Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe said yesterday the government is in the process of finalizing a national mass fatality plan.
“The reality of current times suggests that we are to prepare for what could happen,” she said.
“This plan will help The Bahamas in becoming more organized particularly now that we have witnessed more disasters, emergencies and superstorms occurring. Saving lives in these circumstances is the primary focus and having an effective plan in place will do just that.”
Parker-Edgecombe said the plan will be made available to the public “in short order”.
The finalization of the plan comes as The Bahamas nears the second year anniversary of Hurricane Dorian, which impacted Grand Bahama and Abaco in September 2019. The storm left thousands displaced, scores missing and dozens dead.
Last week, while testifying before an inquest into the presumed deaths of 34 people reported missing after Dorian, Dr. Kiko Bridgewater, a senior pathologist, called for the implementation of a national mass fatality plan.
The plan would have to incorporate all stakeholders, including police officers, defense force officers, funeral directors, the pathology team, counselors and others, according to Bridgewater.
“Training exercises are needed so that structure and command chain [can] be established for better organization of the response; the appropriate stakeholders are alerted at the right time; provisions are made to properly mobilize the necessary human and physical assets; first responders know how the recovery of bodies should be done; all vital information is appropriately recorded; proper scene photos are taken prior to body removal; correct labeling of body bags is done; remains are appropriately stored; there is issuance of appropriate instructions to family members in order to ensure quick identification, etc. [and] counseling of surviving family members is made available,” he said.
Bridgewater said there is also a need for the establishment of a national forensic morgue.
He said it would need to be separate from Princess Margaret Hospital for processing of all deaths coming under the jurisdiction of the coroner.