Disaster Victim Identification

A disaster is an unexpected major event resulting in large-scale damage and significant loss of human life. Disasters may have natural causes, such as an earthquake or tsunami or they may be the result of human activity, as in the case of negligence or terrorism.

Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) is the term used internationally to represent the overall response for the identification of victims of disasters. An effective DVI response requires a broad range of expertise and participation of police agencies, medical professionals, as well as government and non-governmental organizations.

The RCMP, in partnership with federal, provincial and municipal partners is working towards enhancing competencies in DVI responsiveness to assist in developing and coordinating a multi-agency, whole-of-government Canadian DVI response. Events such as Swiss Air 111, the tsunami in Thailand and the earthquake in Haiti have reinforced the need to enhance and maintain this expertise in order to provide the response required to identify deceased victims and human remains, collect the pertinent evidence, and subsequent repatriation.

DVI is comprised of the following

  • Family Liaison Assistance Group who assist victims' families
  • Assessment Team evaluates the total scope of the DVI operation including logistical requirements, team size, subject matter expertise required and morgue location
  • Body Recovery Teams collect the bodies and personal effects from the disaster site and document all available relevant information about the individual
  • Ante-mortem Teams prepare missing persons files which include information required for the victim's identification such as medical records, original dental records, fingerprints and DNA
  • Post-mortem Teams collect all post-mortem data including relevant dental, medical and forensic data from the victims during autopsy
  • The Reconciliation Teams are responsible for searching the ante-mortem and post-mortem records and ultimately presenting a report and recommendation to the Identification Board
  • The Identification Board confirms whether the victim's identity has been established

DVI assistance outside Canada

Following a disaster abroad, the host country may contact Interpol to ask for DVI assistance and expertise. When DVI assistance is authorized by the Government of Canada, the RCMP will assist with organization and on-the-ground support for the operation. In this role, the RCMP will identify members of the Integrated Forensic Identification Service (IFIS) and partner police agency forensic identification members to take part in the DVI operation as well as coordinate assistance from the Canadian Forces, forensic odontologists and provincial forensic pathologists.

DVI assistance in Canada

If a disaster occurs in Canada, the provinces and territories have primary responsibility for the identification of the deceased. If local resources become overwhelmed, a national DVI response can be initiated.

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