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It takes a special kind of person to work in the field of crime scene cleanup. You need a strong stomach and nerves of steel, because your job involves cleaning up human remains left behind by medical examiners, chemicals, or potentially harmful viruses or bacteria. Crime scene cleaners typically take a 20-hour bio-recovery technician course on the hazards of cleaning up human waste and best practices. According to CNN Money, entry salaries start at around $35,000 a year but can grow to over $80,000 after a few years' experience.
Most crime scene cleanup technicians don't work 9 to 5 hours. Instead, they're on call, typically for a 12-hour shift during weekends, about two nights a week, and one or two weekends a month. Because the work is sporadic, regular hours aren't efficient or cost effective for employers, which are typically local law enforcement agencies. Because you need to be able to work at a moment's notice, you can't be out of town, under the influence of alcohol, or otherwise unavailable when called.
One of the main job duties is cleaning up human waste. This includes cleaning blood off walls and objects, ripping out or cleaning carpeting, cleaning or disposing of furniture, and bagging loose human remains the coroner has left behind. You must wear appropriate protective gear to prevent exposure to blood-borne pathogens. Your training teaches the chemicals to use to get the job done, as ordinary household cleaners won't completely sanitize affected areas.
Another common cleanup situation is when criminals such as methamphetamine dealers are apprehended, and the potentially toxic chemicals left at the crime scene need proper disposal. Training for crime scene cleaners typically covers the personal protective equipment you need to wear, how to handle various chemicals, proper disposal methods and accounting for all inventory. You treat all substances at a crime scene as potentially hazardous, even if they're labeled otherwise, because they could be mislabeled to prevent detection by authorities.
Perhaps the most potentially dangerous situation for a crime scene cleanup expert is being called to clean a potential bio-terrorism site. If you're dealing with infectious agents, you have to wear hot, heavy protective gear, such as a Hazmat suit, double-filter respirators and chemical-spill boots. Your training covers respiratory protection, official communication channels, awareness of your personal space and labeling procedures. It's important all procedures are followed to the letter, or you risk infecting not only yourself, but countless others by being careless.
- Crime Scene Steri Clean: Current Job Openings
- CNN Money: Six-Figure Jobs -- Crime-Scene Cleaner
- Asheville Crime and Trauma Scene Cleanup: Professional Cleaning -- Blood -- Death -- Suicide
- Amdecon: The Amdecon Biorecovery Technician Course
- National Institute of Decontamination Specialists: Crime and Trauma Scene Biorecovery
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.
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