Working Life: Cleaning up crime scenes, water damage, and rats in the walls 

Dana Ford, Restoration Technician

Dana Ford has been a restoration technician at ServiceMaster of Charleston for nine years

Jonathan Boncek

Dana Ford has been a restoration technician at ServiceMaster of Charleston for nine years

In each installment of the Working Life series, a local worker describes what his or her job is like. The stories are taken directly from interviews and told in the first person with minimal or no editing of the subject's natural speech patterns.

I used to have various jobs. I used to move furniture. I used to work at a textile factory. Where I'm from, I'm from Dillon County, S.C., near South of the Border, and the job situation got very, very — nonexistent, I would say, and I had to move down here. My dad stayed down here. He's retired military, so I came down here and stayed with him for a few months and then I got on a temporary service, and they led me to ServiceMaster.

I am certified in mold remediation, water damage restoration, odor control, and carpet cleaning. I go to water damages like floods and pipe breaks. We do some trauma cleanup as well. Most people don't think we clean carpets. They say, "I didn't know y'all cleaned carpets." Well, OK. "You do trauma cleanup and you clean carpets?" Yeah, we do pretty much everything. You name it, we pretty much do it.

On a regular water damage day, there shouldn't be any mold present, but sometimes we come in and they have some and we remediate it. If it's more than 10 square feet, we have to call someone to get it tested and handle that accordingly.

What we do for odors, we have to find the source first. Whatever is causing it, we have to research it and try to find the cause. After that, we decide on what kind of action we need, whether we need to wipe the walls down or we need to do a duct cleaning or we need to rip the carpet out or clean the carpet. Sometimes it's an animal in the walls or underneath the walls or in the ductwork. I've seen a possum, I've seen raccoons, but it'll mostly be rats.

On trauma calls, it can range from someone who cut their wrists or most of the time it'll be suicide by gunshot. You see a lot of brain and blood spatter everywhere. I've seen some brains before, but not often. Sometimes it'll be people dying in their house and staying for two weeks or a week. You can smell it from the door. You can smell it, actually, from the parking lot. It's bad. You ever smelled a dog carcass on the side of the road? It smells worse than that.

I'm not a gross-out type of person in any way, but it is something you never really get used to. You come in, you don't know what's going on, you go, "OK, well, this is gross," but you have to clear your mind of it. Especially with a suicide, you can't get into the who, what, when, and why. You just do your job. You know what happened, but you don't want to take it home with you.

What we'll do is I go in first, I put my mask on, and I go and assess the situation. Then we go back out and suit up and put on a Tyvek suit from head to toe. We put the Tyvek exterior suit over our regular clothes, two pair of 5-mil plastic gloves like doctor gloves, we put on a respirator with the full face shield and everything so we don't get anything in our eyes or mouths, and then we tape our wrists up so we don't get anything down on our skin.

We take our biohazard boxes in there, and we go from there, start the cleanup process. We put it in bags first, tie the bag up, and then put it in a box so it can be transported to the incinerator.

The most rewarding thing is the people, the reassurance of people. You know, you go in, they're in a frantic state. You get to talk to them. You get into their lives a little bit. But you don't try to get too much into it. People like to vent, and it's good that you're there to listen and do your work at the same time, reassure them that everything is gonna be OK. That's the most rewarding part of the job.

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