FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OVC
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2002 202/307-0703
NEW GUIDE HELPS CORONERS, ME’s HELP FAMILIES
AFTER A MASS FATALITY
Spotlights Lessons Learned from Oklahoma City Bombing
WASHINGTON, DC – A new bulletin from the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP) Office for Victims of Crime will help coroners and medical examiners better respond to victims’ families following a mass fatality. Providing Relief to Families After a Mass Fatality uses examples from the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 to show how medical examiners and coroners can effectively and sensitively address the questions and concerns families have in the days and weeks following such a tragedy.
“After a tragic event, family members are often filled with uncertainty as well as grief,” said OVC Director John W. Gillis. “Medical examiners and coroners need to know how they can work more sensitively and effectively with these families.”
The bulletin features some frequently asked questions from victims’ families, including:
· How will families be notified if their loved ones are recovered and identified?
· May the families go to the disaster site?
· When will the victims’ personal effects be returned to the families?
· Will an autopsy be performed?
For each of these questions, the bulletin provides concise answers, and in many cases, examples from Oklahoma City.
The bulletin also describes how the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner established a family assistance center, called the Compassion Center, on the day of the bombing. The American Red Cross took over day-to-day operations, and other government agencies and nonprofit organizations also contributed. The bulletin highlights critical issues in creating a similar center, such as site selection, space/floor plan, volunteer coordination,
security and media relations. One suggestion is establishing a general assembly room for updates that apply to all families but also separate rooms for death notifications so that families can hear the news in private.
In addition, the bulletin recommends forming a crisis response plan to provide for a coordinated response if a mass fatality occurs and to meet the needs of victims and their families. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office had a crisis plan in place before 1995. The plan resulted in much more effective responses not only to the 1995 bombing, but also to the 1999 Oklahoma City tornado. The bulletin describes available resources and training to help develop such a plan.
Ray L. Blakeney, Director of Operations for the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, authored the bulletin with assistance from the National Transportation Safety Board.
Copies of Providing Relief to Families After a Mass Fatality, as well as information about other OVC publications, programs and conferences, are available through the OJP Website at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc and from the OVC Resource Center at 1-800/627-6872.
Media should contact OJP’s Office of Communications at 202/307-0703.
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