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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Handling Dead Bodies

This was posted on the APN Forums a week or so ago. Critical information not often seen or discussed. Thanks to the folks over at Arizona Preppers for posting this.

Often First Responders cannot reach a disaster site for hours, days or weeks so citizens should be prepared to deal with death or the handling of dead bodies.

Death in a shelter during a nuclear / radiological event – If a person (or pet) dies while in a shelter, cover body with a sheet or put it in a bag (or tape several large plastic bags together) and move it outside the shelter. Don’t try to bury it if high levels of radiation are still in the area, but do poke several pinholes in bag so gases won’t build up. (Make sure to decontaminate yourself before reentering shelter.)

If in a Disaster Situation with Casualties and No Help

- Dead bodies typically do not cause epidemics after a natural disaster. In fact, it’s survivors who will most likely spread disease.

- Don’t put yourself in danger to recover a body if there is any chemical, biological or radiological contamination in the area or structural damage due to an earthquake, etc.

- People handling bodies should wear gloves and boots and avoid wiping their face or mouth with their hands. (Facemasks are not needed but may be helpful to some handlers.)

- Wash hands with soap and clean water often, and disinfect tools, clothing, equipment and vehicles used to move the bodies.

- Bodies often leak feces after death so avoid contact with it (and body fluids) to limit exposure to any possible diseases.

- If no First Responders are on scene (and it may be a while before any are), write down any known details about where and when a body was found, name (if known), personal belongings on or with the body, take a photo (if possible) to help with identification later, etc.

- Graves should be between 5 ft (1.5m) and 9 ft (3m) deep.

- Burial sites should be at least 218 yards (200m) away from water sources such as streams, lakes, springs, waterfalls, beaches, and the shoreline. (If 4 or less bodies: 650 ft (200m) from water … if 5 to 60 bodies: 820 ft (250m) from drinking water well)

- The Department of Health and Human Services for North Carolina suggests pets and wild animals be buried in holes at least 3 feet (1m) deep where there is no possibility of contaminating surface or ground water. Livestock animals should be disposed of by incineration.

Some FAQs per PANO:

Do dead bodies cause epidemics?
Dead bodies from natural disasters do not cause epidemics. This is because victims of natural disasters die from trauma, drowning or fire. They do not have epidemic causing diseases such as cholera, typhoid, malaria, or plague when they die.

What are the health risks for the public?
There is a small risk of diarrhea from drinking water contaminated by fecal material from dead bodies. Routine disinfection of drinking water is sufficient to prevent water-borne illness.

Is spraying bodies with disinfectant or lime powder useful?
No, it has no effect. It does not hasten decomposition or provide any protection.

Local officials and journalists say there is a risk of disease from dead bodies. Are they correct?
No. The risk from dead bodies after natural disasters is misunderstood by many professionals and the media. Even local or international health workers are often misinformed and contribute to the spread of rumors.

Resources: City of Surprise Crisis Response Team and Management of Dead Bodies in Disaster Situations by The Pan American Health Organization

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