(a) Natural disasters caused by
(b) Civil disasters caused by
Thunderstorm, flood, snow, storm, earthquake, forest fire, fire in populated areas
Reactors, transport, industry (rail, plane, ship), explosions, failure of power, gas, water, failure of disposal (garbage, sewage)
The medical and forensic measures in case of a disaster are regulated by law (Table 21.2). In the Federal Republic of Germany, civil protection is legislated in the basic law (Rötzscher et al. 1998). The deployment of forces for the immediate defense of danger and rescue of people (including security service) is legislated in federal and state law.
Measures before, during, and after a disaster
(a) Preventive measures
(b) Immediate measures (during and after a disaster)
Civil protection measures
Emergency response plans
Determining the scale of the disaster
Providing of operational guidance to alert the emergency services
Organizational chart of the BKA IdKo
Assignment of legal physicians
Assignment of forensic odontologists
Assessing the situation
Emergency response drill
Action planning for security force for search and rescue of people—triage
Education of the population
21.1.1 Identification Commissions
The Federal Criminal Police (BKA) in Wiesbaden (decree from 01.15.1970 – OS I5 – 625400/7, Report BKA 1970) has had an Identification Commission since 1972 (IdKo) (Beyer et al. 1966; Endris 1982; Heidemann 1988; Rötzscher 1995). The Commission is associated with the Department OA 31 – Capital crimes, missing and dead persons.
Currently, 22 countries have identifying commissions (FBI 1961; Johnson 1995; Sperber 1979; Warnick 1995). These commissions (IdKo) are appointed by a department or organized by the police authority. They are deployed in disaster situations and under difficult conditions. Their composition varies depending on their underlying philosophies.
In France, the commission is the Service Central d’Identité Judiciaire (Hugret 1973). Surprisingly, some European countries, such as Austria and Italy, do not have an identifying commission (Rotondo 1967). In the USA, since 1940, the commission is the Disaster Identification Squad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The Identifying Commission of the Federal Criminal Police (BKA) in Wiesbaden works with several forensic odontologists (Rötzscher 1992b). In case of an accident involving a German aircraft in countries that are members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the Federal Aviation Authority (LBA) in Braunschweig (according to the Convention on International Civil Aviation) sends an air accident investigation team; the IdKo of the BKA may be part of this team. In all other cases, the LBA and BKA offer their help to the countries involved (Endris 1982).
People from different countries are affected in accidents with aircrafts or ships or in rail accidents. Since 1988, when INTERPOL was concerned with the exchange of information about missing and/or dead persons of unknown identity, the Federal Criminal Police Office established a working group “identification” to develop uniform documents for sampling of antemortem (AM) and postmortem (PM) data. They designed forms for identification including dental forms for AM and PM recording as well as comparison and conclusion forms. There is a guide for disaster victim identification (DVI) work and also a computer program, DVI International, from Plass Data® in Denmark. Nowadays, version 3.1 is available with the most recent design of the DVI forms (T. Solheim, IOFOS Newsletter 2011/1, pp 8ff.). In this group, forensic scientists and forensic odontologists work together as an expression of the interdisciplinary nature of the task. German forensic odontologists (members of the Federal Criminal IdKo) as members of the INTERPOL Standing Committee on DVI attend the annual meetings in part as needed.
21.2 Odontology in Relation to the INTERPOL Guidelines in the Disaster Victim Identification Process (DVI)
Eddy de Valck3
Forensic Odontologist, DVI Team Belgium, Beigem, Belgium
Globalization of the world results in an increasing travel pattern by more and more people. This will undoubtedly result in a higher probability that a disaster anywhere on earth, regardless of its nature, will result in the deaths of people from many different countries in the world. It is rarely possible to identify victims of major disasters such as airplane crashes, terrorist attacks, or earthquakes by visual recognition, and identification by visual recognition is not accepted in most countries because of legal considerations.
Comparisons of fingerprints, dental records, or DNA samples of the unknown victims with ones stored in databases or taken from victims’ personal effects are often required to obtain a conclusive identification. These primary identification elements can guarantee a scientific proof of identity that can withstand the scrutiny of different international legal standards.
When a major disaster occurs, the affected country may not be able to handle the crisis in an adequate way for different reasons. The country may not have a properly trained and equipped DVI team or may not have sufficient resources to deal with the mass casualty. In some cases, the incident may have damaged or destroyed the country’s existing emergency response infrastructure, making the task of victim identification even more difficult.
Member countries can, in these circumstances, call on INTERPOL for assistance in disaster victim identification (DVI) in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The services offered by INTERPOL to its member countries include a wide range of support:
A downloadable DVI guide
Assistance from the Command and Coordination Centre at the INTERPOL General Secretariat in Lyon, France to send messages between National Central Bureaus 24 hours a day in Arabic, English, French, or Spanish
An Incident Response Team to provide further assistance upon request, such as on-site investigative support or connection to INTERPOL’s databases
Such a coordinated effort by the international DVI community can significantly speed up the victim recovery and identification process, enabling victims’ families to begin the healing process and societies to rebuild, and, in the event of a terrorism incident, assisting investigators to identify possible attackers.
The DVI process is an intensive and demanding task requiring a multidimensional approach, involving well-trained specialists from various disciplines. INTERPOL’s DVI activities are supported by a Steering Group and a Standing Committee on Disaster Victim Identification, both of which are made up of forensic and police experts. The Steering Group formulates INTERPOL DVI policy and strategic planning, whereas the Standing Committee meets annually at INTERPOL’s Headquarters in Lyon to discuss improvements to procedures and standards in DVI matters.
In recent years, many disaster incidents have occurred that challenged the DVI team with various kinds of difficulties related to disaster management and different situations in each disaster. New technologies have been developed to make the working process faster and more effective and the different DVI protocols have been evaluated and improved.
Subsequently, policies and guidelines have been produced in the following areas and are backed up by training programs:
Victim care and family support
Occupational care for DVI teams
Compliance with international standards and forensic quality assurance controls
Information sharing and exchange
Operational assistance to countries that lack DVI capacity
The forensic dentist (odontology being one of the primary identifiers) is one of the key persons who play important roles in the DVI human identification process.
21.3 INTERPOL Standing Committee on DVI (History)
The first INTERPOL DVI guide was published in 1984, revised in 1997, and updated in 2009 by the INTERPOL Standing Committee on Disaster Victim Identification. It provides guidelines for use by INTERPOL member countries in the identification of victims of disasters, and outlines how to set up a DVI team and how to manage DVI operations. It is designed to encourage the compatibility of procedures across international boundaries and can serve as a basis for INTERPOL Member States that do not have their own DVI teams or have never been confronted with such operational situations to set up a DVI team and to manage DVI operations. This DVI guide reflects the INTERPOL standard for DVI operations. It should be explicitly specified as the basis for DVI operations involving teams from different nations in advance of such operations. The current version is the result of the experience gained by the different international DVI teams over the years accrued through dealing with different kinds of disasters. It is designed to encourage the compatibility of procedures across international boundaries.
Of course, the recommendations cannot address every possible eventuality, but they give sound practical advice on major issues of victim identification. The emphasis is on the multidisciplinary approach of victim identification and the recommendations aim to stimulate DVI teams to apply “best practices” in order to obtain maximal results in DVI operations.
The most important requirement for victim identification work is the application of standards, across personal and national preferences, that are the common basis for the work in multinational DVI operations. For this reason, Standard Operation Protocols (SOP) for antemortem (AM) and postmortem (PM) procedures were established for fingerprinting, forensic pathology, forensic odontology, and DNA profiling. These protocols and standards were found to be crucial in the overall quality of the entire DVI process.
In order to establish, maintain, and review protocols and standards and promote effective international cooperation, INTERPOL calls upon each Member State to make preparations for DVI operations. If a disaster occurs in a country that does not have its own DVI team or if the disaster overpowers the country’s capacities, support by other DVI teams can be requested by INTERPOL. This has shown to be advantageous when disaster victims of different nationalities are expected. The nation in charge should then do its utmost to secure participation from other nations, at least as liaison officers, definitely from the medical and dental specialties, but also from the police system, in order to facilitate the exchange of information (particularly AM information).
21.4 Proceedings in INTERPOL DVI Guide
The overall identification process involves recovery, AM, PM, reconciliation, and identification teams. It is clear that the actions and operation of these different teams should be active and well coordinated. Explicit descriptions of individual tasks involved in recovery, evidence collection, and victim identification are provided in the INTERPOL guide.
21.5 Recovery Team
The recovery of bodies/body parts and the preservation of evidence/personal effects found at the disaster site represent the first steps in the victim identification process. As a rule, the search for the bodies of victims of a disaster cannot begin until all have been rescued. In general, these operations are initially chaotic and disorganized.
The recovery team has the important tasks of collecting evidence, such as bodies and body parts and personal property, from the disaster scene and accurately recording the findings. This requires accurate mapping (photographic aerial overview or GPS mapping) of the disaster area, which allows the team to record from which part of the site the given evidence was recovered. Usually the incident site will be organized in a grid system. Body numbering is performed according to INTERPOL guidelines and has to be applied by all teams to avoid errors and the creation of even more chaos. The given body numbering system (international country telephone code, site number, and body number as applied in the Tsunami disaster (ex. 32-1-00596)) is the reference for future disasters. This unique body number has to stay with the body during the subsequent stages of the identification process and will be visible on all related documentation (forms and photographs).
It is recommended that a forensic odontologist be part of the recovery team because a trained specialist has a better eye for dental evidence. In some cases, such as with charred bodies, it might be necessary for the odontologist on the recovery team to consolidate or describe the dental evidence on site before it is removed to avoid destruction of the brittle dental substances during transportation to the mortuary.
The matching of separate body parts should be performed only by authorized forensic medical experts, and not by recovery personnel. More generally, each body part should be labeled. Medical and dental experts should be at the scene to assist the police in collecting body parts, particularly bones and teeth.
The Recovery and Evidence Collection Team performs the following tasks relating to the recovery of bodies:
Localization of all bodies/body parts
Exposure of the body, if necessary (with the aid of appropriate support personnel and suitable equipment)
Marking of bodies/body parts with an evidence plate or numbered post on which the recovery number is clearly readable and cannot be erased
Assignment of a separate, unique number to each body/body part
Documentation of the discovery site (description, photos, sketch, or survey of the position of the body with the aid of GPS and/or crime scene surveying instrument)
Photographic documentation of the body for recovery files and forensic medical examination
Attachment of the recovery number to the body/body part. This number is used as the body reference number and remains affixed to the body/body part during the entire identification process
Completion of the INTERPOL DVI Post Mortem Form (pink), Part Dental findings (83) in single cases recovery number.
Placement of the body/body part in a body bag, attachment of the recovery number to the outside of the body bag, sealing of the body bag
Removal of the body/body part and transport to the Recovery Command Center
Preparation and compilation of recovery documents and submission of documentation to the Recovery Command Center; procurement of new recovery documents as needed
Transfer of the body/body part and recovery documents to the Recovery Command Center
21.6 Methods of Identification
Victims of large-scale disasters should be identified by assessment of different elements. All possible elements available should be used, but the methods used should be reliable, scientifically sound, applicable under field conditions, and capable of being performed within a reasonable period of time.
The primary and most reliable methods of identification are fingerprint analysis, comparative dental analysis, and DNA analysis (Fig. 21.1). These methods match the requirements as mentioned earlier.
The primary and most reliable methods of identification
Secondary means of identification (Fig. 21.2) include personal description and medical findings as well as evidence from clothing and personal belongings found on the body. This is considered circumstantial evidence that serves to support identification by other means but is mostly not sufficient as a sole element for identification.
The secondary means of identification
All PM data obtained from the unknown body will be compared with information gathered on missing persons. Because it is impossible to know which kind of information will be available, all possible information (AM and PM) must be collected and documented.