Mortuary affairs conference focuses on emergency management partnerships
July 6, 2012
FORT LEE, Va. - When there is a natural disaster or large-scale emergency, local resources can become overwhelmed. The 7th annual Worldwide Mortuary Affairs Conference, held in June, provided a venue for both military and civilian partners to exchange information on planning support for such situations.
The goal of the three-day conference was to bring the mortuary affairs community together to share the latest information, identify gaps and discuss areas to focus on for the federal response process in support of local jurisdictions.
"When you have a conference like this, it is important to bring everybody together because you get the face-to-face interaction and start the planning before an event happens," said Colleen Chipper, director of operations, Joint Mortuary Affairs Center, U.S. Army Quartermaster School. "If something were to happen in the next few months or years, we have points of contact to call, and we know what their capabilities are."
The conference provided opportunities to share information through panel discussions and presentations. Panel members provided an overview on their agency's roles and responsibilities in scenarios created for fatality management. Agencies, which included the 49th Quartermaster Group, Air National Guard, Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, FBI, Armed Forces Medical Examiner's System, and the Virginia State Medical Examiner's Office, provided briefings on topics including policy, equipment, force structure, and capabilities of military, federal, and civilian organizations.
"This is an important venue, and we are really lucky to have leaders who support this type of conference," said Lee C. Green, director, Joint Mortuary Affairs Center.
Many of the discussions related to an international mass fatality event, hosted by the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Emergency Management Division, that many of the agencies participated in earlier this year.
The exercise brought together domestic and international experts and leaders in mass fatality management, including JMAC personnel, to explore incident management, discuss lessons learned and define best practices to enhance future responses and coordination.
"We have been advocating expanding the exercise to include a mortuary affairs piece for active duty, reserve and National Guard forces," said Green. "This way, we can practice integrating our personnel with civil authorities for real world training."
The conference here allowed partnerships to be further built between the civil community and Department of Defense for mortuary affairs and casualty assistance in order to better support emergency situations.