ORANGEBURG, NY--- May 14-18, 2012, Dutchess County held the fourth annual Regional Mass Fatality Management System Training & Exercise. Participants performed training exercises that tested their ability to enact the Regional Mass Fatality Management Response Plan in a simulated mass casualty crisis. Dutchess County Medical Examiner, Dr. Kari Reiber and Dutchess County Emergency Manager, Ken Davidson hosted the five-day event. Many RCPT members supported it including the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner, the NJ Division of Criminal Justice; NJ Office of the State Medical Examiner (NJ OSME), the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team, as well as other Regional Partners from New Jersey and Connecticut. With the US Army 49th Quartermaster and the Air National Guard participating, this year’s event was the first time active military “Title 10” forces, “Title 32” guard members and civilian agencies conducted this form of training together. In total,over 200 participants representing 12 states, three countries and more than 90 agencies supported the event.
For the past several years, DRASH equipment has supported various agencies in their mission to prepare for mass casualty events. This year, DRASH had a major presence as the NY Office of Chief Medical Examiner (NY OCME), the NJ Office of the State Medical Examiner (NJ OSME), and the CT Department of Public Health all utilized its products. Having such reliable resources and equipment available to participants proved to be an essential element in making training successful.DRASH is a major component of this multistate – interoperable mass fatality response system.
“The support of DRASH team and the DRASH shelter systems have provided the Regional Mass Fatality Response System with an asset that is not only scalable, but gives both New Jersey and NYC the ability to integrate this equipment.The DRASH team has been invaluable to our mass fatality training and supporting the Regional Mass Fatality Response System”, said Dennis F. Mazone, Deputy Chief of Detectives for the N.J. Division of Criminal Justice.
The scenario for this year’s event involved a tractor-trailer accident where the driver lost control of the vehicle, crashed through a barrier and onto an Amtrak train. The accident caused the train to explode, resulting in numerous casualties.
In both classroom and field training exercises, participants were responsible for mass fatality incident assessment, fatality search and recovery, body collection points, victim tracking, disaster morgue operations, incident assessment/characterization, and incident command/fatality management. The DRASH shelter systems provided all personnel with the tools they needed to complete each task successfully.
The CT Department of Public Health utilized several of its DRASH shelter systems to form an active field hospital for medical personnel. Throughout the shelters, RCPT members monitored emergency medical procedures that could occur during a catastrophe.
Both the NY OCME and the NJ OSME combined their DRASH shelter systems to form a field mortuary operation facility. The climate-controlled facility encompassed several functional areas including: receiving point, evidence collection, forensic examination and identification, containment, isolation and decontamination. In addition to the DRASH shelters, the NY/OCME used a DRASH mobile IT facility and the NJ/OSME employed a DRASH mobile Incident Command Post, both of which facilitated information gathering and dissemination throughout the exercises. The entire processing center helped leaders demonstrate how they would effectively coordinate morgue operations in such a mass casualty event.
Other DRASH support equipment served general purposes throughout the event. The J Series Shelter functioned as an executive brief tent where agency leaders joined to discuss the issue of fatality management. Among those leaders were Amtrak’s Principal Officer of Evacuation Planning, Commissioner of NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and the Assistant Chief of the MTA Police Department. A DRASH Trailer Mounted Support System was also set up as a registration tent.
Participants at this year’s event commented on their impressions of DRASH. Kipp Kretschman, Forensic Administrator for the Northern and Southern Regional Medical Examiners’ Offices spoke highly of DRASH saying, “DRASH products are amazing. The structures are well thought out. The DRASH support team is very knowledgeable and helpful.”
In the midst of a catastrophic event, RCPT members must demonstrate solid communication and coordination in order to complete recovery operations successfully. Building a foundation for such skill requires extensive training and careful planning. Despite variations in the magnitude of disaster, individuals and agencies must be equipped to handle any mass fatality incident. A major part of ensuring effective response is having reliable equipment that facilitates all mission needs and provides for coordination of decision-making and execution. DRASH has proven over four years of training and exercises that they provide the right equipment and support to enable all aspects of mass fatality response.
“Thank you to the DRASH team for supporting the regional program again this year. You did a fantastic job and we owe our success to the dedication of DRASH to NYC and the regional project”, says Frank DePaolo, Assistant Commissioner, NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner.