Mass fatality drill deploys DC’s first mobile morgue facility

A worker in the OCME Field Disaster Morgue examines dental X-rays. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A worker in the OCME Field Disaster Morgue examines dental X-rays. (WTOP/Kristi King)

The blue mobile command truck at left is not marked. "People can get a little anxious when they see: Office of the Chief Medical Examiner," said Donell Harvin who runs emergency preparedness and response for the OCME. "Whenever they see that, they think there's a dead body in there." The truck might be on assignment for example assisting the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The blue mobile command truck at left is not marked. “People can get a little anxious when they see: Office of the Chief Medical Examiner,” said Donell Harvin who runs emergency preparedness and response for the OCME. “Whenever they see that, they think there’s a dead body in there.” The truck might be on assignment, for example, assisting the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences. (WTOP/Kristi King)

A drill participant from the FBI consults with D.C. Chief Medical Examiner Roger Mitchell Jr. within the Field Disaster Morgue perimeter. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A drill participant from the FBI consults with D.C. Chief Medical Examiner Roger Mitchell Jr. within the Field Disaster Morgue perimeter. (WTOP/Kristi King)

This worker in the Field Disaster Morgue is monitoring the full body scan X-ray machine. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This worker in the Field Disaster Morgue is monitoring the full body scan X-ray machine. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Similar to what happens at a hospital with live patients, the 'intake' area of the Field Disaster Morgue is where decedents are checked in to begin the identification and evidence collection process. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Similar to what happens at a hospital with live patients, the “intake” area of the Field Disaster Morgue is where decedents are checked in to begin the identification and evidence collection process. (WTOP/Kristi King)

The chilly, refrigerated autopsy area of the Field Disaster Morgue is where DNA and evidence is collected from clothes and bodies. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The chilly, refrigerated autopsy area of the Field Disaster Morgue is where DNA and evidence is collected from clothes and bodies. (WTOP/Kristi King)

The digital scanner at top right can record a decedent's finger prints. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The digital scanner at top right can record a decedent’s finger prints. (WTOP/Kristi King)

The Field Disaster Morgue may have people from as many as four to six agencies working on victim identities and causes of death. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Field Disaster Morgue may have people from as many as four to six agencies working on victim identities and causes of death. (WTOP/Kristi King)

When team members are working in the Field Disaster Morgue an identification badge is created for each of them that includes a QR Code with credentials. (WTOP/Kristi King)
When team members are working in the Field Disaster Morgue an identification badge is created for each of them that includes a QR Code with credentials. (WTOP/Kristi King)

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A worker in the OCME Field Disaster Morgue examines dental X-rays. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The blue mobile command truck at left is not marked. "People can get a little anxious when they see: Office of the Chief Medical Examiner," said Donell Harvin who runs emergency preparedness and response for the OCME. "Whenever they see that, they think there's a dead body in there." The truck might be on assignment for example assisting the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A drill participant from the FBI consults with D.C. Chief Medical Examiner Roger Mitchell Jr. within the Field Disaster Morgue perimeter. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This worker in the Field Disaster Morgue is monitoring the full body scan X-ray machine. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Similar to what happens at a hospital with live patients, the 'intake' area of the Field Disaster Morgue is where decedents are checked in to begin the identification and evidence collection process. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The chilly, refrigerated autopsy area of the Field Disaster Morgue is where DNA and evidence is collected from clothes and bodies. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The digital scanner at top right can record a decedent's finger prints. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Field Disaster Morgue may have people from as many as four to six agencies working on victim identities and causes of death. (WTOP/Kristi King)
When team members are working in the Field Disaster Morgue an identification badge is created for each of them that includes a QR Code with credentials. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON — A mass fatality symposium and exercise this week in D.C. involved the deployment of the city’s field disaster morgue for the first time.

“This is a deployable, military-grade tent structure that’s been purposed to recreate our morgue operations,” D.C. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Roger Mitchell Jr. told WTOP during a walk-through Thursday of the facility.

The mobile morgue equipment used to identify victims and causes of death includes dental and full-body X-ray machines.

With a capacity of holding 200 decedents, the mobile morgue can be used in mass casualty events or in chemical or biological incidents in which victims would need to be isolated.

“This is the asset for the National Capital Region,” Mitchell said. “Places like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania — they have similar assets that they share. We brought that concept to the NCR and are performing our duties as appropriate.”

The mass fatality exercise participants came from 45 agencies such as the FBI, Amtrak, Department of Defense, and local and regional partners.

The exercise included a two-day symposium with lectures from international visitors who worked the November 2015 France terror attacks in Paris in which 130 people were killed and the Nice truck attack this summer that killed 86 people. The event also hosted the chief coroner who led the response to the December 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California, where 14 people were killed.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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