Mass Fatality Events: Learning from the Flight 3407 Tragedy


Karen Beil Costantino, RN, BSN
Director of Operations
Office of the Medical Examinar
Erie County Department of Health

Jonrika Malone, MD
Associate Chief Medical Examiner
Office of the Medical Examinar 
Erie County Department of Health

Dianne Vertes, MD, Ph.D.
Chief Medical Examiner
Office of the Medical Examiner
Erie County Deparment of Health

Emergencies and disasters happen. Emergency response and recovery agencies are well-trained and well-prepared to carry out operations in these events. When a mass fatality incident occurs, and numerous lives are impacted, these agencies are tested as they deal with an event which strains their resources beyond that of other accidents and emergencies. The crash of Flight 3407 in a residential area of Buffalo NY was a tragedy which created such a strain.  Numerous agencies worked to respond, and just as importantly to recover, from this incident.  Their efforts ensured the safety of responders and the public as well as closure for the family and community

Learning Objectives

  1. Describe the key role of public health workers in a mass fatality event.
  2. List strategies to support emotional health of victim’s families and responders.
  3. Describe 2 cultural differences that might impact response.
Public Health Preparedness and Response Core Competencies

Domain I:  
1.2 Manage behaviors associated with emotional response in self and others 
1.3 Facilitate collaboration with internal and external ER partners
1.5 Demonstrate respect for all persons and cultures 

Domain II: 
2.2 Use principles of crisis and risk communication 

Domain III: 
3.1 Contribute expertise to a HVA 
3.2 Contribute expertise of develop of plans 
3.3 Participate in improving capacities 

Domain IV: 
4.2 Employ protective behaviors 
4.3 Report unresolved threats to physical and mental health 

Public Health Emergency Preparedness Capabilities 

PHEP Capability 5: Fatality Management 

PHEP Capability 14: Responder Health and Safety

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