County adopts mass fatality plan

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Bonner County Commissioners unanimously approved adoption of a Regional Mass Fatality Management Plan Tuesday, joining four other North Idaho counties in doing so.

The plan, written by the Panhandle Health District, provides a framework for “an organized and effective response to mass fatality incidents ensuring that the dead and their loved ones are treated with dignity and respect.”

“It is my opinion, based on my research and our local funeral homes’ responses to my office, if Bonner County were to have more than 10 people die at a single event, we would be subject to a mass fatality situation,” said Bonner County Coroner Robert Beers. “As a county, we are unprepared for such an event.”

The 420-page plan outlines a mass fatality response for all of North Idaho. Bonner County was the last to sign on — Benewah, Shoshone, Kootenai and Boundary counties have already adopted the RMFMP.

In addition to signing onto the plan, Beers requested commissioners sign three memorandums of understanding with a handful of parties who would assist the county in the case of a mass fatality event. Coffelt Funeral Home has agreed to act as a temporary morgue and autopsy facility. Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, a forensic pathologist out of Tacoma, Wash., will assist with autopsy and pathology services in the event of a mass casualty incident. Litehouse Foods will provide or sell refrigeration trucks to Bonner County in the event that local funeral homes are filled to capacity. Commissioners approved all three MOUs.

Beers said this is the first time Bonner County has adopted a mass fatality plan.

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