Especially During A Pandemic.
Mortuary coolers are, in many areas of the country, essential for the regular operation of a mortuary, funeral home, or crematory. They are required by law in some states because cooler temperatures slow the rate of decomposition in organic things and higher temperatures accelerate it. Even under normal conditions, no one wants a dead body hanging around decomposing.
In days gone by, the dead were taken into the care of a funeral director at the place of death, brought back to the funeral home and immediately embalmed whether it was 2 pm or 2 am. In today’s busy world the funeral director may not be the person doing the removal so the body may not get embalmed until the next day, if at all. In these circumstances, everything should be done to slow down the rate of decomposition before embalming or direct disposition and the best way to do this is cold storage. Sounds easy right? Buy a mortuary cooler, set up a policy on its integration into your current procedures regarding storage, ID tracking, chain of custody, maintenance, and cleaning. What does this mean in reality? Just like we keep our hands, our cars, our homes, our work areas we also need to keep the mortuary cooler clean and well maintained! This is even more important in the age of COVID-19.
Storing un-embalmed bodies in a mortuary cooler significantly slows the rate of decomposition but it will not stop it. The sad truth is some bodies leak, they spill blood, some even come with insects and others are perfectly fine. Everything I have read to date has indicated that an enveloped virus like COVID-19 will become dormant in cold temperatures but will not die. Also, they are quite easy to eradicate using an effective disinfectant. Mortuary coolers need to be cleaned regularly. Especially the racks. Bio spills, if left after the decedent is gone, still pose threat and a potential biohazard. A dirty cooler also embodies a disrespect for the dead that no funeral professional wants to validate. Our days get busy and things like this can easily fall through the cracks. I completely get that so, I wanted to provide a quick and easy checklist for the proper cleaning of your mortuary cooler.
*Regular general cleaning should be done weekly!
- Clean the exterior metal surfaces with mild soap and water. Harsh chemicals can corrode galvanized steel surfaces. Avoid cleaners with ammonia, muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid HCL), sodium hydroxide, and saltwater.
- Clean door seals with mild soap and water.
- Dry metal surfaces and seals completely. Moisture can also, over time, corrode some surfaces.
- Interior racks should be cleaned with an effective disinfectant. Make sure to follow the guidelines per product to assure complete disinfection.
- If there is a spill or other mishap, do not wait for your regularly scheduled cleaning. Take the time to clean and disinfect the spill up immediately.
- Remember disinfectants do not necessarily clean surfaces so you may need to clean the areas first and then disinfect.
- ALWAYS wear nitrile gloves whenever your hands could come into contact with any surface.
- When in doubt a 1:10 solution of household bleach will disinfect surfaces effectively. Bleach is difficult to work with, so take precautions and never combine bleach with anything but water. Toxic fumes could result.
- Don’t forget to mop the floor!
Clean the evaporator and coils every 6 months and once per year, clean and drain the drain lines to make sure there is no blockage. (See your specific unit manufacturer’s manual for detailed instructions).
Another tip to avoid a disaster is to purchase a separate thermometer to place in the interior of your cooler to serve as a backup in the event the exterior display thermometer fails. These are an inexpensive item you can purchase online or in any hardware or kitchen store.
Mortuary cooler units can be a lifesaver (see what I did there?) for any business that may have to store an un-embalmed body(ies) for anything more than a few hours. With the conditions in some areas of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic being what they are, there was not enough cold storage capacity to accommodate the increase in decedents needing to be stored. The demand for mortuary coolers, both big and small, has been overwhelming and we are working hard to fulfill every order promptly. Those that already have cold storage capacity, please show your cooler some love. Cooler manufacturers like American Mortuary Cooler typically don’t have units on the shelf ready to ship at a moment’s notice and keeping your cooler happy and running may make all the difference in how well you are able to serve your families.
1. See List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) at https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2