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My bloody valentine: The aftermath of cleaning a suicide or homicide scene

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On Valentine’s Day, Americans will spend millions on candy, flowers, and gifts for their sweethearts. Today is a special day for cherishing our loving relationships. Although Valentine’s Day involves romance and love, not all romantic liaisons end at the altar. Not only does love and romance nurture a relationship, it can also lead to emotional distress during a breakup. Sometimes, a bad relationship can lead to murder or suicide. An article written by Doctor Scott Eliason at http://www.jaapl.org discusses murder suicides that involve sex and domestic violence.

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Consider these infamous relationships that ended in tragedy: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, Romeo and Juliet, and Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. All three relationships ended in tragedy.

Anyone familiar with any of these couples may feel a tinge of passion or romanticism about love; but would anyone feel this same passion if he or she had to clean up the remains of Romeo or Juliet? The following interview provides perspective from a man named Andrew Whitmarsh, who cleans up murder and suicide scenes for Aftermath, a biohazard remediation service.

Hello Andrew, I read a book about cleaning up suicide and murder scenes a few years ago. The book is called Mop Men by Allen Emmins. To say the least, the book’s title intrigued me. Most people who watch crime shows probably don’t give a crime scene another thought after the Hollywood detective leaves the crime scene. In Hollywood, you might only see a few drops of blood on the ground after a homicide, which is about as realistic as believing a homicide detective can solve a murder case in under an hour. This interview provides some staunch facts about the business of death and what happens after someone is either murdered or commits suicide. So here we go!

Andrew, tell me about yourself, your career and why you chose this job over becoming a doctor or an accountant?

I began my career with Aftermath as a field technician, which means working hands-on with biohazard situations. As a technician, Aftermath dispatched me to service locations after a traumatic event had occurred. After a month of intense job experience, I became a field supervisor. My duties included communicating with clients and speaking to family and friends of a deceased loved one. I also supervised the entire cleanup process and made professional recommendations to the client. I was drawn to Aftermath because of what it stands for: assisting people get through a tragedy. Aftermath always considers the client’s needs first when offering assistance. Assisting someone through a crisis is more rewarding than words can describe. You cannot recreate the feeling you get after comforting friends and family members of lost loved ones. Currently, I oversee safety, training, and maintain company compliance. I also extend my knowledge and experience to others who also want to help others.

According to your website, ghoulish collectors cut off pieces of Bonnie and Clyde to keep as memorabilia. People really did this? Please elaborate.

Here’s the reference http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-bonnie-and-clyde. The deaths of Bonnie and Clyde would have required a significant biohazard cleanup. Someone firing 130 bullets into a car is already a recipe for disaster. Then you have people cutting off body parts that released even more bodily fluids. These factors would seriously complicate the process even more.

What licensing is required to work in this business?

Licensing differs between states. It can also depend on the municipality level. Many certifications and licenses are required to successfully manage a biohazard remediation service. Licenses and permits are issued based on location, and how medical waste is handled, transported, and removed. To become federally compliant, specific regulations for training and general business practices must be completed. For instance, blood borne pathogen training is required (OHSA regulation 1910.1030 states that an employee that is exposed to biological hazards need to have training explaining the risks and how to protect/prevent exposure to blood borne pathogens (BBP). We publish a consumer checklist (http://www.aftermath.com/biohazard-experts/crime-cleanup-28-point-checklist/) and a list of applicable regulations (http://www.aftermath.com/cleanup-biohazard-resources/biohazard-risks-reg...).

Tell me about the training. Is it through on the job training, online or can someone receive training at a local college or trade school?

Our employee training includes online, classroom, and hands-on training. We have proprietary methods and customized cleaning agents. Although some biohazard companies sell training courses, you won’t typically find a college program or course specifically tailored to biohazard remediation. Aftermath employees are re-certified annually to ensure they maintain a healthy respect for dangers involved in the profession.

Can you share a story or two about your worst experiences in this profession?

No matter how a death occurs, you must detach yourself emotionally from the situation while simultaneously being empathetic and understanding. Becoming emotionally involved leads to poor judgment and potentially making a situation worse. One situation I will never forget was a teenager who committed suicide with a shotgun. Before I arrived, I was told the family was highly emotional. Although, this wasn’t the first time I had ever handled this type of situation, I remember this incident because of the family members I assisted.

Although devastated, the concerned family offered hospitality to my crew and me. It was different having them ask if we were okay. They asked if we needed a break or if we were hungry. The family would not allow us to leave for lunch. The dead teen’s mother told me she wouldn’t allow anyone extending this much assistance and care for her family to dine out. The family provided food and drinks the whole time we were in their home.

We planned to work late into the evening so we could finish the job at a faster pace. The family told us to leave and get some rest since we had been working since 5 a.m. Having a family offer this much concern was different. We were used to pushing ourselves to help anyone in any way possible. This situation made me realize how thankful family members are for our services. Although a family may not always show it, they are grateful that someone came to their aid.

Unfortunately, I have worked scenes where parents had brutally murdered their children. In a homicide situation, you see the violence someone has committed against another person. If someone cannot separate himself emotionally, he will see a dark side that is too difficult to handle. For this reason, it requires a unique person to perform this service.

According to Mop Men, a property owner is responsible for cleaning the remnants of a death scene. Like everyone else, I thought city sanitation workers did the cleanup. So who is responsible for the cleanup?

The cleanup of any bodily fluids is the property owner’s responsibility. The property owner must decide how to handle the cleanup process. Every situation handled by Aftermath is either requested from a property owner or a representative of the property owner. For instance, a hotel general manager may represent an owner. Legally, no one has to use a professional service, but most find a specialized professional service provides the best assistance. Since the process involves risks, employees must be legally protected from these risks. If maintenance staff performs a biohazard cleaning, they must have the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and training to ensure safety. Odds are 1 in 24 that blood is either tainted with HIV or Hepatitis B or C. An improper cleaning can lead to odors returning or exposure to hazardous diseases. We also clean random biohazards like animal feces contaminations or complex machinery accidents.

How long do you have to wait before you can start the cleanup? I can imagine the longer it takes, the worse it is.

Each situation is different. Typically, any death situation involves local law enforcement. After the police leave the scene, the cleanup can begin immediately. The longer you wait to handle a situation, the worse it becomes. In extreme heat, a delay can create structure damage. Hiring a certified company like Aftermath is highly recommended. Even with the body removed, all efforts should still be made to handle any remaining biohazards.

How do people typically react when they find out your profession?

A common reaction is for someone to ask if we are like CSI. Many people mistake biohazard remediation for CSI. In fact, they both have different objectives. While CSI collects evidence, Aftermath removes any traces of a tragedy. The other reaction is for someone to ask how we can do this profession. As previously mentioned, not everyone is cut out for this business, so it takes a unique person. Once you can see past the horror, you soon realize that Aftermath is about helping people. Only then can someone understand how someone does this for a living.

Do you have any strange stories for readers? For instance, a cleanup under unusual circumstances?

Yes, the situation was supposedly a personal accident. It appeared as if someone had been seriously injured after falling down some stairs. After starting the cleanup process, we noticed that blood was everywhere. It puzzled us that blood was on the couch, which was on the other side of the room at the bottom of the staircase. Oddly, we didn’t see a blood trail. Since the injured person bled so heavily, it wasn’t possible for that person to have crossed the room without leaving a blood trace. Aftermath uses a chemical that detects bodily fluids. We sprayed it on the hardwood floor and saw an outline of footprints. Concerned about foul play, we contacted local law enforcement to take another look at the scene before we erased any potential evidence. So I guess that was the one time we got to play CSI.

Final question, where do you see the death scene cleanup business in the future?

The biohazard cleanup business has an exciting future. If you look back just 15 years ago, you wouldn’t have found much information about the death cleanup business. More than 100 times, I I have heard people say they didn’t even know this service existed. As people gain more exposure and knowledge about the profession, they will realize this is a vital service. Many people don’t see blood as a hazard. Think back before everyone knew about the hazards of asbestos. Everyone thought it was just a normal construction product until they realized its exposure had serious repercussions. Bodily fluids are the same. Besides, all hospitals treat medical wastes as infectious. This is called standard or universal precautions. Ramifications of treating bodily fluids can be life altering. As awareness grows, people will realize that improper cleanup of bodily fluids can dramatically affect their lives. No one escapes death; accidents cannot be wiped out; and violence will never be eradicated. For these reasons, the death cleanup function will always have a demand, which means nothing if the hazards cannot be eliminated.

For additional questions about Aftermath’s services, please contact Andrew Whitmarsh. I have included his contact information:

Email: inquiries@aftermathinc.com

24/7 Emergency Dispatch Phone Number: 877-872-4339

Homepage Link: http://www.aftermath.com/

Blog Link: http://www.aftermath.com/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AftermathInc

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Aftermath90

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/biohazardclean/

Marc Hoover is a freelance writer and author of two books “You Need a Cellmate, Not a Soulmate” and “21 Things you Gotta Know About the NFL.” Click on the links to buy his books or contact him about this story or anything else at augustlake@fuse.net. Marc also has a website for family members to write messages to their deceased loved ones. Visit Letters Beyond Heaven to either share or read personal letters to beloved family members and friends.

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