Trauma clean ups and empathy go hand in hand at Bio Cleanse

Bio-Cleanse is a 24 hour emergency service for trauma, accident and crime scene clean up located in Goulburn (NSW) and operated and managed by co-directors and husband and wife team, Bryan and Chris Norris. An ex-soldier for the Australian Defence Force, Bryan Norris started in the industry seven years ago he had a landscaping business and added a carpet cleaning arm by buying a Chem Dry franchise. “I then did my first water restoration job and discovered that I loved it and wanted to know more about it so I started training with organisations like Jena Dyco, Network Restorers and Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC),” he revealed. “The expertise and training from those organisations kept leading to more areas so we broke into fire, mould, and hoarding clean up.”

From there Bryan achieved every qualification he needed to offer a full carpet cleaning and restoration service including water, fire, mould, and meth lab cleanup, totalling more than 20 certifications, and continues to update his skills and training whenever courses are available. The most recent additions to services under the Bio-Cleanse business is pest control and dry ice blasting, where dry ice is accelerated in a pressurised air stream that dissolves into the atmosphere leaving the surface ‘clean’ with no residue particularly good for fires.

Bio Cleanse came about from a chat to the local undertaker, explained Bryan. “He told us there was no one else in the area doing this sort of work and it was a much needed service so I looked into the training and found out that Jenny [Boymal] from Jena Dyco was bringing Kent Berg from the National Institute of Decontamination to Sydney, so I signed up and bought all the PPE gear and equipment,” said Bryan. “I received fantastic training from Kent and we still keep in contact today via email and he’s always there to offer advice.”

Once the training was complete and the business was up and running, Bryan contacted the local police superintendent who put the Bio Cleanse business card up on the notice board at the station. “The police can’t act as a tout for us, in that they can’t give out our card to victim’s families, however if they are approached the police can point them in our direction,” explained Bryan. “It’s usually the family that will contact us for a clean up, and in sensitive cases such as murders and crime scenes, they have gotten our number from the funeral director.”

Bio Cleanse can also be found on the first page of Google search results, which helps keep the company a head above the rest in the Canberra and Sydney areas. But it’s word of mouth that generates the most business, admits Bryan. “People talk and if you do a professional job and offer a level of comfort at the same time, then your clients will tell their friends, who will tell other people and so on,” he stated.

Bryan understands that compassion and understanding are key roles of the job. “These people have just experienced a great trauma or loss and have no idea who to ask or what to do next, so when they are given our number, it’s our priority to not only offer them the best service, but also empathy,” Bryan shared. “It’s really important when hiring staff that they can fulfil the psychological role of the job, as well as the physical.”

Bryan encourages his staff to talk to a counsellor if they need to as many of the crime or murder scenes can be quite traumatic, often involving blood, maggots, faeces, or traces of human hair or skin. When asked how he deals with it, Bryan admits his military background contributes to him having a strong mind and stomach. “The discipline of a soldier is just to get the job done, so I guess I use the same mentality with this job, I just get on with the job,” he revealed. “It’s more a reaction, not a response.”

When it comes to crime scene clean up, Bryan was quick to dismiss the portrayal in popular television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, saying that the reality is very different. “They use illuminol and that blue light to detect blood on the TV show and while the police use that, we have special chemicals to find and clean blood by literally lifting it out of the woodwork and concrete,” he explained. “Then as an extra precaution, we take it a step further by sealing the concrete to make absolutely positive that it doesn’t reappear.”

One of the methods for removing blood from carpet when appropriate to do so is called a poultice in which a dry towel is left over the carpet and when the blood underneath dries, it dries through the carpet and into the towel so when the towel is removed, the carpet is left clean. While this is a carpet cleaning method, Bryan utilises his experience across carpet, restoration and forensic to complete a job properly.

However, one aspect that is the same in front of the camera and on a real crime scene is the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) including a protection suit and respirator mask, which, Bryan said is the most uncomfortable part of the job, “The suit is lightweight but it doesn’t breathe very well, and having to wear double gloves, gumboots and the heavy respirator mask for even an hour is taxing,” he remarked. “That’s why we do the clean up in time slots of 40 minutes with 15 minute breaks in between.”

Bryan revealed that hoarding accounts for at least 50 percent of the work he does under Bio-Cleanse. “We completed this one job which was infested with cockroaches and the telltale sign of an infestation is when they hide in door jams as all the cracks and holes are already full,” he revealed. “That’s when our clients started to ask about pest control, because even though the place was clean, it’s difficult to completely eliminate an infestation without the right chemicals so I obtained my pest licence and can now offer pest control as part of the service.”

Bryan shared examples of different hoarding jobs, from piles of rotting food spilling out of a broken refrigerator to red back spiders and bed bugs in the bedding and mattress. “The clients are usually people who need help to deal with their hoarding problem and they are usually very appreciative of our service as we are the first step to getting them back to living a normal life,” he said.

Located in a big warehouse full of equipment, chemicals and machines, Bryan employs six staff across Classique Chem Dry and Bio Cleanse and each have received training from Bryan. They work out of four Chem Dry vans and Bryan uses a fifth van for Bio Cleanse, which is intentionally bare of signage to be more sensitive to the nature of the industry.

“Our business has grown a lot. We’ve taken little steps but over time it’s resulted in leaps and bounds,” Bryan stated. “We’ve reinvested everything back into the business, but now we’ve reached a point where we have to ensure we can service all the work we can offer. The focus is now taking on more staff, and more training for them to make the business operational without Chris and I being so hands on.” So while Bio Cleanse and Classique Chem Dry continue to expand, the Norris’ are looking for a bit of rest and relaxation, knowing their businesses are in good hands.