Responding to tragedy involving widespread disaster and death is something Randy McIntire has done on several occasions and last week he attended training with other veteran emergency responders in Albany.
He is a funeral director at H.E. Turner and former chief of the Town of Batavia Volunteer Fire Department who brought a lot of experience to share with peers taking part in the "Mass Fatality Incident Response Course" presented by the NYS Office of Emergency Management.
As a member of the New York State Funeral Directors Association's Family Assistance Commission (FAC), a nonprofit, volunteer group of licensed funeral directors, he attended the Albany workshop.
"The whole premise is to train for the dignified return of victims to their families, and to learn how different agencies work together to accomplish that goal," McIntire said.
FAC members are prepared to assist local governments in the event of a disaster occurring within their borders and they work in tandem with others tasked with the recovery, handling, identification, and return of remains following a mass fatality incident.
His extensive background in emergency training began in the mid-1970s. And he was at the scene of Egypt Air flight 990 in 1999, the World Trade Center bombing, Hurricane Katrina (made worse by Hurricane Rita), and the crash of Continental Airlines' flight 3407.
Whether the catastrophe is a plane crash or a hurricane, the process varies little. FAC members help recover the dead, protect their dignity, take them to a morgue, where a coroner conducts scientific tests for identification, and through that process the victims are returned to their families.
A myriad of skills must be employed quickly, smoothly and under intense stress -- interviewing survivors/next-of-kin, processing paperwork to assist in identifying and facilitating the release of remains to the next-of-kin or other representatives, and more -- all vital services during a time of extreme confusion and grief.
The training is not new -- McIntire took the course in 1997 -- but he says over the years the state had pretty much done away with it and is now rekindling its efforts.
"It was unique training (last Thursday and Friday) because a high number of participants were mass fatality responders," McIntire said.
Their broad experience added some boots-on-the-ground pragmatism that was useful, especially for other responders, each with different responsibilities.
“Trainings such as this allow us to ... properly care for the dead as well as the living,” said Douglas R. Brueggemann, FAC committee chair.