Aftermath: Crime Scene Cleanup

Just Your Typical Saturday Afternoon Talking About Crime Scene Cleanup

Topic gross you out?
Just stare at Andrew here.

speaker: Andrew Whitmarsh
company: Aftermath
venue: Acorn Public Library in Oak Forest, IL
hosts: Sisters in Crime, Chicagoland

When the local chapter of Sisters in Crime gets together, the gloves come off. No topic is taboo when it comes to murder and mayhem: beatings, slashing, stabbing, falling into a cornfield out of an exploding airplane, or what have you. Usually sequestered in a local library meeting room or indie bookstore, our group of bespectacled and mild-mannered (for the most part) writers gets into the nitty-gritty details necessary for fleshing out crime fiction. Today, Andrew Whitmarsh came by to tell us what it’s like to approach a scene after the death has occurred and the investigators have left, or “released the scene.” No doubt about it, cleaning up a scene makes you scramble to pull on the gloves, both theoretical and actual. Multiple pairs, please.

Stylish and OSHA-compliant.

Andrew works for Aftermath, a nationwide but locally headquartered company, which deals in death: suicide, murder, unattended deaths (some of natural causes), hoarding, biohazard issues, and things you probably don’t even want to think about while you’re eating your morning Cheerios. Basically, you’ve got your fluids, odors, bugs, and bacteria. And when you start bandying around terms like BBP (blood-bourne pathogens), CRE (some kind of nightmare bacteria), and OPIM (other potentially infectious material), most people’s natural reaction is to GTFO (get the eff out).

“We’re going to need a bigger mop.”

What most people don’t know is that it’s the responsibility of the property owner to get the site cleaned up and hazardous . . . er . . . stuff removed, whether that be the business owner, landlord, or grieving family. Insurance can often help out with shouldering the cost, but that’s only the monetary side of things. There’s also the emotional impact on a family. Sometimes the healing and recovery can’t begin until the visual reminder of the event is removed. When you can–or shouldn’t--do it yourself, these are the people you call.

Think you might have what it takes to be an Aftermath field technician? Yes, they’re hiring. And they’ll train the crap out of you. But be aware that the average tenure of a field technician is less than a year. True, it takes a rare, mentally formidable person to weather the travel and crazy on-call nature of the schedule. But it also takes emotional fortitude not just for dealing with the mess of a violent event, but for treating the people left behind with sensitivity and decorum. 

While it’s easy to imagine you could handle a job like this, it’s a good thing there are people are around who can actually do it for you. Great talk. I can’t wait for the bug people.

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