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Holly DuBois of Diligent Decontamination

Diligent Decontamination built its reputation on doing the dirty work with dignity, diligence and discretion

By Madeleine Wagner

Photos by Valery Taylor Smith

When you think of people-focused jobs, what comes to mind? Healthcare worker? Lawyer? Social worker? Teacher?

What about biohazard cleanup? Does that field enter your head? That’s the service people need when a violent crime takes place in their home or place of business. It might seem like a minor detail in an episode of “CSI” or “Criminal Minds.” But at the root of it, helping families and friends heal is at the heart of the biohazard cleanup business for Holly DuBois, owner of Diligent Decontamination.

“It has to be a people business,” she said, “because, depending on what you’re going into, you have to be ready for anything. To be able to connect with people in a space where there’s been a lot of tragic loss — everybody’s different, so you need to be able to adjust.”

When folks hear what DuBois does for a living, they’re often surprised and say something about how they could never do what she does.

“Most people are interested in what it’s like but also are apprehensive about the details of the business,” she said. “It’s a bit of a taboo I think for most people, like talking about death in general can be. More so if it’s traumatic.”

What makes Diligent Decontamination stand out

The first woman in South Carolina to start and own a biohazard cleanup company, DuBois has seen firsthand the need for that compassionate touch. Before starting her business in 2014, several people in her life died due to unforeseen circumstances, some tragic. Ultimately, it took the murder and dismemberment of one of her family members for DuBois to realize the lack of caring companies working in this field.

Some companies, particularly big chains, take a lot of pictures so they can show the before and after of the murder or suicide scene. Or they show up in a wrapped van — advertising to all the neighbors that something tragic or malicious happened inside.

“I was like, ‘You know what? I can make a huge difference in this space.’”

After further digging, DuBois found that very few cleanup businesses in South Carolina specialized in biohazard cleanup. And none was certified by the American Bio Recovery Association (ABRA), which is the leading certification group in the bio-recovery industry. Diligent Decontamination is the only biohazard cleanup company in South Carolina to have the ABRA certification.

Most people think that law enforcement or other emergency services handle the cleanup after a traumatic event, like a suicide, homicide, or other unexpected death in the home. However, it’s up to the families to find and hire professional cleaners. Many folks who hire Diligent Decontamination get referred by local law enforcement victim advocates or their county coroner’s office. More often than not, though, they find the bio-recovery company through a quick Google search.

Diligent Decontamination is more than just a name

When DuBois was going about naming her business, she knew she wanted “diligent” in the name.

“I knew that’s what we would be,” she said. “We were not only going to be diligent with cleaning the scenes, but we’re also going to be diligent with the family.”

This takes shape in many forms, from the live person answering client phone calls to the unmarked vans that show up with small teams to accomplish the tasks at hand without overwhelming the clients involved. “We’re discreet and transparent,” she shared proudly.

Each team has been informed of whatever the client relays over the phone during that first call so they don’t have to repeat themselves once the crew arrives at the scene. This critical step helps in not retraumatizing the family members of the deceased. Crew members don their hazmat suits after entering the building, and the client receives an estimate before the work is done, rather than a surprise invoice by mail weeks later.

Trauma affects everyone differently, and that’s something DuBois was very cognizant of going into this field. Her Holly DuBois pens a letter to a client.entire business is built on meeting people where they are and providing whatever they need that falls within her purview. About a month after  the initial cleanup, DuBois or one of her employees writes a letter to check in and thank the client for their business.

“There’s a lot of follow-up because trauma on Day 1 looks a lot different than trauma on Day 7, and a month out and six months out,” she explained. “It doesn’t end when we’re done at their house.”

“Our hearts go out to these people who have lost somebody so tragically,” she said tearfully. “To us, it’s not about the phone calls or the thank-you notes we get. It’s knowing deep down that we’re treating them fairly from the beginning to the end.”

Diligent in service and giving back to the community

Although they specialize in biohazard cleanup, Diligent Decontamination also offers viral and bacterial disinfection, which came into high demand once the pandemic ramped up. Despite this, she never provides services if people don’t actually need them.

“We would get calls, say, from someone working in a strip mall who would say, ‘We had someone in the store who might have COVID. We need you to come clean for us.’” But rather than waste people’s time and money, she tells them to call her if they get a positive test back.

Moving forward, she plans to continue servicing every county in South Carolina to the best of her ability. The more business Diligent Decontamination has, the more she’s able to donate to quality causes. She hopes to be able to increase her giving in the future.

“The more money I make, the more money I give,” DuBois said. “It breaks my heart when people’s basic needs aren’t met.”

As you can imagine, this is an emotional business to be in, but DuBois’ sense of humor keeps her grounded. “I can handle any scene that’s thrown my way. But if I’m near someone who has a cut on their finger, I call for reinforcements!”

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