Preparedness is important in any emergency. But when a community is faced with a Mass Fatality Incident, it's essential.
What would Clay County residents do if a flood, a school bus or airplane crash or a tornado hit the area resulting in several deaths?
Two Clay County professionals feel better prepared now after recently participating in Mass Fatality Incident Management Training at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, Ind. May 13 - 15. Gerri Husband, Clay County Emergency Management Director, and Rob Moore, funeral director of Moore Funeral Home, agree the three-day program was beneficial.
"We learned what to do when a Mass Fatality Incident occurs," Moore said, explaining it's declared when you have more bodies than normally could be handled.
The aftermath of a disaster of that proportion is a complicated process. Identifying the victims, handing the bodies, handling the personal effects -- the jewelry, wallets, etc. -- and all the necessary documentation can take lots of manpower and time.
"We are not immune from facing a situation which would require this type of planning and expertise," Husband said, pointing out that most disasters occur in small communities and rural areas. An incident such as Flight 4184, a recent tragedy in Northern Indiana, resulted in over 60 deaths. If something of that magnitude were to hit this community, not only would the morgue and hospital be overwhelmed, but all other local resources and supplies.
Recovering the bodies and locating several hundreds of body parts is an unpleasant, but pressing task as in the aftermath of Flight 4184. The work continues for weeks or months after the incident, as trained personnel comb the area after an emergency of that magnitude. It can require equipment, supplies, staffing and technical expertise which can not be supplied from local resources and must be required from the state and federal agencies, explained Moore.
"We tend to focus on planning and training for immediate rescue and medical treatment of the injured, but often ignore the need to plan for how we will care for the deceased," Moore said.
Moore and Husband stressed the importance of the training and hope to host a version of the classes by bringing a specialist from the Indiana State Management Agency next month to conduct a local session for other emergency response professionals in the community who were unable to attend at Camp Atterbury.
"We're as prepared as we can be," Husband said. "We have some good base information to help us know where to begin in the event of a Mass Fatality Incident."