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COVID-19: A “Howl-to”

Have you heard it?  I have.  For the first time, a few nights back.  Doors closed, windows shut, and I'm hearing what sounds like an elk in distress. I step outside, and there it is again--but this time unmistakably human.  And then it clicks: the 8pm community “howl” to honor our brave medical professionals, first responders and essential-service providers. Sure enough, it was 8:01pm.

Without pure coincidence, many of those essential-service providers (grocery clerks, gas station attendants, pharmacists) are now closing their doors at 8pm--a new, if only temporary, normal. There are shelves to be restocked and facilities to be cleaned. While not new requirements, both the scope and vital importance of these tasks have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. What used to be a nightly “routine clean” is anything but routine today.

I’m from Evergreen and lead a team of restoration professionals that is familiar with serious cleaning.  After all, we are routinely called to clean up the types of messes in homes and businesses that make a space, otherwise, uninhabitable.  Today, these calls are certainly going beyond the spill in Aisle 5, or the toilet that has given up trying to process all that toilet paper you bought--we’re more frequently getting the call because of the potential of COVID-19 contamination.

What makes this different is that without knowing where “it” might be, how do you approach a cleaning?  If it is present, how can personnel mitigate the risk of exposure while cleaning?  What products are approved to kill this contaminate?  Fortunately, the restoration profession works in these types of environments every day.  It may be COVID-19 today, but the approach to cleaning and applying disinfectant is not dissimilar to addressing other types of viruses, microorganisms and pathogens that may be present as a result of a water/sewage loss, for example.

It’s 9:30pm on a Wednesday and we get the call from a business owner (location down the hill) who has concern his property may have been exposed to COVID-19.  The business owner doesn’t know for sure if the virus is present (surface swab testing is available, but this takes time and time is of the essence) so we’re asked to perform a deep cleaning out of an abundance of caution.  Our team dons their Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”), which includes a full-body Tyvek suit, double gloves and full-face respirators, and enters the facility.

First, our technicians do a thorough cleaning.  This step simply removes germs, dirt and other impurities from high-touch objects, horizontal surfaces and other targeted areas.  From there, using choreography that only comes with having executed these procedures time and gain, they move through with an Ultra Low Volume (“ULV”) fogger applying the EPA-registered disinfectant in a manner that allows for efficient delivery and proper dwell time, even in hard-to-reach places.  Among the final steps are to carefully “doff” and tightly bag the used PPE for disposal, followed by proper personal hygiene, including - you’ve heard it by now - washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.  All told, a near three-hour effort that kept this essential business operating on schedule.

This novel coronavirus is, by definition, new.  However, for restoration professionals, the process for cleaning and applying disinfectant does not require reinvention.  Practices and protocols used throughout the year can be applied here efficiently and effectively.

It’s just after midnight now and our team is headed home.  There is a group of the community’s best entering the facility to continue the work of preparing for tomorrow.  They walk with an energy...a purpose...they’ve heard the howls.

Ryan Trigg is President of Paul Davis Restoration of the Front Range, an independently owned and operated, full-service restoration business that responds 24/7/365 to various unexpected events affecting property owners, including water, fire, storm and other biohazards.  Ryan and his family have resided in Evergreen since 2006.