Persistent warming trends across the South spell trouble - Martha Randolph Carr

Everyone knows that in America we like to avoid death and taxes in about equal portions.

It’s a delicate topic to bring up with anyone, but particularly for apartment owners and managers, knowing what to do after a decomposing body has been found can greatly lessen anxiety and cost for both the manager and other residents.

There are an estimated 400 deaths in the U.S. every year, according to the Oxford Journal, that can be attributed to heat-related circumstances, causing big problems for multi-family residences.

However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta cautions that that number may be low due to the variety of criteria used to determine heat-related deaths, which happen most often among those over 65, and especially in urban areas.

Cities like Atlanta or Dallas, where there has been a record stretch of heat that still lingers, are more likely to retain radiant heat because of the increase in pavement versus green areas, which is also known as the “urban island heat effect.”

All of that adds up to significant risk factors and, can lead to an untimely death.

When that occurs during the hotter days, decomposition sets in rapidly and within hours, the body begins to break down into the basic elements, which can be a gruesome find for any apartment owner or manager.

Often, in an urban area that’s exactly who can find themselves faced with the problem of cleaning up after a resident who has died and begun to decompose.

Once decomposition has set in, it becomes necessary to use the professional services of a bio-cleanup company in order to remove any blood pathogens or material that can lead to illness or infections.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a human being is between 60 and 85 percent water, depending on age and size. When someone dies, the body ceases pumping blood, cells die and bacteria or organisms begin to attack the body.

"Factors such as temperature, age and size of the body, clothing, where the body rests, moisture, cause of death and even the last meal that remains in the stomach can affect the rate of decay," said Brandon Ridley, president of Southern-Bio Recovery Services, based in Atlanta. His company services much of the southern region of the U.S.

All of the bodily fluids leave the body and quickly become affected by hotter temperature and air as they seep into furniture, carpet and even flooring or sub-flooring. When that happens, all of the affected areas will need to be carefully removed by licensed professionals, according to OSHA standards, and the damage to the structure repaired.

Here are a few quick tips officers can pass along to local residents to better ensure you don’t need our services anytime soon.

• Make sure all of the windows are in working order and can easily be opened or closed with minimal strength.

• Donate a small fan to your neighbors who are unable to afford one and make a point to stop by for a few minutes every day to say hello.

If the worst-case scenario happens and you do come across a body that has begun to decompose, there are a few more tips to make the process more bearable.

• Check for certification from any bio-cleanup company.

• Ask about what repairs they do as a result of the cleanup and if they are discreet, which means they will never use pictures from any job in their advertising.

• Ask if they assist with insurance negotiations and are they willing to first walk through what they’ll be doing before they begin cleaning.

Persistent warming trends from Virginia to Texas have made southern hospitality more than just a favorite regional trait this year, particularly among the poor, elderly and infirmed.

Checking on neighbors may just save a life as summer draws to a close.

Longer periods of temperatures in the 90’s coupled with a shaky economy means there are more and more local residents doing without air conditioning or even fans, and who may not feel dehydrated until it’s too late ,and hyperthermia takes its toll.

"Local residents can make a difference by not waiting until the usual tell-tale signs of the mail or newspaper piling up or not seeing a neighbor for a day or two. Making it a part of a new routine to check on the infirmed or elderly right around your block is a simple way to prevent a tragedy," said Brandon.

Tweet me @martharandolph and tell me your ideas for cooling off in lingering heat. www.MarthaCarr.com.

Martha’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.