DVI exercise tests staff and systems
was 'just' an exercise and the 'bodies' an
assortment of dummies and shop mannequins, but the team on last
month's disaster victim identification (DVI) exercise in
Auckland treated each body as if it was real.
The aim of the multi-agency
exercise involving NZ Police, Auckland City Hospital's
Forensic Department, Royal New Zealand Air Force, and local SAR
volunteers was to test the current plan
for DVI and draw upon the knowledge of people who worked on DVI
after the Boxing Day tsunami in Asia.
OC of the exercise, Sergeant
Dene Duthie, Auckland Search and Rescue, says the exercise was
about testing processes rather
than individual skills.
"We were there to learn - it is much better to test the
process and identify problems under simulated conditions rather
than in real life," says Dene.
As 'bodies' from
the 'bus crash' piled
up in tents outside Auckland City Hospital's mortuary,
the DVI team inside worked to collect vital information that
would enable the 'victims' to be identified.
followed DVI protocols laid down by Interpol. There were teams
responsible for body handling, administration and
quality control, fingerprinting, property, pathology (including
DNA, X-ray, and dental), and photography. Conditions were as
close to real life as possible. Fingerprints were taken from
live volunteers and most of the mannequins were dressed allowing
the property staff to properly document and account for victims' belongings.
standard Interpol process is designed to encourage compatibility
of procedures across international boundaries - essential
in these days of ever-increasing world travel.
Prins, OoC oversees emergency management for NZ police and DVI
is part of his portfolio. He compares DVI to
a 'whodunit' where you start with nothing and work
through a series of steps to successfully 'solve' the
case by identifying the victim.
Many of the staff taking part
in the exercise were part of the NZ Police contingent to Thailand
following the tsunami. "While
the DVI in Thailand was huge, we were well-prepared for the task.
Being prepared and exercises like this are essential," says
Overall Dene was impressed with how the operation went. "The
teamwork and cooperation were great. There were some small things
to change but we walked away knowing we have the systems and
people to cope," says Dene. Staff from the Auckland coroner's
office, who observed the exercise, were also impressed with the
level of preparation demonstrated by the exercise.
Operation Clean-Up involved police staff from all three Auckland
districts. There are also police DVI teams in Wellington and