Maryland DHMH Mass Fatality Planning

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Two-year project with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene completes mass fatality planning for facilities across the state.

Scope  

Over the past two years, CHHS has worked with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to conduct mass fatality planning at the facilities that agency directly operates throughout the state.  CHHS staffers worked in two phases on this project, which culminated in the production of mass fatality plans for each facility and a report that outlined how DHMH might proceed in the future to make these plans stronger and coordinated.  First, CHHS surveyed the 14 DHMH facilities to discover what kinds of resources and policies were in place that might be used to respond to a mass fatality event.  Second, staff used guidance provided by the state’s Mass Fatality Management Planning Framework as well as documents written by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to craft a template which DHMH facilities could use to produce specific mass fatality plans for their sites.  CHHS worked with each facility individually to assist with the completion of their plans.  The process required input from each facility’s emergency management staff (or person in some cases) as well as executives, medical personnel, and security staff.

Results  

CHHS is actively engaged in developing in-house expertise in the area of mass fatality planning.  The mass fatality planning template that CHHS developed has been very useful to facilities to put practical steps in place that address the guidance provided by the state of Maryland and DHHS.  CHHS helped the facilities identify policies and resources to be used in the identification and tracking of the deceased, management of vital records, temporary storage and transportation of the deceased, final disposition of the deceased, roles and responsibilities for staff, and legal and regulatory issues.  The next step for the facilities will be to conduct exercises of their plans to identify gaps in policies and resources and then use that knowledge to further improve their plans.

Emergency planning for any entity can be a difficult endeavor.   It is sometimes viewed as a purely mental exercise that combines abstract scenarios that can be hard to envision with the tough practical choices that confront administrators who are asked to think like first responders.   Emergency planning for mass-casualty scenarios is difficult for these reasons and more.  No entity eagerly anticipates planning for the management of the bodies of victims or the emotional toll that such a scenario might take on employees.   Nonetheless, planning for a mass fatality event  is a beneficial step to preempting some of the trauma and confusion that a natural or man-made catastrophe might cause.

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