NACCHO Members Invited to Participate in Survey on Mass Fatality Preparedness

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, Columbia University, and Loyola University Maryland have invited NACCHO’s members to participate in a research study on mass fatality incidents funded by the National Science Foundation. Please see below for the full invitation text and contact Dr. Robyn Gershon for more information.

Mass fatality preparedness is an essential component of emergency preparedness, and local health departments are often the front line for emergency response. To assess our nation’s level of mass fatality preparedness, Dr. Robyn Gershon, at the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues at Columbia University and Loyola University Maryland have been awarded a research grant by the National Science Foundation. As part of this study, the researchers have created a survey to assess state/local health departments’ level of preparedness for mass fatality incidents. This survey should take no more than 15 minutes. If you work at a local health department, please take this survey via the link below.
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NSFHDSurvey

This survey is part of a larger study, funded by the National Science Foundation, intended to help researchers better understand how prepared organizations are for “mass fatality incidents.” The findings from this study will help organizations better prepare for mass fatality incidents. We are particularly interested in learning more about organizations that are directly responsible for preparing for and responding to mass fatality incidents, which includes state/local departments of health. The researchers intend to use the survey data to make recommendations and develop tools to help state/local health departments be better prepared.

Recognizing that state/local health departments are not the only organizations that play an important role in preparing for and responding to mass fatality incidents, this study has also created surveys specific to the offices of medical examiners/coroners, offices of emergency management, death care industry (e.g., funeral services, cemeteries, and crematories), faith-based organizations, and DMORT teams. One key goal of this study is to understand the linkages between these various organizations and to answer the questions: Which linkages are most important? Which linkages are strongest? Which linkages need to be improved? The researchers will make recommendations and develop tools geared to participating organizations in the study and to help strengthen the response network as a whole.
University of California, San Francisco

Why Mass Fatality Preparedness?
While mass fatality incidents are infrequent, they do occur. Mass fatality incidents are defined as any situation where more deaths occur in a point in time than can be typically handled by local resources. Examples of recent mass fatality incidents in the United States include the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the 2005 Hurricanes, Hurricane Sandy, and the shootings at Sandy Hook. These tragic incidents remind us that adequate planning is necessary for efficient response, particularly in terms of victim identification, contacting families of victims, provision of care to bereaved survivors, and final disposition of remains.

This study was designed to respond to findings and recommendations made by the 2006 Joint Task Force Civil Support Mass Fatality Working Group, convened by the U.S. Northern Command and the Department of Health and Human Services. This working group examined the response capabilities and preparedness of the U.S. mass fatality infrastructure.[1] The Task Force concluded that our knowledge of the country’s ability to manage a mass fatality event is limited. The researchers at UCSF, Columbia University and Loyola University Maryland hope that this study will determine the country’s ability to respond to mass fatality incidents and will provide valuable recommendations for improving the national response network.

References:
1. Gursky E. A Working Group Consensus Statement on Mass-Fatality Planning for Pandemics and Disasters. Journal of Homeland Security July 2007.

About Frances Bevington

Frances Bevington is the Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist for Public Health Preparedness at NACCHO. Her work includes emergency and risk communications planning, strategic messaging, and multichannel marketing for the adoption of best practices in public health preparedness. Twitter: @Wilkington

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