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MAHONING COUNTY Teaching region how to respond to a catastrophe



Published: Thu, September 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The training seminar was planned long before Tuesday's attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Local officials and others will meet next month to work on a plan they hope they never have to use.

The Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency will sponsor a training seminar Oct. 29 for local police, fire and other emergency responders who might someday deal with a catastrophe involving mass fatalities.

Images of the carnage left behind by Tuesday's terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., will still be fresh in their minds when officials participate, said Walter Duzzny, director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency.

The program has been in the planning stages for weeks, though Tuesday's events drive home how important it is to be ready if a tragedy happens here, Duzzny said.

"Of all the issues we deal with, this is the toughest because it is final," Duzzny said. "You have to be ready and know what you're going to do."

Who will attend: The seminar is open to officials from Columbiana and Trumbull counties and will be at the offices of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center in Boardman. A representative of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association will attend and talk about the state's Disaster Mortuary Response Team.

Funeral directors will also be invited to participate, because it would be vital for them to be familiar with the plan and be ready to work with disaster officials, Duzzny said.

Scope of duties: If there ever is a mass-fatality tragedy in this area, federal authorities would probably step in and handle much of the investigation, said Mahoning County Coroner David Kennedy.

But the task of dealing with the dead and their families will fall to the locals, and they need to know what they're doing.

"There are all sorts of things that have to go in place when something like that happens," Duzzny said. "You have to have vehicles to transport the bodies, a temporary morgue to store them, people to help the coroner. You have to have an area where information is constantly available to relatives of the dead."

Dealing with relatives is an important part of the process because they are already traumatized and highly emotional, Duzzny said. Handling the situation professionally and sensitively can make it more bearable for them.

"I doubt that we'll ever be as prepared as we need to be if something like that ever happens," Kennedy said. "But doing something like this at least will get us started."

bjackson@vindy.com




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