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Mass-fatality Bill Introduced in Congress

Posted: October 22, 2012

On the last day of the session before Congress recessed for the election, Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) introduced legislation requiring the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to plan for and manage mass fatalities in any natural or man-made disaster.

According to John Fitch, NFDA senior vice president of advocacy, the association previously discussed with Richardson on several occasions its ongoing concern with the lack of any federal mass fatality management plan. "In response, she has introduced H.R 6566, the Mass Fatality Planning and Religious Considerations Act," Fitch said.

The bill states:

"Congress finds the following:

(1) Emergency preparedness often plans for how to prepare and provide for survivors of a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster, but fails to plan for how to prepare for and respond to mass fatalities that result from such an incident.

(2) Funeral homes, cemeteries, and mortuaries could be overwhelmed should mass fatalities arise from a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster.

(3) Different religions have different customs surrounding death; for example, the Jewish and Muslim religions call for burial of the deceased not later than 48 hours after death.

Section 504 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 314) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
(c) Preparedness for Mass Fatalities- In carrying out this section, the Administrator shall provide guidance to and coordinate with appropriate individuals, including representatives from different communities, private sector businesses, nonprofit organizations, and religious organizations, to prepare for and respond to a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster that results in mass fatalities."

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