Containment you can trust. Protection you deserve.™
- California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA)
- Bob Gerber
- Deputy Chief, Law Enforcement Branch
In October 2006, the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) incorporated a catastrophic mass fatality management element into its Coroners’ Mutual Aid Plan. This plan facilitates the coordinated deployment of critical resources from around the state when a particular region is impacted by a mass fatality incident. The BioSeal System is one of these critical resources.
Bob Gerber is the Deputy Chief of the Law Enforcement Branch of Cal EMA and manager of the Coroners’ Mutual Aid Plan. He has been involved in the response to every major disaster in California since 1982, as well as the recovery efforts after the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “Those two events, along with 9/11, brought to the forefront the need to be adequately prepared for the quick and efficient management of human remains after large scale disasters.”
“When we looked at catastrophic mass fatality planning, we were keenly aware of the need to provide not only the right people for the response, but the right equipment for the job as well,” says Gerber.
It was the fatality management practitioners themselves–the coroners, the medical examiners–who decided what that right equipment would be. “We depended on their expertise,” says Gerber. “They know from their experience in the field what solutions really work when it comes to recovery and containment. They know what is efficient, what is dependable, what helps them to do their job and do it well. And they chose the BioSeal System.”
The most crucial factor in Cal EMA’s decision to invest in BioSeal Systems’ solutions was its unique containment technology. “There is no other body bag on the market that provides Biosafety Level 4 containment and that is a feature that is non–negotiable when we’re planning for scenarios that might involve biochemical or radioactive agents,” says Gerber.
Another reason Cal EMA’s coroners and medical examiners chose the BioSeal System is the versatility of the BioSeal Systems material itself. The size of the body bag can be quickly customized just by cutting the material with a razor knife, giving the practitioner the flexibility to accommodate fragmented body parts as well as whole human remains. This feature also makes it easy to create a separate pouch for personal effects or evidence that can then be attached directly to the pouch containing the remains using the same heat sealing process.
Ultimately, Cal EMA purchased three configurations of the BioSeal System. It placed BioSeal Mass Fatality Response Systems at four strategic locations through the state. It also procured one BioSeal Portable System and one BioSeal Team Training System for each of the seven Coroners’ Mutual Aid regions.
In July 2008, the BioSeal Portable System was put to the test when a helicopter on a firefighting mission crashed on a mountain in a remote area of Trinity County, killing nine people. The system contained everything needed in one case and was easy for their response team to handle as it was moved around the remote, wooded disaster site. “The portability of that system enabled the sheriff–coroner’s office to recover the bodies of the men in a safe, efficient and dignified way,” says Gerber.
The newest addition to Cal EMA’s array of BioSeal Systems equipment is the BioSeal Team Training System, which was designed with direct input from Gerber and his team. They wanted a way to train their people without dipping into the supplies of their other BioSeal Systems. They also need a way to make the training experience as realistic as possible. “We needed an accurate stand in for a dead body so that our trainees could experience the surprisingly difficult logistics of handling human remains.” Working with Cal EMA’s requirements, the team at BioSeal Systems created a training kit that includes a BioSeal Mini System and a 5’5”, 165 pound, full–articulated dummy, all stored in an easy–to–transport combo casket/pallet shipping unit.
“The rescue dummy really is the keystone to the training system,” says Gerber. “The BioSeal Systems team understood that and worked with us to create a solution that would provide a quality training experience so that our first responders will be able to get the job done in a real–life situation.”
“Ultimately,” says Gerber, “our job is to protect all of our citizens, and that starts with the fatality management practitioners at the scene who are there to make sure that decedents are effectively contained and properly processed. A BioSeal Systems container isn’t a fortified body bag; it is literally life–saving technology.”