters.

Usually, the victim’s family will not want to clean up after a homicide or suicide, and may be advised not to touch the area. Instead, emergency workers may refer the family to a company such as ours to help them with the gruesome cleanup tasks.

When marketing your services, it is most effective to discuss your service directly with police detectives — called in whenever someone dies (outside of a medical setting). Most deaths are considered a homicide until the circumstances point to another cause — a suicide, an accident, an illness, or natural causes.

In addition, it is best to meet with detectives in a city’s central police station rather than regional or district precincts; the central station is often more involved with these situations.

The family
In most cleaning situations, cleaning workers rarely see the people who use the facilities they clean. However, in crime scene cleaning, it is just the opposite — they are closely involved with the victim’s families. Police and paramedics have little time to spend with the families, so the cleaning workers often become their counselors, listening to them talk about the situation, the victim, and their grief.

But, cleaning the crime scene is very often the first step in the healing process.

Most families do not move out of a home where a crime has occurred, but they usually do not want to return until the scene has been cleaned. By performing this task, we help families move on with their lives.


Jeff Darr heads up Crime Scene Services, Inc., Charlotte, NC. For information about his business, visit www.crimesceneservices.com.
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