March 22, 2014
FAIRBORN — The Ohio Mortuary Operations Response Team, a group of pathologists, forensic anthropologists and funeral directors from around the state, will hold its first training session at Wright State University’s National Center for Medical Readiness (NCMR) at Calamityville.
The team of forensic specialists has been formed to respond and support local coroner’s offices that may be overwhelmed by mass fatalities in a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
“This is a state asset that has potential national application,” said Brig. Gen. (ret.) Rufus J. Smith, director of NCMR. “It can be used when mass fatalities inundate and overload the resources of local officials. The last thing we want is to not be prepared.”
About 100 mortuary specialists will take part in the four-day training session from March 26-29.
In the event of mass fatalities, the team would deploy and set up a portable morgue. Members of the team would perform forensic and anthropological examinations, including fingerprinting and DNA analysis, to identify the human remains and return them to their families.
“It’s important for family members—for the survivors—to see that the victims are treated with dignity and respect,” said Jack Smith, Calamityville’s associate director of response ops and education.
The team was formed by the Ohio Funeral Directors Association in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
During the training at Calamityville, the mortuary specialists will break into groups based on their specialties.
“They are going to learn how to do their jobs in a portable setting, setting up their equipment in a warehouse, for example,” Smith said. “And they will learn how to use the equipment that is specific to the team.”
The training is a precursor to a regional exercise at Calamityville on April 17 with the Ohio National Guard and Montgomery County coroner and emergency management officials. The exercise scenario will involve handling mass fatalities in the terrorist bombing of an airliner.
Calamityville is a 52-acre disaster training zone with concrete passageway-filled buildings, silos, tunnels, ponds, cliffs and wooded areas. It prepares the civilian and military medical communities to work with traditional disaster responders and provides the nation with a more complete approach to finding patients, offering initial care, and safely evacuating them from disaster-related environments.
Story by Jim Hannah, Wright State University.