Enhancing Dignity in the midst of Disaster
BY TONY BAUMGARTNER
© 2007 FrontLine Security (Vol 2, No 3)

As the nation reassesses its response to large scale disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and its preparedness for the threat of H5N1 flu pandemic, planners must also begin thinking about and preparing for the inevitable – mass fatality management. A mass fatality incident is defined as “any incident where the number of fatalities is greater than normal local arrangements can manage.” Any plan for dealing with fatalities needs to be integrated with all aspects of the response to and recovery from such incidents. A plan must also address traditional bereavement customs, the need for family closure, and the dignity associated with burial.

“We should treat the dead with respect. In death, money doesn’t matter, material possessions don’t matter; dignity is what we should care about.” – statement by Gung Tresna, Lifeguard at Kuta Beach following the ­terrorist attack in Bali, Indonesia.

Major disasters, such as the tsunami in Indonesia, hurricanes in the Gulf Region, and acts of terrorism, regardless of their origin, have had one thing in common: an enormous number of fatalities. Each disaster teaches important lessons about the handling of bodies, particularly when the number of dead overwhelms the local capacity to effectively respond. Without delay, following the onset of a disaster, it is essential for response ­agencies and local authorities to prioritize their activities and resources on three basic activities: first, the rescue and treatment of survivors; second, the repair and maintenance of basic services; and, finally, the recovery and management of bodies.

An Affordable Solution
Watching how bodies were managed ­during the 2004 tsunami motivated a Dutch engineer to design a coffin that was affordable, accessible, and suitable. Ensuring that bodies are managed in an efficient and dignified manner during a mass fatality is the basis behind DQE’s EveryBody™ Coffin. Historically, coffins have been too cost prohibitive to be considered for mass fatalities and their inherent design made them inefficient for bulk transport. DQE’s EveryBody Coffin offers a solution to both of these problems and as a result, is invigorating planners and fatality management teams to reassess how bodies are managed after a disaster.

This unique coffin, with its patented, all natural wood design, allows for flat storage, assembly without tools and efficient stacking. For around $200, planners now have an option when dealing with this public, yet personal issue.

The Everybody Coffin is available in two sizes (large and small), can be stacked three high once assembled, and is forklift compatible. An identification tag and security tie is included with each coffin; body bags are sold separately. Coffins are shipped in water resistant packaging.

The Bottom Line
Mass fatalities are an inevitable consequence of mass disasters. Readiness requires planners and officials to focus on the unique needs of the survivors and the fatalities. How bodies are handled, stored, transported and buried contributes to the closure families so desperately need. A coffin is a recognizable and universally accepted medium for fatality management. Now a truly functional, high quality coffin is available at an affordable price.

About the Company
DQE®, Inc. is a medical based company specializing in preparing and protecting first responders and hospital personnel for hazardous materials emergencies, infectious disease outbreaks and mass casualty incidents. Since the early 1990’s, the company has trained and equipped thousands of health­care professionals and worked with first responders, federal, state and local disaster planning agencies, the ­military, specialized response teams and emergency managers to better plan and prepare for disaster.

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Tony Baumgartner is the Executive Vice President of DQE. For more information on DQE or the EveryBody Coffin, call 800-355-4628 or visit www.dqeready.com/EveryBody
© FrontLine Security 2007

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