Sanitizing a booming business

Servpro | ContributedA Servpro worker sprays disinfectant while fully attired in protective clothing and breathing gear.

GREENVILLE – While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a squeeze on retail and restaurants, demand for Servpro’s services has been booming.

The company cleans and disinfects residential and commercial properties, including biohazard cleaning, which now makes up about 50 to 60 percent of total business at the Greenville franchise — which also operates in Lawrence County and Mahoning County in Ohio. 

Usually, that type of biohazard remediation, which would involve sanitizing to eliminate viruses like the coronavirus covers about 10 percent of Servpro’s business.

The company also cleans up water and smoke damage after fires, but the spike in biohazard work has caused it to re-purpose people, said owner Andy Dobson.

“People normally doing fire work are now doing hazard work to try and keep up with demand,” Dobson said.

He said the pandemic, and the sanitization demand that has gone along with it, has taken Servpro’s workers to new venues.

“We’ve done nursing homes, factories – everything from industrial factories to health facilities to nursing homes to corporate,” said Dobson, who declined to name any of the company’s clients. “We’re offering proactive and reactive disinfection practices.”

The company engages in reactive cleaning when COVID-19 or another pathogen is found in a facility, where workers go in and disinfect the building interior. In a proactive cleaning, building owners schedule sanitizing operations to prevent any contaminants from entering.

Dobson said the breakdown has been about 60-70 percent proactive and 30-40 percent reactive. The company also has been creating spaces to keep the illness at bay.

“We’re setting up sick wings for healthcare facilities or containment areas so if someone comes down with COVID, they don’t spread it to the rest of the people,” Dobson said.

Dobson said as a restoration and cleaning company, Servpro carries a variety of disinfectants.

“We try to pick the best one for the situation,” Dobson said. “The hardest pathogen to kill is the non-envelope and COVID-19 is an enveloped large virus. It demands a much more direct chemical.”

The large-envelope pathogen is easier to kill because the virus itself depends on the envelope. If you remove that envelope, the virus starts to break down, Dobson said. 

“The envelope can be broken down with a general cleaner,” Dobson said. “Using the right detergent with disinfectant, you can combat the virus or be proactive about it.”

When cleaning in an operation to eliminate COVID-19 viruses, Servpro’s workers wear full protective equipment — including coveralls, gloves, full face respirator with special cartridges.

Dobson recommends that people take the basics into consideration when sanitizing in a biohazard situation.

“I’ll stress the same thing. The most important thing to do is washing your hands, sanitizing your hands and wearing a mask,” Dobson said. “Those things cannot be overstated. It’s very effective in containing this thing.”

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