Final day of major incident exercise tests mortuary arrangements

28 April 2016
The final day of a three-day exercise based around a serious collision tested plans to respectfully manage a large number of fatalities today (Thursday 28 April).

Activities were based at the Bournemouth Public Mortuary at Holly Tree Lodge, with a simulation of arrangements for 20 realistic mannequins, representing people who were killed in the multi-vehicle collision staged at West Moors on Tuesday.

Around 100 members of staff were involved from a variety of agencies. They included Crime Scene Investigators and police officers from Dorset Police and other forces that are part of the South West region, who would be called to assist for such a large incident. Their role was to match the deceased people with details of missing people already collected by the Casualty Bureau or at the Friends and Family Reception Centre, which was tested yesterday.

Home Office pathologists were on site to practice their plans for conducting simultaneous post mortems. Mortuary staff tested how they would manage a sudden and unusually high influx of bodies, while retaining their usual level of compassion and respect. This was all overseen by the Bournemouth Senior Coroner, Sheriff Payne, and his staff.

In addition to the live simulation at the mortuary, other members of staff from Bournemouth Borough Council took part in a desktop exercise to test how they would run a Logistics Cell to assist the recovery from a major incident.

Detective Inspector Mark Samuel, who leads Dorset Police's approach to victim recovery and identification, said:  "This final day has given us the opportunity to test our victim identification plan for major incidents. Despite the bodies actually being realistic mannequins and the bereaved family members being actors, the staff involved from all the agencies have commented how realistic the exercise has felt.

“I have been impressed with how seriously they have approached their tasks today. Despite the scenario being staged, they have worked incredibly hard to identify people quickly and thoroughly, so that loved ones can get closure. However, this efficiency has not been at the expense of ensuring bodies are handled with the utmost respect and dignity.

“Overall, the three-day exercise has been incredibly useful to test our plans. Unusually, we have had the opportunity to run through many aspects of our major incident response in real-time. As you would imagine, such a realistic test has allowed us to identify some improvements we would make to our plans, which will now be picked-up as part of a formal debrief process.

“I would like to thank everyone who has made such an ambitious exercise possible – especially volunteers who have given their time and any members of the public who may have been inconvenienced while we used different sites.

“While we will hopefully never need to use our major incident and mass fatality plans in response to a real incident, this has given us a valuable opportunity to train staff and improve our approach. Even without the changes being made, it has already given me the confidence that we would respond professionally, efficiently and respectfully if such an incident were ever to occur.”

Witness Appeal

Did you see anything? If you have any information to share, please get in touch

Get in touch
News archive FOI disclosure log

Media / Journalists

If you are an accredited journalist or member of the media, please click here for information about how to contact our News Team. They don’t handle other enquiries, but members of the public can contact us in many other way by clicking here.