The sights and sounds of traffic accidents are a part of daily life: Crumpled fenders, broken glass, sirens, flashing lights, ambulances.
But few see the aftermath of natural deaths, killings or suicides up close, except for law enforcement officers, emergency medical workers and, almost always forgotten, the people who must clean up.
Sometimes the cleanup work falls to the families. But professional companies which tend to crime scenes are part of a growing, specialized industry, often advertised only as flood and general cleanup services.
It is not a job for everyone.
“We see the worst of humanity every day,” said Rick Bennett, Owner of Biogone in Coeur d’Alene Id.
“Working with these scenes every day can wear down a technician. Working in one room and hearing a family crying, just wailing in the next room isn’t easy.”
Biogone.com the largest and the only locally owned certified bio-hazard Removal Company in the Northwest founded by Rick Bennett 2009. In part, the industry has come into being because of the liability that property owners, businesses or others can face if a cleanup is not handled properly. “It is a high-risk job that we do,” Rick said. “What you can’t see will hurt YOU. People are finally realizing that. People can become ill, with hepatitis or worse if exposed to some of the substances we cleanup”, he said.
Human death often leaves behind scenes far too graphic to be portrayed accurately on TV, or even in movies, Rick said.
Such depictions are “still not even close to what it’s like in real life,” Rick said. “Most have no idea what a murder scene looks like, and it’s probably good they don’t.
“If you’re the average human being, you probably don’t want to see this. You have to be a little wired to do this job,” he said.
Cleaning up a tragedy is often neither easy nor cheap, and it is sometimes a Herculean effort to erase evidence of some of the most traumatizing events in a humans life, or death.
The work can include collecting body parts or pulling up floorboards soaked with bodily liquids, said Rick.
Equally challenging is the odor.
If the odor is too much, he said workers wear gas masks, in addition to their regular full-body suits, which are worn to protect from biohazards and other health hazards.
“No one works bare-handed, and our workers must go through intensive training that teaches them to safely handle potentially infectious substances and to make sure areas that look clean are sterile. Sometimes clean does not equal sterile”, Rick said.
Rick said “We use very specialized products specifically for the job, chemicals that can get stains and contaminants out of porous surfaces like wood grain and walls”.
Fabrics, however, often have to be thrown away.
Hospitals are built to encounter these contaminants and have easy-to-clean nonporous surfaces like stainless steel. But the average home does not.
Shag carpeting, upholstery, wallpaper and paint absorb blood and other liquids, and are easy to contaminate and hard to clean.
Rick said cleanups costs, which are sometimes covered by homeowners insurance, can range from $500 to $10,000, depending on how thorough and extensive the work must be. Biogone.com can do construction and restoration work as well.
“Cleaning up after a gruesome scene can haunt workers if they are not prepared”, Rick said.
Rick said he was rattled as he was cleaning up after a man who shot himself in his car with his 10 year old granddaughter sitting in the seat beside him.
“Once you see that, smell that, touch it, it’s in your head like a photograph,” Rick said. “It’s permanent. You can’t get it out.”
A worker’s job may be to clean, but he also counsels. Family members are often in the house during cleanup, still reeling from the loss.
“We teach our employees to never say certain phrases. Like “I know how you feel,” for example, is off limits, as is, “It’s going to be all right”. “Sometimes it never becomes all right,” Rick said.
Workers are taught just to listen, and to carefully phrase what they say so as not to offend family members.
“I don’t know how I deal with it,” Rick said. “I do this on almost a daily basis, dealing with someone’s crisis.”
Rick said “I also consider it a ministry. We see scenes most would consider nightmares, and sparing family members the horror of having to clean up after someone they love is no small service.”
Thank you Biogone Hazardous Clean-up and Waste removal for bringing your compassionate service to the Coeur d’Alene Community!
For more information Rick can be reached at 208-651-1808 or visit Biogone.com