It's something many of us don't want to talk about, let alone make a career out of. In homicides, suicides and unattended deaths, police play their role. They collect evidence and they secure the scene after a traumatic event.
Sgt. Michael Baylous with the West Virginia State Police said, “And then once we do that, we're finished. We pack up and we move out. Often times, these families are left with this scene that they have to clean up."
Once the sirens are quiet, crime lab technicians and the coroner are gone, often the family of the victim is responsible for cleaning up what is left behind. Detective Sean Snuffer with the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office said, "When you have a gruesome crime scene, of course, there's going to be a lot more to clean up."
"We have seen some pretty horrific crime scenes out here that would require a professional company to come in and clean it correctly,” said Sgt. Baylous.
So who do you call in an extremely sensitive situation like this? After a quick internet search, one of the first companies to pop up is one called Aftermath. They have a very specialized service. They call it "bio-hazard remediation."
Dana Todd said, "But it's commonly referred to as crime scene cleanup."
I spoke with Todd, Chief Marketing Officer of the company. That’s right, they have a marketing officer.
They're based out of Illinois, but have nearly 200 employees who drive 32 mobilized units covering 48 states. So odds are, if there's a death in your neighborhood, Aftermath will be the company cleaning up. And they have no shortage of potential employees.
Todd said, "We actually have a lot of people who are drawn to this type of industry. People find us."
She said the job takes skill and patience. Much like people who work in hospitals, or first responders, a strong stomach is necessary. We're talking toxic body fluids, brain matter, contaminated blood, and body parts. Those are all part of a day’s work.
Employees have to know the right things to say and not to say. "When you go to someone's home and you know that there has been a trauma there, don't ask them how they’re doing,” Todd said. “It seems so basic, but as humans, we're trained to say that, but to ask how are you invites them to tell you and then to relive that pain again."
Todd said the need for her company is very real. They refer to human remains as "bio."
"Humans have a tendency to associate the bio that they see with the loved one that they lost,” she said. “If you think about the emotional risk along with the health risks of having to touch that, interact with that or God forbid, find it six months later and go through that whole feeling again, It's a deeply, deeply traumatic type of situation."
They go through training, two weeks online and then on the job training. Employees are re-certified every year. Todd said they're always hiring and they look for a certain type of person to do this kind of work.
"People who truly find satisfaction in helping others. You talk to our technicians or our supervisors. Every time someone offers to give them a hug or bake them cookies and says, thank you, thank you, thank you. That's what motivates them and rewards them. That's why they stay with that job."
If you plan on going into this line of work, prepare to have no social life. You could be working for hours or days on end.
Many employees have been with Aftermath for years, some a decade. "They feel like they're making a difference and they see the value of their contribution right there, that day."
We've learned that depending on the market size, beginner technicians typically make around $30,000 annually, but that salary can grow exponentially, in some cases, reaching near six figures.
A rewarding career, a necessary one, that many wouldn't know about it unless it’s needed.