Coweta devises 'mass fatality' plan in case disaster strikes

It is sometimes better to plan for the worst while expecting the best. That was the idea May 20 as the Coweta County Commission approved the county’s new mass fatality plan.

County Emergency Management Agency Director Jay Jones said the move to establish a mass fatality plan was a matter of being precautionary and proactive.

A growing county, Coweta today has approximately 130,000 residents, an expanding airport and 40-50 miles of northbound and southbound interstate traffic splitting the county, Jones said, adding that there will be a continuing opportunity for a mass fatality in the future.

Whether a large traffic incident or chemical spill on Interstate 85, a natural disaster or a pandemic incident, Jones said the plan was needed “just in case we do have that kind of situation.”
Coweta will be the first county in the 12-county region to establish such a plan and Coweta’s plan is being used as a template for other counties, Jones said.

Jones said that while no one wants to face the prospects of such a disaster, the reality is that disasters do happen. An example cited in the plan referenced the multiple tornadoes that hit the southeast in 2011, killing 320 people.

By definition, a mass fatality is any situation where more deaths occur than can be handled by the resources of a local coroner or local medical examiner.

Jones said the plan provides a framework to facilitate an organized and effective response to mass fatality incidents that treats the deceased and their loved ones with dignity and respect.

The plan defines authority and procedures for notification and activation, recovery and identification of decedents and their property, morgue services, family assistance and notification, public communication, death certificate processing, tracking, storage and final disposition.

The plan was a collective effort of the Coweta County Emergency Management Agency, the Coweta County Coroner, District 4 Public Health, local funeral homes, Piedmont Newnan Hospital and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.