Become a Crime Scene Cleaner
 by Sandra Cummings

 

 

crime and trauma scene cleaners

 

How To Get the Best Crime Scene Clean Up Training  

You have probably come looking for information on crime and trauma scene clean up because you watched the movies Sunshine Cleaning or Cleaner, or you watched some CSIand you thought it looked interesting and that you could do that. Or you heard from a friend that you could make good money at it. Well, I can tell you firsthand that yes, you can do it and it is interesting (to say the least), and you can make good money at. 

But before you can jump right in and call yourself a “Crime Scene Cleaner” or “CTS Decon Technician,” or “Biorecovery Technician,” you must be properly trained and certified.  

Well, sure, I mean you could go ahead and start working without proper training but you won’t be doing this work for very long because you will price yourself out of the business (charging too much or not charging enough) or you will contract hepatitis B or histoplasmosis or some other heinous disease because you didn’t know about blood- and airborne pathogens and how to protect yourself from them, or you’ll burn yourself out with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because you failed to take the mental precautions necessary, or your business will be cited and fined because you failed to put the proper OSHA training and requirements into play.  

Do yourself a big favor and take the time to get trained first so you don’t have to worry about those scenarios above. And I am here to tell you my experiences in finding and receiving that training and certification.  

You have two options for training classes these days: Virtual (online and DVD) or On-Site (hotel seminars or week-long sessions). In this article I will explain the differences, disadvantages, and benefits of both. 

A little bit of background: My interest in crime scene clean up, or CTS Decon (CTS Decon stands for Crime and Trauma Scene Clean Up, a term I prefer and will explain later on.) is personal. I had a relative attempt suicide a few years ago and family (a cousin and an uncle) had to come in to clean up the mess this relative left behind. Although the cousin and uncle were rather distant relatives they still knew the person who tried to kill himself. I started to think that it was not fair or proper or right that a family member or even a friend should have to clean up after a suicide or a homicide. And then I thought further about the guy who died in my apartment complex and wasn’t found for about a week. Should his friends and family have to deal with that? The poor apartment maintenance crew had to do it, and I never saw a couple of them again after that. 

I wanted to get into this business so that no one’s family or friends had to clean up after a suicide, or homicide, or accident, etc. I wanted to spare others the pain that my family had to go through. Bad enough that our relative hurt himself, worse that we had to deal with that pain and the pain of seeing the aftermath of his attempt. 

Also, I came into this with no cleaning training whatsoever. A lot of my classmates in the various seminars and on-site training sessions were in the restoration business or owned carpet cleaning businesses. They could go to training that I couldn’t. I am only writing about the classes that laypeople could attend. 

I started doing research about this industry. I knew that I didn’t want to just start without training because I was (am) a writer/editor/crossword puzzle engineer who knew nothing about this outside of a few CSI episodes and Autopsy on HBO, and 2) I was (am) smart enough and humble enough to realize that it was in my best interest to be trained properly. (What I did NOT realize at the time is the potentially deadly repercussions that working in this industry can expose you to.) 

I looked around for classes in my area and got lucky that a weekend seminar was being held in my city in a few weeks. This short class, titled Basic Biocleaning Seminar, was ultimately a waste of time and money. The instructor, while nice enough, had no credentials outside of “....been in this business for 20 years.” and quite frankly, wasn’t well spoken and did not inspire any confidence in me that he really knew what he was talking about. He kept talking about using a SCUBA tank in this business. I later learned that respirator he was calling a “SCUBA” was actually called an SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus).  

The course was so short that I felt I only received the most basic of information. Perhaps this would make a good introductory course. This course cost me about $1200.00 to attend because I stayed for his extra day of the “business seminar.” Sadly, the instructor, who also claimed he wrote the “standard” for the industry, turned out to be just as bogus as his credentials. Anyone can write a manual and throw the word “standard” in the title but that doesn’t make it a real standard. I will not mention the name of this instructor or this course because I can’t recommend it. You can learn almost as much by just watching Sunshine Cleaning.

Advantages? Rudimentary background to the industry. 

Disadvantages: Sketchy instructor and very little information. Not a real certification course. Very expensive. Little information. 

The next class I attended was a week-long seminar. This seminar was not held in my city so I had to fly out of state, get a hotel, and rent a car so the price is now already considerably higher than the weekend one. Of course the class itself was more expensive because it was longer and was held at a dedicated site. At this point I am up to around $4000 in fees and expenses. 

Also, since the instructor needed a certain amount of people for the class to make, I had to wait months to go to it. In fact, the class was bumped two times because not enough people signed up. It was a pain to register as you had to fax your form (I don’t have a fax machine.), snail-mail a form, or call and register. I don’t know about you, but having had my credit cards hacked because of snail mail and giving out info on the phone, I have a hard time registering through those options. 

I finally went with snail mail, praying that my information wasn’t stolen. 

Once I got the final confirmation of a class, I could finally ask for time off, not an easy thing to do since I’d already asked for and changed the dates twice already. Thank goodness I hadn’t booked flights or hotels yet. I would be throwing a fit to get the fees reimbursed by the training facility, but we all know that that would never happen. 

After an uneventful flight, I had to fight with the car rental place, and finally got to the hotel about midnight.  

The course started the next day and was five days long (Monday through Friday) and each day we started at least 10 minutes late as people were having to drive in and then getting everyone settled and quiet was a chore. Most people had flown in from out of town and for me; it was a different time zone so I was groggy most of the time and had trouble concentrating. 

This course was obviously far more in-depth because of the time spent in the classroom, but unfortunately was geared towards carpet cleaners and restoration people. That’s great if you are in those businesses but for those without that background, like me, there was much that was useless to me. Also, they talked about how to use existing equipment like water extractors and other restoration equipment. Again, great if you’re in carpets or restoration, bad if you want to start your own business from the ground up. (Full disclosure: I had NO interest in being in those other businesses. I just wanted to help people.) 

The instructor had written a book about this industry, but had no credentials outside of having written that book and belonging to an industry group, he started. He did not have any OSHA credentials, and in fact, rarely talked about any dangers in this business outside of a few remarks about hepatitis and HIV during the section about personal protective equipment (PPE). (At this point in my education I didn’t know the significance of these. I tell you this in retrospect.)  

They provided you with a handbook but it was very poorly written with typos and mistakes throughout. (I have a hard time taking anyone seriously if they can’t even be bothered to run spell check. And considering the cost of the course you would think they would at least hire a proofreader or something.)  

There was a hands-on section that was more in-depth than the weekend class (blood poured on some carpet and some wood) but there were too many people and not enough time to really get some experience. I had a chance to put on some PPE and scrub some walls, see some maggots, and smell the stink. (It didn’t bother me but some people were too grossed out to finish.)  

The business section was OK but again, it was geared towards those who are already in established businesses. Most of the people there already had trucks and equipment, whereas I had nothing. Did I have to get a bank loan to do this work? I’ve already invested almost $6000 at this point. 

The instructor was quite condescending to those of us who weren’t in carpet or restoration. I also felt that I was being talked down to because I am female. There were only three women in class, and the other two were there representing a nationally known restoration company and were attending with their male supervisor. The instructor also had a hard time reining people in and keeping chit-chat and tangential discussions to a minimum. And again, I was being taught by an instructor with bogus credentials. Better to be upfront and say that you don’t have any than to make some up.  

The instructor continually pushed joining an organization (BIG red flag and no-no for me) that purports to be the leader in this industry but considering that their website is down more than it is up, and if my instructor is a major player in it, I will pass. This organization also writes on their website that you only need to comply with the OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard, which is a great standard but NOT the only one you need to comply with.  

At the end of the course I felt a little more confident in my abilities but not enough to get out and start my own business. If I had already been a carpet cleaner I might’ve gotten more out of this course. 

This course cost me $4700.00; that is, the cost of the course ($1995.00) plus my travel expenses plus time off of work.  

Advantages: Hands-on (possibly for the stink, if you need to smell it), ability to ask a question in real time, good for those who can’t or don’t like to read 

Disadvantages: Very expensive, geared towards carpet/restoration people, difficult to attend, lack of safety training, instructor who had made up his instructor title (I found out later), inconvenience, wasted time on tangents, time off of work, bad handbook, travel expenses, and travel hassles. 

I cannot in good conscience name this company either as I don’t feel that their quality is worth their price. Perhaps at a quarter of their asking price the course might be acceptable. That would still be almost $500.00 and that doesn’t address the bad instructor or the real-time travel expenses and hassles. Unless you just need a vacation from work or have money to throw away, I can’t recommend this class. 

While trying to find yet another in-person course but one that wasn’t for established business, I found an online course. I was a bit skeptical about learning this business online simply because of the hands-on aspect. I had taken online courses before while working on my Master’s degree so the fact that it was online wasn’t a problem. This course was significantly cheaper than both on-site courses. By a far margin this course was more affordable. Plus, it turned out that I could work on the material at any time of day or night, totally at my convenience, and therefore wouldn’t interfere with work. I would also end up with more certificates than I received at the other courses. And the instructor had verifiable, appropriate credentials. 

I paid for the course through a dedicated secure portal and started the training within about 10 minutes. This course was 26 hours long and it took me five weekends to finish. That seems like a long time to finish but it was so in-depth that I found myself watching most of the sections two times just to absorb all of the information. I also noticed that after a while I forgot I was watching a video.  

The instructor had filmed one of his on-site courses and edited it down to the 26 hours. There was no wasted time. Each section was about 30 minutes long, and I could do about three at a time before I needed a break. Please note that I took the online course as it was $100 cheaper than the DVD version. The online version allows two views of each video and you have about nine months to finish (The DVD version is available to you if you don’t have a fast internet connection and/or need longer than nine months to finish.) 

You are given the files to print your own textbook (a plus for earth-friendly types like me), and you follow along with the videos. When the instructor says go to such-and-such page, you turn to that page and that’s that. You are also given some tertiary information to print and follow along with.  

I followed the instructor’s directions to a T and had no problems but if you just jump in without reading you will feel a little lost. Also, I had some questions that I wanted to ask at certain times but the instructions said to wait and sure enough, the questions were answered later on. The instructor was available to me with the few things I needed clarification on. I emailed him and we set up a time to talk. That was a nice touch. 

Again, the instructor had the most credentials of all the instructors I had previously studied with, and his section on health and safety was far superior. I came out of my training with a healthy (no pun intended) respect for the diseases and conditions that I could and probably would come in contact with.  

It was through this course that I found out why “crime scene clean up” is a misnomer: Very few of the jobs we are called out to do are person-person crimes, like homicide. Most are suicides or decompositions; therefore, crime and TRAUMA scene decontamination. 

As far as the hands-on section, well, I found this virtual hands-on to be more productive for me in the long run. Despite my initial hesitation and unfounded belief that I had to put on PPE and get dirty, watching someone do the work was more beneficial because the instructor explained everything while it was being done step-by-step and  I understood why each step was performed, and how to do it properly. Whereas in the on-site course I could only perform a few techniques and practice on a few things, the virtual hands-on covered everything, more things than I would’ve even considered, like the different types of paint and how to work with each one, and the different types of flooring and how to work with them.  

I found out that the technique I used in my on-site hands-on was wrong. The instructor at the on-site training had too many people to worry about and didn’t notice that I was doing the work the wrong way. The virtual instructor felt like a private instructor, like I was having private lessons. 

We were shown how to deal with art, and computer equipment, and clothes, and ceiling texture, and jewelry, etc. We went into more detail and covered more “stuff” than I could possibly list here.  

The business section was incredibly detailed and the best part, for me, was the section on dealing with clients. Very informative. 

Once I finished watching all of the videos I emailed the instructor and got the site and password to take my exam. I don’t have test anxiety AND the test was open book so I breezed through it with a 98. (Got ahead of myself and answered with the wrong OSHA standard. Darn it.) If you do have test anxiety you have two chances to take the exam, something that on-site training doesn’t allow.  

I came out of the course with eight certifications and a ton of confidence in finally starting my business to help people. 

You can take this course online or you can order the DVD.

I will mention this company because I feel confident that other will get as much out of it as I did. Please go to  www.amdecon.com, and take their 26-hour course. Their price alone is worth your time.