Management of Dead Bodies After Disasters
A Field Manual for First Responders
Management of the dead is one of the most difficult aspects of disaster response. It has profound and long-lasting consequences for survivors and communities. Globally, disasters claim thousands of lives each year. However, care of the deceased is often overlooked in disaster planning and the absence of guidance for first responders has recently been highlighted following several large disasters. This Field Manual for First Responders presents simple recommendations for non-specialists to manage the recovery, basic identification, storage and disposal of dead bodies following disasters. It also makes suggestions about providing support to family members and communicating with the public and the media.
This manual will be useful during the immediate response to a disaster and where forensic response is unavailable. Furthermore, it will be useful for those preparing mass fatality disaster plans. The recommendations are relevant for local, regional and national authorities as well as for non-governmental organizations. The principles outlined in this document are being implemented and promoted by a variety of organizations, including the Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The Manual has undergone an extensive peer review process. We have received comments from 8 technical reviewers: the chair of INTERPOL’s DVI committee, the Head Forensic Pathologist at the Home Office in the UK, a forensic specialist in Sri Lanka, two disaster managers in the Caribbean, an academic disaster expert in the UK, a human rights specialist from ICRC and an international disaster professional. In addition, the manual has also been reviewed by attendees of a meeting of forensic specialists in Colombia, 15 Public Health leaders from 9 Asian countries at a regional meeting about mass fatality management, and forensic experts from Jordan who participated in an ICRC workshop. In addition, the draft manual and forms were used in the field following the earthquake in Pakistan and mud-slide in the Philippines.
In the last few weeks, heavy rains, landslides and floods have affected several countries in the Region (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, among others), that have caused emergency situations with personal and material losses.
In these types of emergencies PAHO/WHO recommends that the population increase hygiene measures, including washing hands with soap and water, storing food and medicine properly, and paying attention to the recommendations from authorities regarding the consumption of safe water.Read More
The final toll of Tropical Storm Isaac was two people dead in the U.S. and 24 in Haiti. In addition hundreds of thousands of people were left withtout electricity. In Haiti there was an increase in cholera cases and in the Dominican Republic hundreds of people had to be moved to shelters. Also, in the Dominican Republic six hospitals and one health center were affected by the heavy rains.Read More
The low pressure system that has hit Central America since October 10 has caused floods and landslides affecting 600,000 people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua including 55,000 people displaced to 700 shelters in the countries. The Ministries of Health have reported damages to health centers and equipments, and loss of supplies. These issues put public health at risk if they are not addressed promptly. El Salvador has declared a national emergency, and Nicaragua and Guatemala has declared a state of emergency.Read More
The Cholera Epidemic Maintains its Hold in Haiti (10/21/2010)
Heavy Rains and Landslides Affect Guatemala (09/08/2010)
Earthquake in Chile - February 2010 (02/27/2010)
Earthquake in Haiti - January 2010 (01/13/2010)
Hurricane Ida - November 2009 (11/09/2009)
Pandemic (H1N1) - 2009 (04/30/2009)
2008 Hurricane Season (09/30/2008)
Tropical Storms of 2008 (06/09/2008)
Tropical Storm Olga - December 2007 (12/14/2007)
Tropical Storm Noel - November 2007 (10/29/2007)
Hurricane Felix - September 2007 (09/06/2007)
Earthquake in Peru - August 2007 (08/16/2007)
Volcano Tungurahua - August 2006 (08/16/2006)
Floods in Suriname - May 2006 (05/10/2006)
Floods in Bolivia - January/February 2006 (01/31/2006)
Hurricane Wilma - October 2005 (10/25/2005)
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita - August 2005 (08/29/2005)
Hurricane Jeanne - September 2004 (09/18/2004)
Hurricane Ivan - September 2004 (09/09/2004)
Hurricane Frances - August/September 2004 (09/01/2004)
Regional Office of the World Health Organization