Mass fatality preparedness in the death care sector

J Occup Environ Med. 2011 Oct;53(10):1179-86. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31822cfe76.


Objective: To characterize mass fatality preparedness of the death care sector (ie, funeral industry organizations) and to determine the workforce's ability and willingness to report to duty during a hypothetical high fatality pandemic event.

Methods: Anonymous, Web-based, cross-sectional survey of a national funeral industry sample. Preparedness was characterized using descriptive statistics. Factors significantly associated with ability and willingness were identified using chi-squared bivariate analysis.

Results: Respondents (N = 492) generally rated their organizational preparedness planning as suboptimal; only six of thirteen preparedness checklist items were typically in place. In contrast, response intentions were uniformly high; more than 80% of the respondents were willing to report to work, although high prevalence of secondary obligations might hinder this.

Conclusions: Preparedness strategies that address interorganizational, surge capacity, and personal emergency planning are likely to be most efficacious. STATEMENT OF CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Occupational medicine plays an important role in emergency preparedness and response. Funeral industry organizations could benefit from skills and resources of occupational medicine, including training, fit testing, development of plans, and coordination and hosting of planning exercises.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Casualty Incidents*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortuary Practice / organization & administration*
  • Pandemics*
  • Surge Capacity / organization & administration
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce
  • Young Adult