APRIS does the work of crime scene cleanup — with heart


Put simply, Corona-based APRIS is a trauma, crime, fire and water cleanup and restoration service.

But its mission is much more complex than that.

When the company’s team members talk about the work they do, the last thing on their minds is bleach and mops (they actually don’t use bleach).

Though the company is called in to do the detailed dirty work of cleaning up a home after a crime or other traumatic event like a suicide, its driving force is one of compassion for their clients.

“A Company with a Heart” is more than a slogan on their business cards.

Robert Wrischnik of APRIS works a cleanup scene.
Photo provided by APRIS

“We go well above and beyond simply cleaning up a scene,” said Kurt Szalonek, president of APRIS. “I never thought this business would be so rewarding – helping people brings it full circle for us.”

Working in Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside counties, and offering 24/7, 365 days a year live-voice service (the team members sleep with their phones on), the company offers emergency cleanup services as well as full-service restoration. With backgrounds in construction, insurance, the funeral industry and the paramedic service, the team offers a full gamut of services, from help with insurance coverage to home remodels.

“Our calls often come directly referred by law enforcement officers and deputies who want to help people or go beyond their call of duty once they understand what APRIS is all about,” said Don Gilmartin, APRIS vice president.

Kurt Szalonek of APRIS shows some of the items employees bring with them in their trucks, including blankets, socks, shoes, stuffed animals for children, water, and snacks.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The team’s construction background often comes in handy in the work they do. Crime and death scenes often involve bodily fluids like blood that can be as damaging to floorboards, ceiling rafters and a home’s structure as a flood.

“We have to demo that scene – like a contractor,” said Gilmartin. “It all has to be rebuilt. We typically redesign entire rooms for the families as well.”

Gilmartin said the company recently had a call for a scene in Orange involving a death that resulted in bodily fluids seeping into the subfloors and dirt beneath the home. Because of the level of damage and the age of the home, the restoration couldn’t be completed until an asbestos test was conducted first.

Dylan Oropeza of APRIS tries to salvage family photos from a cleanup scene.
Photo provided by APRIS

“It’s a lot more involved than people or even law enforcement officers realize. … The aftermath is way beyond the initial scene,” Gilmartin said. “It’s typically never just a topical clean. It affects the building materials on so many levels.”

Gilmartin recalled another call in which a man died while in the shower. He clogged the drain when he fell, which flooded the home.

“Our training took us well beyond a simple trauma scene cleanup on this one. The grieving family had to deal with the death and a house full of water,” Gilmartin said. “We had that home dried and repaired within days rather than weeks so the family could begin to heal.”

Don Gilmartin, left, and Kurt Szalonek talk in front of their Bio Hazards Response Vehicle, a converted ambulance.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

And beyond the construction work, the company also has experience with insurance adjustment since Szalonek is a former adjuster.

Gilmartin recalled a scene last year where a man committed suicide and wasn’t found for two weeks. He had a son who then had to deal with a home in a horrific state because the father had decomposed. The son soon learned that the homeowner’s insurance had lapsed.

By the time he called APRIS, he had resigned himself to a total loss and only asked to recover one photograph that had great sentimental value as well as his deceased mother’s wedding ring.

Aaron Ruiz and Phillip Rodriguez of APRIS pause for a photo. Photo provided by APRIS

“To make matters worse, the home was in foreclosure, scheduled for sale in a week,” Gilmartin said.

Putting resources into action, the company connected the young man with an estate attorney whose firm paid the mortgage to make it current in order to avert foreclosure. By the time the probate was complete, the son gained his parents’ estate, over $250,000 after all debts were settled – and the photograph and his mother’s wedding ring as well.

“We do so much more for people during their worst days – no other crime scene company does what we do,” Gilmartin said. “We have such incredible employees and resources to help so many people. We are nothing without their abilities and compassion.”

It’s all in the details for the team members.

From basing their rates on whatever insurance covers to not labeling their truck as a crime scene cleanup vehicle (because, as Gilmartin said, “that family is thrown into another layer of emotional trauma if neighbors see a marked truck in their front yard with crime scene cleanup all over it”), the company focuses on compassion every step of the way.

Kurt Szalonek, left, and Don Gilmartin of APRIS, a company specializing in crime scene cleanup as well as fire and water restoration, talk about what their employees do to restore a disaster scene while trying to minimize the trauma surviving victims are going through.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Besides deep cleaning the structure, they also clean the air, “because odors are another key factor in a crime scene cleanup. Our technicians often use air scrubbers wherever possible to clear and filter the air as effectively as they can,” Gilmartin said. “We try to cover every detail possible.”

To keep their sensitivity levels honed, company members often support, sponsor and work with several chapters of the Trauma Intervention Program (TIP), a national nonprofit, volunteer-based group whose members offer emotional support to trauma victims.

“Our tagline says we’re a company with a heart,” said Phillip Rodriguez, biological cleanup supervisor. “It might sound cheesy … but it’s stamped in our work.”

Photo provided by APRIS

Members of APRIS (Associated Property Restoration Insurances Services) in front of their Bio Hazards Response Vehicle. From lef  is Breanna Oropeza, Phillip Rodriguez, Don Gilmartin, Kurt Szalonek and Jeff Wilkerson.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC