When a loved one dies, whether at home or in the hospital, one of your first phone calls should be to the funeral home director, who can walk you through the next steps in preparing the body for burial and ultimately arranging a memorial or cremation service. But what happens when the death count is on a much broader scale - such as a death that occurred in the wake of a national tragedy or an ecological disaster?
That's where Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams (DMORTs) come into play. These mobile units, which include funeral professionals, are coordinated by the Department of Health and Human Services, alongside other national bodies. The role of these units is simple: to provide victim identification and mortuary services in the wake of a major crisis.
In doing so, DMORT professionals might set up temporary morgue facilities on-site, to help get bodies inspected and ready for transport. Forensic pathology and forensic anthropology might also be implemented, both to help identify victims and to name more precise causes of death.
DMORTs are comprised entirely of private citizens - and though funeral directors play a big role, these groups also include medical records technicians, coroners, medical examiners, dental assistants, finger print specialists, administrative and investigative personnel, and more. DMORTs also maintain equipment repositories on both coasts, ensuring maximum readiness.
DMORT professionals are called in during some of the most troubling and upsetting times in our country - for instance, the Sandy Hook school shooting. The professionalism that these individuals exhibit is not only compassionate, but also heroic, considering what they have to face. This isn’t glamorous work by any means, but it is important and worth thinking about - perhaps even expressing gratitude for.