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Workshop Focuses on Rapid DNA and Disaster Victim Identification

NCJ Number
Becky Lewis
Date Published
June 2019
10 pages
This article presents an overview of a workshop in which participants learned skills in handling the aftermath of a catastrophic event and the role that Rapid DNA technology can have in managing the aftermath.
In the workshop, 50 participants learned more about Rapid DNA technology and its uses in the morning session, and then they were divided into seven subgroups to cycle through a scenario that involved a fictional explosion of a rubber band factory in St. Louis that resulted in a large number of fatalities among workers, management, international visitors, and school children. The groups planned interviews with family members looking for missing love ones and collected samples from family members to create a DNA pedigree. They ran the reference samples through Rapid DNA analysis, conducted a briefing at the family assistance center, collected and then processed post-mortem samples, and conducted kinship analysis. Each group developed its own management plan, such as how many instruments would be required and how to work with the local medical examiner's office and first-responder groups. Groups worked with actual samples that included processing post-mortem samples of human bones and tissues in a portable lab set up inside a van. For each set of tasks, an expert provided specialized technical and processing information. Many of the workshop participants came away from the workshop with the realization they must reach out to neighboring states and labs in order to develop a comprehensive response to a mass disaster in their jurisdictions. They were also impressed with the need to have additional training and simulations that would put training into practice.