WHO publishes guidelines on management of dead bodies for first responders

Created on Wednesday, 25 January 2017


WHO has published guidelines for first responders .When a major disaster strikes, the first people on the scene are often local organizations, residents and volunteers. They are often faced with the retrieval and immediate management of dead bodies before forensic experts can arrive. This manual provides practical information to ensure proper and dignified management of dead bodies after disasters.
This manual has two aims: firstly, to promote the proper management of dead bodies and, second, to facilitate their identification. Following many disasters, and certainly larger ones, the retrieval and immediate management of dead bodies is done by local authorities, organizations and communities, residents and volunteers. This is because forensic experts may not arrive for some days, or even longer; and in some contexts, there are no forensic experts at all. Consequently, this manual focuses on practical recommendations for those who are on the spot or are able to respond in the immediate aftermath of a disaster:
– i.e. first responders.
The early work of first responders in managing the dead protects the dignity of the dead. The proper recovery of bodies involves:

• allocation of a unique code to each body,
• taking photographs and recording data about each body as soon as possible,
• placing each body in a body bag, and
• the orderly temporary storage of the bodies.
These steps in the early management of the dead go a long way to protecting their dignity. They help to ensure the traceability of the bodies and thus avoid their loss. But more is needed if the bodies are to be identified:

• a list of the missing must be created, and
• Information about those on the list must be gathered.
If first responders know the proper steps in dealing with dead bodies, they can assist forensic specialists and investigators in identifying human remains and clarifying the fate of missing persons.

The guidelines are available here: http://iris.paho.org/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/31295/9789275319246-eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y&ua=1