Jon Wall and his team arrived at the bloody scene after a distress call from a woman in Dallas. In the garage, her husband’s body lay lifeless, with splatters of his DNA strewn across the concrete walls. The man committed suicide on the one-year anniversary of his son’s suicide, Wall was told. After the police inspected the area, Wall and his team handled the mess. The workers put on hazardous-material suits, protective goggles, and respirators and began cleaning. They removed absorbent materials in the garage, packaged them in biohazard drums for transportation to a medical waste facility, disinfected the non-porous surfaces, and polished the area. When they were finished, Wall and his team notified the family that they were able to return home.
Wall is owner of the Steri-Clean franchise location in Dallas–one of seven companies in North Texas that provide the likes of hoarding, crime-scene, and biological cleanup services. Steri-Clean Dallas, whose parent is based in Idaho, is a popular service with DFW police departments. The parent company was founded in 1995 by Cory Chalmers–the cleanup expert who launched and is featured in A&E’s show “Hoarders.” It opened its Dallas outpost, one of its 19 locations and Steri-Clean’s only Texas franchise, in March 2016.
At the Dallas company, Wall oversees a team of five and handles problems that are often huge and time-consuming, Wall says. The crime scene cleanup jobs come in from the Dallas Police Department, Dallas Fire Department, apartment managers, morticians, and families. The job is not for the faint-hearted, Wall believes. It takes a specific, strong-willed person to handle these tasks, he says. “You have to be able to compartmentalize when you’re evaluating each case,” Wall says. “While I believe we are compassionate people who care and truly want to help people going through trauma … some of these scenes are horrific and graphic. But at the end of the day, you need to detach and tell yourself, ‘It’s just a mess that needs to be cleaned.’”
To vet and recruit those best suited for this niche job, Wall says, each applicant goes through a two-week training period, during which he takes them to various jobs. “It’s not like they’re in class and we’re having them take notes,” he says. “They engage in real-time training, following the Occupational Safety and Health Administration protocols to mitigate exposures and damages to infectious pathogens and diseases.”
After this shadowing period—and if they can prove they’re able to “resolve” cases on their own—the trainees are eligible to be hired. However, the hardest part of the job isn’t cleaning blood, remnants, or bodily fluids, Wall says. It’s working with the victims’ families.
“It’s so hard sometimes not to get emotional when you meet these people,” he says. “You deal with people when they’re most vulnerable. It makes you want to do your best after seeing what they’ve encountered.”
Chalmers says he doesn’t plan on opening any new locations in DFW, as the territory is exclusive to Wall. That’s good news for Wall, who says he expects his location to grow by 150 percent in the next three years, easily. “With the way [North Texas] is growing,” he says, “there will always be a need for qualified professionals to handle these services.”