By Carson Kessler —
Blood, guts, and trauma are just part of the job description.
A parade of men in hazmat suits gather outside a quaint suburban home tangled in withered vines. The front door opens and the smell of death bleeds into the uncontaminated December air. They walk through the kitchen littered with open cans of diced tomatoes and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup, past the six pairs of shoes meticulously lined up against the wall, where a bloodstained imprint of a life sits in the living room. He sat there for almost four weeks before someone complained about the stench. His blood had settled and seeped deep into the recesses of his beloved leather recliner and through the floor below.
And it’s Scott Vogel’s job to clean it up.
Vogel, 32, works in an industry that not many people know exists, until they need it. The bio-recovery industry—often referred to as crime scene cleanup, biohazard remediation, or trauma scene restoration—specializes in the cleaning of blood, bodily fluids, and other potentially dangerous materials.
As a Certified Bio-Recovery Master at Emergi-Clean Inc., Vogel cleans up after suicides, homicides, and decomposition after unattended deaths. “You name it, I’ve seen it,” he says, casually rattling off recent jobs as if they were items on a grocery list. “I’ve seen people cut in half, mass shootings, and even a scene where there were probably 600,000 maggots feeding off of a body.” He’s become so used to the smell that he often opts for a thin surgical mask rather than a heavy-duty respirator.
This business sometimes requires a cold disposition and a strong stomach, but Vogel has only one of the two. With his rosy cheeks and an infectious smile, Vogel seems like the type of father who sits front row in the bleachers at every one of his daughter’s soccer games. On the road to the job site, he shows me a video of his three-year-old daughter, talks about his love of college football (he’s a UCF Knights fan), and cracks jokes about his family’s unique business— “It’s like Duck Dynasty…with blood!”
Vogel’s family-first attitude governs his work life as well. The bio-recovery business was started by his father, Ronald, who saw a need for a professional biohazard company while serving as a volunteer EMT in New Jersey. He founded Emergi-Clean in 1995. Vogel was drawn to helping others and became an EMT himself at age 16. His dad’s initial hesitancy about his son joining the family business led Vogel to pursue a master’s degree in criminal research from the University of Central Florida. After working an unfulfilling government job, Vogel took over his father’s business in 2010.
Vogel speaks quickly and is never at a loss for words—not even at 6 am. He brags about his new black Chevy Traverse that his wife begged him to buy to replace his old pick-up, which was basically a billboard for Emergi-Clean. “She didn’t want me dropping off my daughter at daycare with a big blood drop on my car,” he says with a shrug. While he no longer drives a vehicle emblazoned with a cartoon blood drop named Bloodsie, Vogel still sports a Bloodsie logo on his black windbreaker and hangs the same decal on his Traverse’s rear view mirror.
A few decades ago, crime scene cleanup businesses like Vogel’s were nearly nonexistent. Today, hundreds of independent companies have multiplied across the country. But while many films such as Sunshine Cleaning and Cleaner paint the new, highly competitive industry to be a simple source of income, the business of cleaning up after death requires much more than rubber gloves and Lysol.
Vogel is on call 24/7 and has about 500 jobs a year. His days are far from routine since his work is emergency-based. He works alongside nine full-time employees and 15 to 18 per diem men.
On this early December morning, Vogel receives six calls during the 90-minute drive to the crime scene. A complaint of bat feces in an attic. A query about an upcoming suicide cleanup. And more mundane calls, like his wife’s concerns about the new washer/dryer they purchased on Black Friday.
“There are incidences where I’m getting a call at a wedding or when I’m at Disney with my kids,” he says about his unexpected schedule.
He takes the call and drops his plans because for him the job is about more than cleaning up. “Someone committed suicide. I put everything aside because right there and then, I’m helping somebody going through the worst time of their life.”
Helping grieving families cope accounts for half of the job. “I get to help people at their worst times,” Vogel says, with a hint of pride. “I can’t sit down and cry with a family, but I am going to be there to explain that we are there to help and that we understand.”
Read the full article in the January 2019 issue of Healthy Indoors Magazine at: https://hi.healthyindoors.com/i/1076124-hi-jan-2019/21
This article originally appeared in Vice’s Tonic in February 2018 and is reprinted with permission of the author.