Norwich funeral director trains for mass fatalities

ALBANY – Douglas R. Wilson of Wilson Funeral Home, Inc., in Norwich joined more than a dozen other members from the New York State Funeral Directors Association's Family Assistance Commission (FAC) in Albany recently to participate in a Mass Fatality Incident Response course presented by the NYS Office of Emergency Management. The program – designed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency – was targeted for local and state responders who may be responsible for the recovery, handling, identification, and return of remains following a mass fatality incident.

Doug Wilson, a licensed NYS funeral director since 1980, past president of NYSFDA (2005-06) and member of FAC since its inception, says trainings such as this allow funeral directors to better handle, support or prepare for a mass fatalities incident effectively, by properly caring for the dead as well as the living in the event.

“I am happy to give back to my profession and the community,” said Wilson.

According to Marianne Reid, Director of FAC, “After such a disaster in New York State, our team would use their skills to interview survivors or next-of-kin and process paperwork to assist in identifying and facilitating the release of remains to the next-of-kin or other representatives. Our FAC members have been chosen based on their broad experience working with families throughout the United States after a disaster causing mass fatalities has occurred.”

FAC operates under the auspices of the New York State Tribute Foundation (Tribute), which is the non-profit charitable arm of NYSFDA.

FAC members are prepared to work in tandem with those coordinating disaster response efforts and all other participants to ensure that providing vital services during a time of extreme confusion and grief proceed as smoothly as possible. The FAC’s primary role will be to conduct interviews with the next-of-kin to collect information about the missing or deceased to help in identification. The FAC’s services may be engaged simply and quickly as soon as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would jointly be agreed-upon between Tribute and the local municipality designated to lead the disaster response efforts. FAC provides its services without charge.

Objectives of the two-day training were to:

• Identify resources that are available at the local, State, and Federal levels during a mass fatalities incident.

• Identify the roles and responsibilities of key players in a mass fatality disaster response.

• Discuss critical operation activities: notification, staging, search and recovery, morgue operations, media relations, and family assistance.

• Explain how a Family Assistance Center is used to support families and to aid identification of the deceased.

• Recognize the importance of critical Incident Stress Debriefings for responders at a mass fatalities incident.

The following is a list of current NYSFDA FAC members:

• Douglas R. Brueggemann, Chair – Suffolk County

• Margaret Coyle – Suffolk County

• Edward J. Fischer – Broome County

• Leslie A. Francisco, CFSP – Queens County

• Kenneth Grosser – Nassau County

• Vincent D. Iocovozzi – Herkimer County

• Charles N. Lecesse – Suffolk County

• Randy W. McIntire – Genesee County

• Christopher M. Milano – Putnam County

• Edward J. Mockler – Nassau County

• Louis W. Morse – Orange County

• Joseph R. Noll – Nassau County

• Stephanie N. Nowak-Bernius – Nassau County

• Susan O’Connor – Orange County

• Mark T. Phillips – Saratoga County

• Wesley A. Powell – Suffolk County

• Warren H. Riles, CFSP – Chautauqua County

• Norman Waterman, CFSP – Wayne County

• Douglas R. Wilson – Chenango County

For more information or to enlist the services of FAC, please contact Marianne Reid, Director of Family Assistance Commission, at 800-291-2629 or

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