Cleaning up the scene of a crime is a daunting and overwhelming task. It can be traumatizing for the family members of the victims, the first responders, and even the cleaning professionals. Crime scene cleaning is a specialized field that requires a unique skill set, equipment, and expertise. It is essential to understand the crime scene cleanup process to appreciate the value of this critical service.
What is Crime Scene Cleanup?
Crime scene cleanup is the process of cleaning up biological and chemical hazards left behind at the scene of a crime. It involves removing all traces of blood, bodily fluids, tissues, and other materials that pose a risk to public health. The objective is to restore the scene to its pre-incident state and ensure that it is safe for occupation. Additionally, it is important to realize that every single crime scene situation is unique and will have a plethora of variables which will need to be factored in the cleanup process. Due to high variations and nearly limitless variables the scope of work for each crime scene cleanup situation can vary drastically.
The goal of crime scene cleanup is to not only remove all traces of the event but also to restore the affected area, to a safe and habitable condition, for anyone who may use the space in the future. To avoid any health risks and ensure that the process is conducted with the proper care and attention to detail, it is important that the area be cleaned by professionals.
Who is responsible for Crime Scene Cleanup?
In most cases, the property owner is responsible for cleaning up the scene of a crime. However, most property owners lack the training, equipment, specialized experience, and emotional detachment required to handle the cleanup process. In such cases, it is advisable to hire a professional biohazard cleaning company.
Law enforcement agencies and emergency responders are not responsible for crime scene cleanup. Their primary focus is to ensure the safety of the public, gather physical evidence, and neutralize the scene/situation. Once the investigation is complete, the responsibility for cleaning the scene falls on the property owner. In certain situations the property owner may unfortunately be the victim or deceased, under those circumstances the responsibility of the cleanup will fall to the next of kin which could be a spouse or another family member.
The Crime Scene Cleanup Process
The crime scene cleanup process varies depending on the type of crime, the severity of the damage, and the surface area of the crime scene. However, there are basic steps that a professional cleaning company will follow to ensure that the site is safe and sanitized.
Step 1: Assessment
The first step in any crime scene situation is verifying the scene has been released from investigating department. This is a crucial and vital verification step for any crime scene cleanup company considering a professional biohazard cleanup company will eradicate all traces of evidence when they perform their cleanup process. If you are the responsible person for the cleanup and the crime scene cleanup company is not asking details pertaining to the scene being released by the police department, you should have concerns about hiring that particulate company for the services.
The cleaning professionals will evaluate the extent of the damage, the type of biohazards present, and the equipment and supplies required for the job. Keep in mind that every crime scene situation has nearly limitless variables that will need to be factored during the assessment process. Due to the high variation of situational circumstances, the scope of work to complete the remediation process will vary from scene to scene.
The Assessment will consist of an initial walkthrough where the technician or team will conduct a visual inspection of the area to determine the scope of the cleanup. They will assess the type of biohazard material present, the extent of the contamination, and any safety hazards.
They will then do a risk assessment where they will evaluate the risk associated with the cleanup and determine the appropriate safety precautions and personal protective equipment (PPE) required to safely clean the area. They will also identify any regulatory or legal requirements that must be followed.
Next, they will develop a cleanup plan that outlines the necessary steps and resources required to safely and effectively clean the area. This plan will take into consideration the type of biohazards present, the extent of the contamination, and any safety hazards. An experienced crime scene cleanup company will be able to help provide guidance and direction how the necessary services could be covered through homeowners and property insurance.
Lastly, the technician or team will document the assessment, including photographs and detailed notes. This documentation is important for insurance claims and legal purposes.
Step 2: Containment
After the Assessment is completed, the next step is to contain the affected area to prevent further contamination. The professionals will create an isolation perimeter around the crime scene, and anyone not involved in the cleanup process will be restricted from entering the area. This is a crucial step in the process, proper containment is necessary for various reasons, preventing inadvertent cross contamination, technician safety, public hazard awareness and safety, and proper remediation of a crime scene cleanup.
The technician or team will establish a perimeter around the affected area using physical barriers and biohazard tape/symbolizes. This helps to prevent unauthorized access to the area and protect the safety of those involved in the cleanup.
The technician or team will also set up a negative airflow system using air scrubbers, fans, or other equipment to prevent biohazards from spreading to other areas of the property. This system helps to control the airflow in and out of the area and trap airborne contaminants.
Lastly, the technician or team will seal off all vents and ducts in the area to prevent biohazards from spreading through the property’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Once the containment is in place, the cleaning company will begin the cleanup process.
Step 3: Removal of Visible Biohazards
First, the technicians will put on PPE to protect themselves from exposure to any harmful materials. This equipment can include full-body suits, gloves, goggles, and respirators. They will then begin to remove any visible biological materials from the scene, such as blood, tissues, and other bodily fluids.
The next step is to remove all visible biohazards from the scene. This includes bodily fluids, tissues, and any other materials that may pose a risk to public health. The cleaning professionals will use specialized equipment and chemicals to ensure that all traces of biohazards are eliminated.
The removal of visible biohazards is a delicate and complex process that requires specialized equipment and chemicals to ensure that all traces of the hazardous materials are removed. The cleaning professionals will use a variety of tools, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), air scrubbers, and commercial-grade disinfectants to properly clean the scene.
Step 4: Sanitization & Disinfection
The next step is to sanitize & disinfect the crime scene thoroughly. This involves disinfecting all surfaces and materials in the affected area, including walls, floors, and furniture. This process is more methodical than most people realize. Tactical proficiency is necessary to properly and effectively clean, sanitize, and disinfect the affected surfaces.
Once all visible materials have been removed, the technicians will begin to use specialized cleaning agents to sanitize & disinfect the affected area(s). They will use specialized sanitization & disinfection chemicals, to thoroughly clean, sanitize, and disinfect all surfaces. These disinfectants are specifically designed to kill any bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens that may be present.
In addition to disinfecting the surfaces, the cleaning professionals may also use air scrubbers or other equipment to filter the air and remove any airborne particles that may pose a health risk.
Step 5: Deodorization
Deodorization is the final step in the crime scene cleanup process. After all the visible biohazard material has been removed and the disinfection process has been completed there shouldn’t be any biological related odors still present at the scene. However, in certain circumstances there still could a faint presence of biological odor present. If a strong or heavy biological odor is still present it is very likely there is still some source of biological material present at the scene that needs to be addressed.
The deodorization process serves a few purposes at the ending of a crime scene cleanup process. It will help remove any faint or residual presence of biological odors at the scene. At the same time this deodorization process helps eliminate and neutralize harsher chemical odors that are typical during the sanitization and disinfection phases of the services. Lastly, the deodorization process helps remove any chemical residues still present from the sanitization and disinfection applications, leaving the area safe and habitable for future use. Additional equipment can be leveraged in the deodorization, this include air purifiers, ozone generators, and fogging machines, which are designed to remove odors from the air and surfaces in the area. It is important to note that not all situations will need this additional equipment to properly deodorize a crime scene situation, a professional crime scene cleaning company will know when and if these additional pieces of equipment are necessary.
The chemicals used in the deodorization process are specifically designed to break down and eliminate the molecules that cause unpleasant odors. These chemicals are safe and effective, and they are formulated to eliminate a wide range of odors, including those caused by biological materials, chemicals, and smoke.
The cleaning professionals may also use a process known as fogging, which involves the use of a machine that releases a fine mist of deodorizing chemicals into the air. This mist will settle on all surfaces in the area, effectively eliminating any lingering odors.
Once the deodorization process is complete, the cleaning professionals will conduct a final inspection to ensure that all odors have been removed. The area will be left clean, sanitized, and deodorized, ready for use once again.
The crime scene cleanup process is essential for public health and safety. It requires a unique skill set, equipment, and expertise. It is advisable to hire a professional crime scene cleaning company to handle the cleanup process. Understanding the crime scene cleanup process will help you appreciate the value of this critical service.