Management of the dead is one of the most difficult aspects of disaster response and yet, care of the deceased is often overlooked in disaster planning. Compounding the situation is the absence of guidance for first responders, a fact that was recently highlighted following several large-scale disasters. This new Field Manual for First Responders, published by PAHO/WHO with the technical collaboration of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 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. Download a copy of this new manual at www.paho.org/disasters. A very limited number of print copies is available from the Editor of this Newsletter.