Tough Jobs: Bio One of Topeka
They clean and sanitize areas affected by traumatic incidents and death, including bodily fluids, as well as decontaminate areas that have been affected by MRSA, C. Diff. Colitis, human waste, pet and rodent contamination, sewer backups, tear gas, meth labs, mold and more.
They support local law enforcement with jail cell and cop car cleanups, and they are the only local company that offers prep work required for bed bug extermination.
Bio-One is often called in to help people who are coping with grief or stress. Owner Travis Hansen says that the company’s motto is “Help First, Business Second.”
“When people are dealing with devastating situations in their lives, helping them through it is our first priority,” Hansen said. “These situations can be very traumatic for those involved, and we want to make it as easy as possible. We can always deal with the business details once their lives have settled down.”
Hansen notes that many people are unaware that their homeowners or renters insurance might cover trauma clean up services. Bio-One is familiar with the process and will offer guidance to people on how to proceed with claims.
“We initiate all of the claims for them,” Hansen said. “We know the ropes.”
One of the areas that keeps the company the busiest is hoarding cleanup.
“This is a problem that is bigger than most people ever realize,” Hansen said. “We tell everyone if they have a mess and aren’t sure what to do, we can take care of them.”
Hoarding cleanups are sensitive work. Compassion and confidentiality are a must.
“We have a reputation as a company you can trust,” Hansen said. “We’re meticulous and work with care. We know what is valuable and what’s a keepsake. We discuss with people, what’s important to you.
Every case is different. We’ve found unopened Christmas cards, valuables, birth certificates, military records.
We learned how to personalize our service, and we help people take steps to keep organized so that they won’t have to call us back in the future.”
Hoarding cleanups can be surprising, and they are not without risk. Hansen once cleaned a house that had several thousand pairs of socks in it, but on another occasion the crew found 23 loaded firearms scattered throughout the house. A memorable job resulted in 19.53 tons of trash hauled away, and all of it was carried out to the dumpster by hand.
Bio-One takes on some jobs you would probably never imagine, too.
“We recently had a job where there had been a massive honey bee infestation in between the second and third floor of an apartment complex,” Hansen recalled. “Without knowing how bad it was, the property owners had the bees exterminated. Afterwards, honey began dripping out of the ceiling and they noticed a terrible smell. We ended up removing a 12-foot section of the ceiling completely full of honey combs and thousands of dead bees. We were covered in honey as we cleaned things up. It was a mess.”
Hansen notes that the job requires special equipment, cleaning agents, and skills that average clean-up crews do not have because the company deals with biohazards. One example was a house contaminated with MRSA.
“This particular strain was flesh eating, and the gentleman that lived there had lost both feet and part of his hands because of it,” Hansen said. “He would go to the hospital to get better and then return home where things always got worse. We are always extremely careful, but this one was a little nerve-wracking. The place was covered with contamination.
There is danger from heat, too, especially in the Kansas summer. Calls to clean up bat contamination or wildlife messes in attics make for very hot work.
“The temperatures in attics can be in excess of 120 degrees,” Hansen said. “This is only made worse by our hazmat suits, which makes it feel like it’s about 20 degrees warmer. In a matter of minutes we are soaking wet inside of our suits. We typically can only work about 20 minutes without taking a break to cool down and hydrate. This takes the process a whole lot longer!”
As you can imagine, one of the biggest challenges for Bio-One is in finding good employees. Not everyone is cut out for the demands of the job. Plus, staff are basically on call 24/7 because an emergency clean up could happen any time.
So what’s the upside? Hansen appreciates that every day at work is different and never dull. Most of all, though, he is proud to do work that really helps people.
“It’s a very rewarding job,” Hansen said. “We’ve become very close with many of our customers, and some turn into friends. I even met one of my best employees while helping her grandmother through a rough time. I’ve kept all of the thank you cards and emails I’ve received, too. You really help people, and they appreciate it. After a hoarding cleanup, people often say thank you for giving me my life back. We’re doing work that truly changes lives for the better.”