Working together for a resilient Birmingham.

Thinking the unthinkable

Mariola Smallman, Principal Emergency Planning Officer blogs about part of her role with major incident planning.

Birmingham Resilience Team is involved with a wide range of planning and response activities; some of which are well known, like flooding, others are less known.  In the minds of many, an incident resulting in mass fatalities is thinking the unthinkable. 

The local authority is already responsible for funding the Coroner’s Service and as such is also responsible for ensuring arrangements are in place in the event that HM Coroner would have to oversee mortuary arrangements for a mass fatality incident, whatever this may be caused by.

Alongside DS Jennifer Pearson from West Midlands Police, I recently presented at a Community Resilience conference, held in London on 16 March.  Our presentation focussed on the role of the local authority and how we work to bring together West Midlands Police, Government Office for the West Midlands and other nearby local authorities when planning for mass fatalities.

The conference included speakers from a range of professions involved in planning and response to a mass fatality event from: the Home Office; UK DVI (Disaster Victim Identification); Human Tissue Authority; HM Coroner for the Queen’s household and Surrey; the “ologists” (International Association of Forensic Radiologists, British Association for Forensic Odontology, Association of Anatomical Pathology Technologists); Environment Agency; Thames Water; and the Salvation Army.

Community Resilience’s aim was for delegates to have a better understanding of mass fatality planning in relation to “How do I and what I need to do”. The presentations provided delegates with information about our respective roles with a constant reminder throughout the day that the victims and their families remain our priority. The conference was very well attended and really brought home the fact that all agencies involved in the response to a mass fatality incident have to work together.

Our presentation outlined Birmingham’s approach how we’ve built relationships through joint planning and exercising. Jenny presented on Exercise Latch, a training event held over two days, which involved a range of personnel from different organisations who would each be involved in the response to a mass fatality incident, either at the scene, at multi agency command and control, in the activation of a mortuary, by being a family liaison officer and through to the identification commission.

The conference gave us the opportunity to share what we have achieved and to learn from others experiences. This may be an area that communities are less familiar with when compared to other types of incidents, for example, flooding, power outages or IT failure, but the commitment of all agencies in Birmingham means we would be prepared for the unthinkable.

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