Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Local News

November 26, 2013

Officials learn how to handle mass fatalities

(Continued)

For Level 2 and 3 disasters, an Emergency Operations Center will be activated. Everybody there, including FCEMA and FCHD representatives, the county coroner and commissioners, would provide input for public information. Commissioners also can issue a county emergency declaration.

“We don’t have a full-time county public information officer,” he pointed out. County council member Joe Sizemore said Commissioner Tom Linkel is the county spokesman.

According to Naumann, “As an incident would unfold … we would work together” to develop the right messages that are factual, but not panic inducing.

The plan stated, “Identifying human remains and returning the deceased to the next of kin is the top priority of the Franklin County Coroner’s Office, and it strives to do this with the utmost respect and speed. Health department personnel will communicate this to family members via the Family Assistance Center, while also reiterating why the identification process may take more time than expected.”

Appropriate personnel must notify families of the dead in an appropriate manner, Naumann emphasized. Race was concerned about notification because of bystanders with cellphones. “It is pertinent that we get our act together and notify people as soon as we can before the crowd does it for us.” Sheriff Ken Murphy confirmed that many times the family already knows about a death before the officer arrives with the news. He added, “We have a chaplain program ... that has been very helpful.” The volunteer clergy are “there to listen.”

As the Family Assistance Center plan is developed, the coordinator will get attendees’ input. Relatives of those involved in the disaster should be close to the scene, “but not close enough to see.” The location will be a gathering spot for family members, a clergy member and/or Community Mental Health Center grief counselor.

There are many details to consider. The plan noted, “During a mass fatality incident, responders may also find themselves working in physically precarious circumstances, including adverse weather, biohazards, confined spaces and building debris. These concerns should be addressed ahead of time through training and discussion of expectations and of safety precautions responders should take …”

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