Remediating Unknown Hazards with Vehicle Decontamination

Learn about vehicle decontamination and why it goes beyond just detailing to ensure your vehicle is safe to operate.

Most people spend a lot of time in their vehicles, whether it is the hours spent going to and from work, going around running errands in the evening or on weekends, or even taking road trips with the family. Keeping your vehicle clean is a chore in itself, and you may be spending a day each month making sure your car is kept up to your standards. But what happens when your vehicle is stolen, or you are transporting passengers regularly that could be carrying infectious diseases, or are immune-compromised – and regular detailing just isn’t enough to get it back to its pristine condition?

What is Vehicle Decontamination?
Decontamination of a vehicle is beyond just regular detailing, as you are trying to get rid of biohazardous materials that could harm the health of yourself or your passengers in some way. The decontamination process will ensure that the vehicle is back to a pristine condition, clear of biohazards from drugs and drug residue, animal remains, and infectious diseases.

When Do You Need to Decontaminate Your Vehicle?
If your vehicle has been involved in a crime scene, whether it was stolen, or something just happened where it was parked, there is a chance that there could be hazards within the vehicle that will need a trained remediation company to deal with it.

Decontamination deals with a lot of different hazards including:

  • Blood and blood products
  • Bodily fluids such as urine, feces, vomit
  • Weapons/weapon residue (mace, pepper spray, gunpowder)
  • Drugs, drug residue, and drug paraphernalia
  • Sharps such as needles, syringes, blades, razors
  • Signs of animal infestation
  • Chemical residue
  • Mold problems
  • Odor problems
  • Used in a crime
  • Someone previously living in a vehicle
  • Large amounts of garbage and debris
  • Infection diseases such as COVID-19, or Hepatitis B or C

Who Needs Decontamination Services for Their Vehicle?
There are a lot of companies or people that need regular decontamination services for their vehicles to ensure safe usage for any occupants of the vehicle. The above situations could happen to any number of people, whether they are using their personal vehicle, or driving a work vehicle. Decontamination services should be considered for the following:

  • Individuals vehicle owners where the vehicle was stolen or left for long periods of time
  • Fleet Managers
  • Insurance Adjuster
  • Detailer
  • Auto Body Shops
  • Local Mechanics
  • Dealerships
  • Impound Lots
  • Truck or Bus Drivers
  • Rental Companies
  • Taxi Drivers or Ride-Share Drivers
  • First Responders

Handling a vehicle on your own when there is a chance that it has been contaminated by drugs, bodily fluids, or infectious diseases is unwise. Professional vehicle decontamination services should be called in to test the vehicle, then thoroughly clean it as needed. Specialized equipment is needed, as well as training and experience to ensure a full clean and safe cleaning for the technician doing the work.

Decontaminating Stolen Vehicles, or Vehicles Involved in Crime
If you have ever had your vehicle stolen, you understand the stress of the situation, and when you get the vehicle back, you know that police would have likely gone through the vehicle searching for evidence, whether it is fingerprints, DNA, or drugs. However, what you may not be thinking about is the fact that police do not clean or decontaminate the vehicle afterward. Meaning, if the vehicle was used for drugs, whether it was dealing, or using, there could be biohazards waiting for you when you get your vehicle back.

After getting your vehicle back, often your first step will be to take it to a mechanic to ensure it is still safe to drive and hasn’t been physically damaged in a way that makes it unsafe to use. However, your first step should actually be to get the vehicle decontaminated. A large number of stolen vehicles are used for other crimes, and the thief may even have lived in the vehicle for an extended period of time (depending on how long it took to get it recovered). With these unknowns, decontamination is the only way to be sure that even entering the vehicle is safe for you. Many vehicle decontamination companies are also crime scene cleaners, so they understand what they need to be looking for, and testing for, while also having the proper specialized equipment to do it safely.

Decontamination Process
The vehicle decontamination and cleanup is a multi-step process that is far more complex than standard detailing and treats the vehicle as if it is contaminated by default.

Trained decontamination technicians will start by putting on proper personal protective equipment (PPE) that will protect them from both touch-based, and airborne hazards to keep them safe from drugs, drug residue, and other contaminants. Remember that some drugs can affect humans through just skin contact, so safety is paramount. With fentanyl being a common issue these days, Naloxone kits will always be accessible by technicians in case of emergency.

Once equipped safely, technicians will enter the vehicle and start testing various high-touch surfaces, and other common areas to check for any number of types of drugs and other hazards.

After the drug hazards are known, trained technicians will use specialized equipment to scan the vehicle for other hazardous objects and matter, and depending on the extent of the damage may likely strip the vehicle down to the frame in certain areas to ensure a proper deep scan.

With all known hazards identified, the decontamination process will begin with all the proper procedures used for each known hazard, while still being careful about any remaining unknowns. With all surfaces clear of drugs or contaminants, the air systems will be fully fleshed out, and ozone generators will be used for any residue odors so that even the air will be fully clean when returned to you.

Finally, the vehicle will be put back together, and post-cleanup tests will be performed to ensure that there are no further contaminants remaining. You will be provided with a full report afterward, including all steps of the process. As well, any hazards found will be safely disposed of according to safety regulations and laws.

Leave Decontamination to the Professionals
If your vehicle has been returned after being stolen; was used in a crime scene; used regularly as a ride-share; or been contaminated by rodents, birds, or bugs, then you should get it cleaned by a professional vehicle decontamination company before using it again. Decontamination is a specialized process with specialized training and equipment and should not be attempted yourself, as your health could be at risk. Alliance Environmental has a trained team of experts that can professionally decontaminate your vehicles. Contact Alliance Environmental’s biohazard and trauma cleanup division for more information.

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