What are you bringing home with you?

Coronavirus disease virus or bacteria. Global healthcare crisis and pandemia

Do you ever really know what dangers you are bringing home with you after shift or after a call.  When we know or suspect something bad, we take precautions, but what about when we don’t know?

While every scene is not ridden with biohazards, pathogens, methyl-ethyl contaminates, or bed bugs; death investigators and emergency personnel aren’t immune from encountering them and bringing them home.

Consider this:

You are called to a scene of a car accident where a pedestrian has been struck and killed, during your approach to the victim you accidently step in blood. Now you track that blood to your vehicle, the morgue, maybe to next of kin’s home, your private car and then into your home.   Sure, the blood is dried and up in the tread of your shoes but that dried blood will be left everywhere you go.

Could this situation have been avoided or mitigated?

We are all careful moving about a scene, and we take steps to prevent this type of contamination. But let’s face it, our job can be dirty and as a consequence of our job duties we will get contaminated.  But you do not have to stay that way.

While dried blood on your boots may not seem like a significant hazard – at least it’s one that can be washed off – exposure to substances and pathogens like methamphetamines, fentanyl, MRSA or even bed bugs can be an entirely different story.

What can we do about exposure?


Decon doesn’t not always involve a Level-A wet-down decon line. Sometimes, it may be as simple as washing your arms with soap and water on scene. Appropriate commercial wipes, cleaning solutions or detergents should be available in your response vehicle and at the morgue/office.

For those times where on-scene decon is needed, consider available options and who is properly trained to institute them. Do you have access to a portable shower with hot water, or are you only relying on fire engine hydrant or tank water (which is cold, by the way) to gross decon anyone that is contaminated?

If you need to change your clothes, do it sooner rather than later. Bag your clothes, change into a new uniform or other clothing and wash your clothes at a morgue or office, if possible. If this isn’t an option, then turn to your supervisory staff to reference appropriate off-site cleaning options.

As a final thought, bringing contaminated (or potentially contaminated) clothing home to launder should not be an option, as a cleaning solution should be available through your agency’s decontamination and exposure plans.

But as is common in the coroner/ME world we do not always have facilities at work to wash our clothing.  Consider talking with your local EMS, they usually have on site washer and dryers for soiled sheets, uniforms, etc.  

If you have no choice but to wash your clothes at home do it immediately, undress outside your house or in an area you can easily clean like a garage.  Bag your clothes and then dump them directly into the washing machine, do not wait a few days or even hours to do this.

Don’t forget about your shoes. If you suspect any contamination removed them and wash immediately.  You can then disinfect with bleach or some other commercial disinfectant.

What we do is dirty and can be potentially dangerous. We do not want to bring it home to our children and family.  Think about your shift and the calls you went on, take whatever precaution you need to everyday not to expose others to the dangers we face.

Medicolegal death investigators training conference