Not Ready for Prime Time (viewer discretion advised)

by Marc Goldwich

I was reviewing the headlines this morning which were chock full of mayhem.  Everything from the aftermath of catastrophic flooding which resulted in numerous drowning deaths in the South Carolina, to more school shootings, along with a smattering of auto-related fatalities vied for my attention. This combined with Halloween being just around the corner was enough to cause my mind to entertain the dark side of life. So I began thinking about the job of cleaning up after a catastrophe.

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In case you're not aware, there is an entire industry set up for handling these kinds of events. Typically called “Biohazard Clean-up” or “Crime Scene Clean-up”, these companies are e an offshoot of emergency restoration companies. Whether the hazard you need gone consists of  toxic waste, deadly mold, body fluids or most any other kind of nasty stuff that crop up after an emergency, there are trained professionals who are only too happy to roll up their sleeves and dive right in. 

The hit Discovery TV show “Dirty Jobs” is a favorite of mine, but I doubt you will ever see Mike Rowe tackling this type of job. While certainly “dirty” enough, my guess is it would simply be too disrespectful to find any humor in this line of work, and for his show, humor plays a major role.

There are other shows which depict and deal with death, usually CSI or homicide, but I have never seen one address the clean-up aspect that invariably needs to take place after the police finish their investigation. Since you can now watch shows on just about any occupation imaginable, I would not be surprised to find a show following biohazard clean-up teams around.

So what would that entail? First let’s think about the types of situations these companies and their crews might deal with. Things like:
-          Sewage backups
-          Crime scene residue
-          Suicide
-          Homicide cleanup
-          Blood cleanup
-          Accidental death cleanup
-          MRSA and H1N1 decontamination
-          Hoarding scenes
-          Animal waste/remains
-          Chemical spills
-          Tear gas cleanup
-          Meth lab cleanup
-       Radiological hazards
None of these events should be taken lightly, or undertaken by anyone except certified biohazard professionals. Not that most people would want to deal with any of these problems
These companies need to be well versed in applicable state and federal regulations, they need to be licensed and certified (where required), they need to use appropriate transportation and/or disposal protocols, and they may need to be registered with the states’ Department of Health. These companies can also expect to be regulated by governing and advisory bodies such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), DOT (Department of Transportation), and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

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The dirty work of these professionals usually begins when the coroner’s office, or other governmental entity officially releases the scene to the property owner or other responsible party. Depending on the type and severity of the “event”, the clean-up teams are required to wear protective clothing, may seal off rooms to prevent or minimize the spread of airborne or physical elements of the bio-hazard scene, and follow specified methods and practices to decontaminate such scenes.

The scenes must be meticulously cleaned of all harmful material, which typically includes the removal of any porous materials (whether personal belongings like clothing and sheets, or building materials such as carpeting, wood subfloor, or drywall) – which must all be properly disposed of, and then sanitized. You can only imagine the mess that will be left, even after the mess that was the biohazard is removed.

And many people are so distraught after dealing with such a loss, that they overlook the fact that insurance may cover the expense of the clean-up efforts. Just remember this rule of thumb, if property is damaged as a result, it is probably covered by insurance (either yours, or someone else’s). provided the following bio-hazard and sewage emergency tips:

After any biohazard or sewage contamination in your home or business, your primary focus should be safety:

-          Is it safe to stay in the house?
-          Exposure to biological and chemical contaminants can pose serious health consequences.
-          Flood water can contain sewage, pesticides, and other contaminants.
-          Only do activities that are safe for you to perform.
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What to Do After a Contamination
-          Stay out of affected areas.
-          Call emergency service personnel if the situation is life-threatening.
-          Treat all bodily fluids as if they are contaminated.
-          Turn off the HVAC system if there is sewage damage.

What Not to Do After a Contamination
-          Don’t leave wet fabrics in place. Hang furs and leather goods.
-          Don’t leave books, magazines, or other colored items on wet carpet or floors.
-          Don’t use your household vacuum to remove water.
-          Don’t use television or other household appliances.
-          Don’t turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet, and keep out of rooms where ceilings are sagging.

Let’s all hope we never need these tips, but as we can plainly see from watching the news, the fact is, biohazard clean-up is a grim reality for many families. As with anything else, the more you know in advance of an emergency, the better equipped you will be in handling that situation.

In this article I discussed the subject of biohazard clean-up, and the professionals that are trained to perform what just might be the dirtiest job of all. I mentioned some of the types of events this might involve, and included tips for dealing with such an event.

Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.   


  1. This blog gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it."

  2. Great tips, I hope I never have to use any of them! ; )

  3. You never think about this kind of thing till one day, you have to. This was very informative.

  4. Kind of scary to think about. Glad someone is there to take care of these things.