Mass Fatality Training

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Members of the KCRMORG team participate in a mass fatality drill at Kansas Speedway.

MARCH 29, 2018

Kansas City area emergency response agencies had the opportunity to join forces in preparing for a mass casualty and mass fatality incident last week at Kansas Speedway.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office was one of nearly 20 agencies taking part in the three day drill which simulated an active shooter incident as well as the explosion of a radioactive device releasing Cesium 135.

The Mid-America Regional Council organized the event. MARC’s Emergency Service Director, Erin Lynch, said, “We wanted to test current plans and give a chance for those agencies that need to operate together daily and then also what happens when things exceed their capabilities so this morning there were a number of events that occurred.”

“The intent of this training really is to provide an opportunity for the teams to train together. One of the benefits to this in addition to the play itself is the exposure to each other’s capabilities and just getting some face time with entities,” Lynch said. “Training to foster those opportunities within disciplines and also across disciplines. For some they hadn’t really seen fatality operations so being able to see that recovery and that victim identification piece was just helpful exposure even though some of those activities may not be occurring on the same time sequence.”

The medical examiner’s office responded as part of the Kansas City Mortuary Operation Response Group (KCRMORG). According to Jackson County Medical Examiner Dr. Diane Peterson, the organization’s role in the drill was the recovery of bodies as well as victim identification.

Peterson said these type of training opportunities are important. “It is a different scenario than our normal day to day in the medical examiner’s office and it is best to be trained and prepared and to have the stress level that comes with being mobilized and to have those thought processes of problem management and figuring out, ok here is an issue how are we going to solve it and work through that. Those are thought process that we don’t have on a normal day to day.”

This is also a chance for volunteer organizations from all of the separate entities to come together and work together because they may not work together every day, Peterson said.

This was the third time a mass response drill was held at Kansas Speedway and Peterson said it was the first time for KCRMORG to participate. “KCRMORG tries to have one training a year, we had a training last year at KCI Airport where we basically just set up the morgue and trained that way. We had a full scale exercise training in 2014 that was more similar to this. We try to have something to keep our members engaged at least once a year,” she said.

 The mission of KCRMORG is to provide personnel and resources to facilitate an organized and effective response to mass fatality events. The KCRMORG uses regional personnel, resources and capabilities to recover, transport, process and identify decedents in the event of a mass fatality event occurring in the nine-county Kansas City metropolitan area. Team members are trained in the functional areas of site recovery of decedent remains, morgue operations and working with a victim identification center.