How it feels to clean up after death

Photograph by Fernando Decillis

Paul Cervino, 37, Bio-One Atlanta Owner

Paul Cervino is a Marine who has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, most recently in 2011. Stateside after that, he found himself in Arizona, in training to open a Bio-One franchise in Atlanta. Always on call, the New York native leads a team of twenty employees who pack Tyvek chemical suits and swiftly deploy to death, traumatic injury, and hazardous contamination scenes across Georgia. The squeamish need not apply.

If I get on a scene early, I try not to look at the body bag that’s coming out. Have I ever walked in there and gone, “Holy crap”? I’d have to say every time.

We definitely don’t go in with pressure washers. If you do that, there’ll be matter all over the place. We use proprietary chemicals. We’re able to mitigate the blood, any type of blood-born pathogen, any type of the nasty stuff that’s associated with a trauma scene. All our stuff is peroxide-based. We also have a wash—it’s like Windex with sulfuric acid in it.

If the blood gets on the carpet, we rip it up. If a hardwood floor is sealed, and there’s no chance for the blood to get between the boards, then we don’t have to rip it up. If blood gets on Sheetrock, we spray our chemicals, and it’s actually a four-step process. If we get a scene that’s a couple of weeks old, that’s where you’ve got to give it a little elbow grease to make sure it comes off. Our goal is to preserve as much of the home as possible.

My dad’s a retired New York City cop. They’d take Bengay, put it underneath their nose, so you wouldn’t smell it. I don’t do that. Ten years in the Marine Corps, you kind of lose all senses.

This article originally appeared in our May 2014 issue.