The week of August 27 marked the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Memories of that tragedy served as the background for training conducted August 27-31 as part of an ongoing effort to assure local officials are as well prepared as possible to respond to a potential mass-fatality event in the Greater Kansas City area.
Both the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office and Sheriff's Office played lead roles in the field training, which included setting up a mobile morgue, performing search and recovery operations, and processing remains.
The Medical Examiner's Office has worked closely with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) over the last five years to improve the area's readiness in the event of a mass-fatality event. MARC provided the M.E'.s Office $200,000 in equipment for a mobile morgue that would be deployed in the aftermath of a deadly disaster. That equipment includes a 53-foot refrigerated trailer, generators, hot water heaters, autopsy tables and other components. The M.E.'s Office later added to the mobile morgue's inventory with portable X-ray equipment and crucial operating supplies.
"This is equipment we need to have to respond as quickly and as effectively as possible to a disaster," said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp. "We, of course, hope we will never have a mass fatality here locally, but we are going to do our duty by being trained and ready to respond. Our Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office has been out front, leading the way to raise our region's level of preparedness."
Jackson County has worked closely with MARC to form the Kansas City Regional Mortuary Operational Response Group (KCR-MORG), which features more than 100 officials representing agencies from both Missouri and Kansas. Mike Henderson, Chief of Forensic Operations and Investigations for the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office, serves as the KCR-MORG commander.
In June, MARC honored Henderson as one of its 2012 Regional Leadership Award recipients. At the time, Henderson said of mass-fatality training, "It's something you hope you never have to do, but it's training you have to do, absolutely."
Henderson directed mortuary operations after the destructive Joplin, Missouri tornado that took more than 150 lives in May of 2011. Within hours of that storm, Sheriff Sharp and several of his deputies arrived in Joplin, after officials there called for assistance.
Dr. Mary Dudley, Jackson County Chief Medical Examiner, serves as a KCR-MORG Forensic Chief.
Last week's training was held at the Central Jackson County Fire District Training Office in Blue Springs and also the Jackson County Sheriff's headquarters.
KANSAS CITY REGIONAL MORTUARY OPERATIONS RESPONSE GROUP
Members of the Kansas City Regional Mortuary Operation Response Group include:
- Jackson County Sheriff's Office
- Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office
- Boone County Medical Examiner's Office
- First Call Morgue
- Johnson County (Kansas) Crime Lab
- Kansas City Crime Lab
- Kansas City Dental School
- Miami County (Kansas) Medical Examiner's Office
- Speaks Funeral Home
- Wyandotte County (Kansas) Emergency Management
Mission: The mission of the Kansas City Regional Mortuary Operational Response Group (KCR-MORG) is to provide the personnel and resources to facilitate an organized and effective response to mass fatality events. The KCR-MORG utilizes regional personnel, resources and capabilities to recover, transport, process and identify decedents of a mass fatality event occurring in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Team members are trained in the functional areas of site recovery of decedent remains, morgue operations and working with the family assistance center (FAC). -- from MARC website