Family liaison officers motivated to get job done accurately and in a timely fashion

Family liaison officers motivated to get job done accurately and in a timely fashion

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National News

MEDIA RELEASE - Christchurch Earthquake

04 March 2011

When feeling tired or despondent officers working in the Christchurch Quake victims' Family Liaison unit need only to look to across their office for some inspiration.

Up on the wall the officers, who have come from all over the country to help in the rebuilding, have put up photos of all the people they are working to return home to loved ones.

Senior Sergeant Vicki Allen of Whangerei said staff were very conscious each of the photos represented not deceased persons but people they were returning home to their loved ones and families.

"Each officer is assigned families of loved ones who are missing and they act as the conduit between all the agencies, including Police, and the families.

"The families have various levels of support available to them from the liaison officers themselves through to dedicated specialists sable to offer counselling or psych services. In addition we have a representative on hand from the Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services branch of Police who are able to advise on any cultural or spiritual issues related to the person's culture."

Vicki said the key objective for everyone involved was the need for accuracy and for that reason the formal identification process may appear complex but mistakes are not acceptable.

The Family Liaison officers spend a lot of time working with the international Disaster Victim Identification teams providing data for the Ante-mortem examinations.

"The Ante-mortem process involves marrying up all identifying data known about a victim from identifying features such as dental and fingerprint records through to tattoos and clothing.

"This data is obtained by detailed interviews with the families and involves things like say a watch, what type is it, what colour, strap, manufacture and model and the same thing as a wedding ring, what type, shape and colour is it?

Vicki said the team were dealing with numerous families from a multitude of countries and despite all the differences two things remained the same, the paramount importance of accuracy and the sensitivity as they work to return loved ones home.

Christchurch Media Liaison Team: 027 432 0960 or ChchPoliceMediaLiason@police.govt.nz
Public Affairs: 04 460 2986 or 04 474 9482