Although everyone involved hopes it is never called into action, a
sub–committee of the National Hurricane Committee has been assigned
with the task of dealing with the possibility of mass fatalities after
NHC Chairman Donovan Ebanks explained why the
sub–committee is necessary even though only two people died as a result
of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
“We may not always be so fortunate,” he said.
sub–committee’s tasks, which are detailed in the 2006 National
Hurricane Plan, address the possible impacts of an earthquake, tsunami
or airplane crash, in addition to hurricanes and other bad storms, with
the purpose of establishing a framework for mass fatalities management.
activities of the sub–committee would include the collection and
initial identification of bodies, the notification of family, and the
final disposition of the victims, either in the Cayman Islands or
through return to their country of origin.
The National Hurricane
Plan states this it is the policy of the Government to provide a means
of processing and disposing of the deceased in the event that a
disaster results in the deaths of more than 15 people.
Cayman Islands Police will assume the overall responsibility for mass
fatality management. Organisations and other entities that will assist
in the task include the Emergency Operations Centre, the Cayman Islands
Fire Services, the coroner, Cayman’s hospitals and the Portfolio of
Mass Fatality Management Chairman Committee
Chairman Detective Chief Inspector Kurt Walton said teams have been
identified in each district to search and recover bodies after a
Ideally, these teams would include a Criminal
Investigation Department officer, a fire officer, an Environmental
Health officer, a photographer and a medical practitioner.
a pathologist would attend the scene of a death, but Mr. Walton said
that in the case of mass fatalities, it would most likely not be
possible because Cayman has only one pathologist.
the practicality of the situation might not allow that,” he said,
adding that Cayman could receive the assistance of pathologists from
Jamaica and the United States that sometimes assist in Cayman.
that would help in the identification of the body would be gathered and
put into waterproof document cases. After the body is photographed as
found and a morgue number attached to the body, it will be placed in a
body bag and transported to the morgue.
Mr. Walton said toe tags and 500 body bags are already on island.
have all the body bags presently stored at the Central Police Station,”
he said. “On any sort of alert [of a possible disaster], those body
bags would be distributed to each team in each district.”
Mr. Walton said he believes each district will receive 15 body bags in advance of a disaster.
Transportation of a body to the morgue would ordinarily be done with a hearse from one of Cayman’s private sector funeral homes.
“That would continue to be the position [in the event of a disaster],” Mr. Walton said.
if there is a great number of bodies or if the hearses on island are
damaged in the disaster, Mr. Walton said the sub–committee “would
probably have to be very innovative” with transporting the bodies to
Since the morgue at the hospital can hold only six
bodies, Cayman’s two funeral homes – Bodden Funeral Services and
Churchill’s Funeral Home – have agreed to serve as temporary morgues
for any additional bodies recovered after a disaster, Mr. Walton said.
“They can take 50 [bodies] between the two of them,” he said.
Besides heading up the Mass Fatality Management Committee, Mr. Walton is still a police officer with other duties.
“I have my own operational orders that trigger into effect [in the case of a disaster],” he said.
police operational procedure in the event of a disaster causing mass
fatalities will create a Casualty Bureau, Mr. Walton said. That entity,
which would be located centrally and equipped with satellite telephones
to ensure communications, would give the media and the Joint
Communication Services sub–committee accurate and current information
on any deaths.