Mass Fatality Management
One of the sad realities of disasters is that they can result in the loss of human life. Many emergency responders have learned this from their own experience, and they will remember the incident for a long time. Mass fatality disasters are often long remembered by the responders, the community, the state, and the nation. Disaster management is important, and every plan should have a section on fatality management. By definition, a mass fatality incident is any situation where there are more bodies than can be handled using local resources. There is no minimum number of fatalities to become a mass fatality incident because communities vary in size and resources. When a passenger aircraft crashes carrying 100 to 300 passengers or a building structure with hundreds of people inside collapses, the incident would probably be deemed a mass fatality incident, even in the largest of cities. Likewise, an incident like a mad gunman killing five people can be called multiple fatality incidents, but it may not be a mass fatality incident if it occurs in a major city. In any case, the recovery, identification, and disposition of the victims are the responsibilities of the medical examiner/coroner of the jurisdiction where the incident occurs. There are many volunteer organizations and community businesses able to assist the medical examiner/coroner during a mass fatality incident response. Scenario You have been assigned as the lead for a mass fatality incident in your county and as a Public Health professional you do have significant expertise in this area. Be sure to discuss training on the basic mass fatality incident response principles and procedures. How would you prepare for mass fatality incidents? How is the overall disaster response plan managed by the emergency management office? What is the hospital’s role during disaster preparedness and mass fatality management?