Hurricane Dorian, the Bahamas, and mortuary involvement

As I write this I believe that the official death toll in the Bahamas for Hurricane Dorian is 43 dead. . . but expected to rise quite substantially as the islands continue to account for all people.  I came across this article from Bloomberg that illustrates just some of the problems the islands will be having over the next two weeks.

One thing, as in any natural disaster of this type, that health officials in the Bahamas are worried about is that the combination of dead bodies and contaminated ground water, some from sewage, will raise the probability of disease outbreaks.  On that front, they are worried about what to do with the dead human remains.

“We have a team of four morticians who have gone to Abaco to begin the process (of embalming) because we are running out of cooler capacity” is what Health Minister Duane Sands is quoted as saying in the Bloomberg article.  He continues, “We have requested transportation of refrigerated coolers to north central and south of Abaco and similarly to Grand Bahama”.

Funeral Director Daily take:  As with any natural disaster of this type I’m sure that all readers would join me in hoping that the Bahamian nation can, with the help of the entire world community, start the long journey forward from this disaster.

These types of disasters can also help all of us learn.  Reading this article reminded me that more than a decade ago I served, as a funeral home representative,  on a steering committee with government officials as to what would happen in our area if the H1N1 avian flu outbreak would find its way to be transformed to the human specie.

To learn what could happen in a disaster of that proportion was startling.  I learned that for our local community, we as a funeral home were not ready for that type of situation.  And, we probably were not ready for something that was more likely to happen — such as a large death toll from a fire or motorcoach accident.

I took a pretty simple step to inventory some of our supplies at our funeral home.  We always carried body bags, gloves, and masks in the first call removal vehicles but I realized we were woefully short in case of a large death toll disaster.

Instead of making a huge bulk purchase of those types of supplies at the time we implemented a process of every year ordering a half dozen body bags, extra gloves, extra masks, and an occasional Ziegler type case.  We didn’t plan to use these in our everyday work, but to stock them up and inventory them in case of a mass casualty incident.  As a full-service funeral home that is counted on in our small community we wanted to be ready if that day ever came.  We’ve served our share of automobile accidents when there have been from 3-6 fatalities, but I am glad to report, nothing of what I would term a “mass casualty” situation.  However, we are better prepared for it today than we were a decade ago.

If you own or manage a funeral home, take Hurricane Dorian seriously and ask yourself, “Are we prepared to handle something on a larger scale if needed?”.  Your community may be counting on you to do so.










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