Objectives: A quantitative decision-support tool (DST), using a combination of selected human physical attributes as identification elements, was developed to facilitate body identification in mass fatality incidents, particularly in settings with limited availability of technological resources and forensic expertise.
Methods: To construct the DST, the external biological attributes of interest were first selected. A process was then developed to guide collection of the selected categories of attributes and record them into objective antemortem (AM) and postmortem (PM) records. Finally, a framework for assessing the similarity between confronting PM-AM attribute records was established. The DST evaluates the similarities between each set of like attributes in the AM and PM records being compared. It then computes an overall similarity score for each evaluated AM record that was compared to a selected PM record. The AM record with the highest score represents the highest probable match, with the PM file selected for the comparison.
Results: Multiple simulations across a range of mass fatality situations demonstrated the effectiveness of the DST in the experimental setting.
Conclusions: The developed DST may provide authorities with a method for expediting body identification without completely eliminating any missing person file from consideration. Under specific circumstances, this method may reduce the need for technologically sophisticated forensic identification techniques (eg, dental records, fingerprints, and DNA). At a minimum, it should facilitate the efficiency of the current technological matching process.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2012;6:277–290)