Trauma Scene Cleanup: What You Need to Know

by Cheney Hines

Warning: The following post may be graphic and emotionally disturbing to any who have recently been involved in a medical trauma event.

In movies and TV when a violent crime has occurred, the scene often ends once the victim is hauled away in an ambulance. In the real world, that scene is far from over. Trauma scene cleanup involves lingering bodily fluids that are difficult to remove and that can present biohazardous toxins to anyone who comes into contact with them.

What’s more, the disposal of such contaminated objects is tightly controlled by health ordinances, local laws and government regulations. Any amateur or unqualified attempts to decontaminate the scene could result not just in potential health consequences, but legal ramifications that can include large fines and even jail time.

Save yourself from the mental trauma, the medical risks and criminal nature of cleaning up a violent crime scene yourself or through a non-qualified cleaning service. After all, one victim is already too many.

Unseen Dangers

One of the biggest hazards people face when cleaning up trauma sites is the risky nature of human fluids and tissues. These substances quickly decompose and can leave toxic residues on all of the surfaces they come in contact with. Materials contaminated with such substances often must be disposed of in a safe and legal way.

This legal requirement can entail special removal, bagging and transport practices to eliminate the public health risks of manipulating them. Permits are often needed to handle and dispose of such substances to indicate that the individual performing the task is a trained trauma scene cleanup professional.

Only such a professional can determine the extent of the contamination. Surfaces like hardwood subflooring and carpeting cushions must often be completely removed before deodorizing and disinfecting can take place. Simply mopping up the fluids and rinsing them down the sink is not an option.

Many of the decontaminating chemicals required by health law are also dangerous to handle without prior experience. Safety equipment must be used in order to enter the scene, administer the chemicals and safely remove contaminated materials before anyone else can enter the space.

Other special equipment is sometimes needed to completely disinfect and deodorize an area so occupants can resume their lives without risking falling ill or noticing the lingering effect of the event.


A Job Only for Experts

On top of the skill needed to identify, remove, package, transport and decontaminate materials soiled during a trauma event, other considerations must be dealt with as a secondary result. For instance, police chemicals like fingerprint powder, tear gas and luminol spray — which is sprayed upon walls, floors and household belongings to detect blood — must be removed in such a way to eliminate subsequent dangers they present.

Tear gas, in particular, can leave toxic residue that is harmful even to those simply entering the room. Cleaning crews must wear protective equipment in order to handle and remove it. Naturally, all of this equipment and the needed cleanup chemicals are expensive — not something the average cleaning service would have access to.

Do yourself a favor. Make the safe, responsible and only legal choice by asking a professional trauma scene cleanup crew to perform the needed duties after an emergency event. The memory is already more than you should have to bear, so do not add more risky and grisly experiences by trying to tangle with the cleanup yourself.