Nevada learns about mass-casualty response
April 18, 2013
Two days after an apparent terrorist attack stunned Boston and the nation, professionals gathered in Carson City to learn about operating a family-assistance center in the wake of a mass-fatality incident here.
Such incidents range from the natural — deadly floods, fires, earthquakes and catastrophic storms — to the heinous, such as bombings.
A family-assistance center was set up in the wake of the 2011 Reno Air Races crash, in which 11 died and 69 were injured, including the pilot. A modified P-51D Mustang crashed on the tarmac near the box seating.
"It's all about information flow," Dr. Grady Bray said. Bray is the president of Crisis Human Services, based in Huntsville, Texas, and has worked mass-fatality incidents from across the United States to South America and Greece.
He has been working events since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
"I've been doing this for way too long," Bray said. "Way too many crashes."
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The assistance centers are set up in the wake of casualty events to help families find their loved ones and get confirmation on a death, as well as for the emergency responders and the medical examiner to know who is missing. The information flow goes both ways — to the families from the hospitals and medical examiners, in charge of dealing with the fatalities, and the opposite route.
They also are for survivors.
"It provides support to families as they're waiting," Bray said. Waiting is often the hardest part for loved ones, he said.
Bray said he is impressed with Nevada's ability to share intangible resources, such as knowledge and planning, and tangible ones, such as equipment, across the entire state. The mentality, he said, comes from the west and central parts of the country.
"I was expecting more acrimony," Bray said. Instead, he found a collegial and entreating atmosphere.
For Deputy Emergency Manager Stacey Belt, the point was regionalizing plans.
"If we have a mass-fatality event in the state of Nevada, it will take all of us," north and south, to respond, she said. "The goal was to demonstrate that again and gain further acknowledgment of that fact."
The seminar was paid for with Department of Homeland Security grant money through the Clark County Coroner/Medical Examiner's office, which wanted to extend that plan-making to the other counties.
The next step is for a draft plan in case of a mass-casualty event for all of the counties in Nevada that have a coroner, not a medical examiner. The only two with medical examiners are Clark County and Washoe County. Within 60 days, there should be a draft plan.
"In Carson City, next year, we'll bring all those pieces together, to do a full-scale exercise," Belt said.