You’ve seen it, you’ve smelled it, maybe you’ve even done it yourself. Vomit is a common occurrence in and around the USF dorms, but somehow it always gets cleaned up.
Although quantitative data regarding frequency and location of such hygiene-related spills, to put it diplomatically, is unavailable, you likely don’t need much convincing to know they happen on college campuses — and USF is no exception.
But last night’s vomit does not just magically disappear. Resident Advisers (RAs) are the first responders, grabbing a special Blood Borne Pathogen Spill Kit. It includes a pair of disposable gloves, shoe covers, an apron, a packet of absorbent powder and a disinfectant wipe.
The lucky RA on duty—in their newly-acquired fashionable accessories—sprinkles the powder over the spill to absorb liquid, which makes it coagulate (yum!), and assess the spill. In their assessment, the RA decides whether the spill is serious enough to warrant immediate attention from a custodian, or if it is sufficient to place cones around the area and wait for a custodian to take care of it during their next sweep of the area. When the custodian arrives, they will scoop the coagulated mixture into a sealable bag and clean the area with the disinfecting wipe.
Vomit can wait, but blood always requires a custodian to be called in immediately, according to Craig Petersen, director of operations for the facilities department. Custodians work from 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on weekdays, and come in to clean the dorms once per day on weekends and holidays. According to Craig Petersen, calling in custodians after hours is a minimum of four overtime hours due to the contract with United Service Workers West, the union USF custodians belong to.
Junior Maia Peterson has been an RA in Hayes-Healy for two years. She’s noticed that spills, specifically vomit, are most common around holidays. “Students who are left here are just bored and break the rules for fun,” Peterson said in an email. “Otherwise students typically heave up their stomach contents following club event nights when the youth indulge in a bit too much.”
According to Jessica Elejalde, who manages campus services for facilities, the spill kits work on both hard surfaces as well as carpeted ones. Cleaning spills on carpets require the use of a wet vacuum, which can suck up liquid messes.
When someone makes such a spill, or sees one, the best thing that they can do is to report it to an RA or the front desk, Elejalde added. “It is really helpful when the individual causing the spill does the right thing and notify the front desk, the Residence Director (RD) or RA,” Elejalde said. “Too often the individual is afraid to say anything or just assumes the custodian will clean up … it means more people have to be potentially exposed to something that could be neutralized and cleaned up sooner.”
Peterson said that in her experience as an RA, the “culprit” of the spill has usually fled the scene by the time she finds the vomit. However, for coworkers who have been with the student, the procedure is to prioritize safety and then call Public Safety, who then decides the next course of action with regards to conduct, she said.
“The absolute worst thing a resident could do is throw up in the shower and not have the decency to try to wash down their own stomach lining and leave it for me to find next thing in the morning,” Peterson said. “Just tell me you need help! Or clean it up yourselves, kids!”
Mardy Harding contributed to the reporting in this article.