Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Local News

November 26, 2013

Officials learn how to handle mass fatalities

BROOKVILLE – What happens when Franklin County is the site of a school bus accident, commercial plane crash, tornado or other disaster that kills a handful or hundreds of persons?

Andrew Naumann, the new Franklin County Health Department public health coordinator, called a necessary, but grim meeting Nov. 14 at the government center so that public safety officials and volunteers could discuss his first draft of the FCHD Mass Fatality Management Plan, part of its All-Hazards Plan.

Looking around the table at the sheriff, deputy coroner, assistant fire chief, FCHD preparedness administrator, three emergency medical technicians, two newspaper reporters and an Indiana State Department of Health Region 9 employee, he noted, “Everybody here is responsible for responding to incidents.” The plan can be revised, but “everything I have in here does meet the state and federal planning requirements.”

There are more than 15 scenarios for which county leaders must prepare. They range from an earthquake, flood or dire flu outbreak to building collapse, multiple homicide or large fire. Naumann said most of these emergencies are rare. Larry Race, Brookville assistant fire chief, noted, “We have responded to plane crashes in Franklin County.”

On arriving at a tragic scene, ISDH employee Susan Gross said, “You’re going to know instantly, ‘Boy, we need some help.’”

Franklin County Emergency Management Agency officials and firefighters will determine the disaster’s level. Naumann categorized them as Level 1, 3-5 fatalities with intact remains; Level 2, 6-20 deaths with intact remains or fewer bodies that are “highly fragmented and/or highly dispersed”; Level 3, more than 20 fatalities or less bodies that are in pieces and/or scattered. The first level does not require an Emergency Operations Center, but the second and third do.

Naumann reported, “In talking to Wanda (Lee, the county coroner), she mentioned about five (dead) folks is the top number of people we could handle here” without more help.

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