Mass Fatality Planning in Emergency Management – 3 Key Points for Inclusive Emergency Management
Hi everyone, this is Suzanne Frew. I’m an Equity and Inclusion Specialist in Emergency Management. I run a consulting firm here in the San Francisco Bay area and today my heart is really going to all of those individuals impacted by the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and in Syria. And I realize that here in this country, we have a lot of incidents that we need to be preparing for, as well as we first responders, coming in from all over the world. In that response, we need to think about how we take care of our own here in our own backyard.
I’m standing in a beautiful eucalyptus grove at the University of California, Berkeley Campus. I work nearby here, and right beyond this gorgeous grove of trees is the Hayward Fault, which is a potentially deadly fault that can go off at any point in time, and we’re going to have a lot of recovery here.
Having responded to the 1994 Northridge earthquake in LA. I realize how challenging that response can be, particularly for the multiple cultures that might live there. If we have a mass fatality incident, we need to be able to facilitate and organize and have an effective response that really provides dignity and respect to everyone from all the different cultures who might be in that area.
So what I’d like to do is tell you three points to think about when you’re doing your mass fatality planning, your annex for your emergency operation plan for your meeting with your community, but thinking about those diverse populations in your community who’ve been impacted.
Think about these three points as you start looking at your planning process:
First: site access.
That site where there’s been a mass fatality might be considered a crime scene, and the perimeter access might be restricted. Some cultures, however, really will want to have access to that site to fulfill spiritual and cultural traditions for that site. So think about how to prepare your security officials, your perimeter. Think about what you need to do and embed that into that training and those protocols.
Second: religious beliefs.
There could be strong religious beliefs that might influence people’s acceptance of some of the process that you need to do. For example, the use of photography on the site with body identification and body recovery process. Be prepared to communicate what that recovery need is. BE open, be honest, be proactive in getting that information out there ahead of time.
Third: legal status.
I’d like you to think about the legal status of some of those individuals who’ve been impacted, and whose loved ones might have perished. It might present challenges and issues when the loved ones go in and try to make information inquiries, view the bodies, or access records that might be there. Think about how you can be prepared to have support protocols in place, whether it’s through a family assistance center, whether it’s the temporary morgue, but think about those things, those three key pieces.
The site access issues surrounding strong religious beliefs and the legal status when you’re doing your mass fatality planning. Let’s keep everybody included. That is our job.