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Announcing the Dead and Missing

This is a difficult task.

There are disasters where there are mass casualties that happen. Both people killed and missing.

There isn’t any easy way to do this. You don’t want to traumatize people. Every effort is made to contact the next of kin for a death notification — if that can be done. People should not be identified as being dead until there is a positive identification of the body by visual or DNA methods. Only the coroner or medical examiner should announce the deaths.

The missing persons is much more difficult. With a mass evacuation, you don’t know if someone who has been reported as missing just has not been successful in getting in contact with their friends and relatives or if they really are missing and not just relocated somewhere.

Thus, authorities must post the names of those people known to be missing and hope that if they are alive, they find out that their name is on the list and they contact their friends or relatives first and then the authorities.

Social media has been used extensively in recent disasters for people to find one another. It is a tool that needs to be used and crowdsourcing the work can be helpful. Let the network of interested people help you.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.