April 3, 2020
While you might not think of a disaster restoration technician as a first-responder, they are some of the first to arrive at the scene.
Coronavirus. COVID-19. Everyone is talking about it, writing about it, reading about it. If you’re lucky enough to avoid the actual virus, you can’t avoid the constant barrage of stories, information, and statistics. But this isn’t a story about Coronavirus. This is a story about people: first responders of a different nature.
Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff are on the front lines, entrenched in medical facilities, doing their best every day to save lives. Scientists and researchers are camping out in labs searching for patterns in the data, developing treatments, and, ultimately, a vaccine to help cure and prevent this disease. There are so many essential employees throughout society working in meaningful ways to flatten the curve.
But what happens to those schools, factories, and offices that were exposed to the virus? In the homes of the essential employees that have received the news that they tested positive for COVID-19? Biohazard mitigation specialists are called in to sanitize these spaces to help make them safe for residents, employees, and/or customers.
Most PuroClean locations across North America offer Coronavirus cleanup services. But to get a real picture of these “other” first responders, we didn’t ask our leadership for a statement. We didn’t even ask for one from the owners or managers of the locations. We wanted the real-life “boots on the ground” perspective. What is it really like to fight Coronavirus on its turf?
So we interviewed some PuroClean technicians, those dedicated individuals who enter the spaces that have been hastily evacuated.
It’s not a far stretch for these highly-trained ‘Paramedics of Property Damage’ to go in to tackle challenging property issues. They do it every day. But this is an issue that could go home with them. Though they are fully trained and re-trained, and are provided full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) are they worried about going to work each day?
Michael Rupe, who works with PuroClean Emergency Services of Jacksonville, FL, explained, “It is important to be concerned. Proper precautions are needed, and the right PPE is essential. Without concern, there would be complacency.”
“We were concerned at first, but we get trained[for] the job. This is how Chris [the franchise owner] helped give us peace of mind.” Bree Gill, of PuroClean Disaster Restoration Services of RI in the Providence area, told us. Gilbert Baguma, with PuroClean of Brookline in MA, added, “I have[the] knowledge about how to treat the environment that I am in. With the classes I’ve taken, I have seen and understood hygiene differently. In addition to this, I have the proper PPE and training to safely carry out the job.”
Richard Ludd works with PuroClean of Lanham in MD, and he took it a step further, ”My training helps me inform others about ways to self-quarantine and take precautions to beat the curve.”
“We hold weekly OSHA meetings,” Kory Key, of PuroClean Managed Services in Williston, VT, explained. “In these meetings, we make sure we follow up-to-date CDC and state guidelines… We inform our staff on how to clean everything that is utilized. We partnered with a local liquor distributor to make disinfectants for the community… We do everything we can to follow all safety precautions to make sure everyone is safe.”
It may help to understand the kind of employees PuroClean attracts. When asked about why they wanted to be involved in the disaster restoration industry in the first place, answers included “I love to help people,” “I was motivated to save lives and control pathogens like the recent COVID-19… I like being involved in helping people find comfort,” and “We have compassion in the work we do, and we get it done. I care about customers[being] satisfied with the work that is done.”
The stories that stand out to them range in scope, but all of them start the same. Their desire and commitment to help clients get through their toughest times is above all else. It doesn’t matter if it’s fire and smoke damage, a water damage incident, or a mold or biohazard contamination, such as Coronavirus or other viruses and pathogens.
These “everyday heroes” walk into a property with state-of-the-art equipment, exceptional training, and well-earned confidence. They resolve the issue with competence and compassion for those affected.
Gill told us about “a housing property in Providence where tenants thanked us every day for keeping them safe. It may not seem like a lot, but people are still thankful for it. We want to make sure people don’t get sick.” Fong Cha, of PuroClean of Redmond/Woodinville (WA), said with a sense of pride, that the job that stood out most was “the disinfecting of the local schools. We are doing great things for the community.”
For Rupe it was “the first one. Going into an unknown can be stressful, and I’ve learned more preparedness since then and what the expectations are. Once the procedure was established and experienced, all other jobs flowed seamlessly.”
One story, shared by Ludd, highlights the fear that permeates every Coronavirus cleanup job, “Our customers were in panic mode; they were asking for help. This was for a warehouse facility; they were all scared of getting sick. We cleaned book sleeves, doorknobs, and other high touch surfaces. Since they are considered essential, they had to stay open.”
Baguma went on to say, though, “I feel good; I see a transformation within the clients from when the damage occurred to giving them closure and being able to restore[a] sense of safety…. My line of work helps[the community] because people reach out to us to disinfect the environments of any home, business, or project that helps slow the spread. If we can help flatten the curve through a safer environment, we can help with the numbers.”
When asked if the current situation fell outside of his initial expectations of the job, John Jones, a tech at PuroClean Northwest of Lynwood, WA, responded, “The scope of what we did change, not the work itself. Trauma scene cleanup helps deal with the cleaning services, which helps make the work not outside of the scope… We have a desire to help. This is seen through our success in PuroClean.”
Ultimately, it’s a great source of pride for these steadfast men and women to go into their communities each day to help their clients get through some of their worst times. Seth Joyce from PuroClean Property Restoration – Arlington(TX), revealed “I take a lot of pride,[more] than[with] any other field I have worked at… Unlike other fields and jobs I have had, I also get to improve and help the lives of those who go through loss, so I feel overall proactive.”
“I believe it is necessary to do our part when we are certified and capable to do so,” Rupe concluded. “We have dramatically increased other people’s and businesses’ quality of life and provide[d] a sanitary environment to help curb the spread of infection.”
Susan David, of PuroClean of Fort Mill in NC, said when asked how this epidemic has changed her, “It has made us humble and blessed to know that we are an essential part of this solution.”
We at PuroClean, along with the communities being served by these compassionate and selfless first responders of a different kind, thank them all for their tireless efforts. For overcoming their own fears and concerns in order to put their communities at ease as we all face this world-wide pandemic together. With courage and compassion they continue to serve and we will remain forever grateful.