The 2004 December Indian Ocean Tsunami, caused by the biggest Earthquake in the last 40 years with a magnitude of 9.18 on the Richter Scale, resulted in the deaths of over 226 000 people from 13 countries, 50 000 of which the bodies were never found. The sheer amount of bodies littered all over the city of Banda Aceh alone, which was over 150 000, and the general panic and gear of epidemics by the public and government led to the mistreatment of the victims in rapid mass burials without identification and proper burial ritual.
Need for Proper Disaster Victim Identification
The mistreatment of victims and lack of identification had a major impact in the mental health of the surviving members of the community and their grieving recovery as well as obvious legal problems of inheritance, properties, insurance etc. especially in the populated city such as Banda Aceh. Therefore, there is a clear need for an efficient and accurate of recording to make it easier for bodies to be found later if needed for further forensic investigation or a ritual burial by surviving family members. The current system relies on local communities, NGO’s, police or military to identify and dispose of the bodies and therefore needs to be coordinated in a uniform fashion (centralisation and consolidation).
The Current Situation/Process
International Red Cross Association, Pan Health Organisation, and World Health Organisation in 2006 released a guideline for Management of Dead Bodies for first responders that described a general process and recommended system that can be applied with the current system in place in any country. This guideline suggests:
- 4 pages of form (waterproof if possible) is filled out per body to record details
- Min details recorded should inc body number, name of org, place found, date, Map of place of burial and pictures
- Tracking is done by putting ID number on a piece of paper in a plastic bag and attached to the body or key tags are used and bodies are buried.
- Evidence, documents and personal belonging are marked similarly and buried with the body.
- Basic information on paper forms are later entered into electronic database
- Missing Peron’s central information is set up as soon as possible
The Problems that arise from this system:
- Extremely materially intensive (An abundant amount of papers and plastic bags for tagging equipments)
- Papers are easily misplaced especially with 150 000 forms in one city alone.
- Information have to be matched manually with missing person’s forms (inefficient in mass disasters)
- Illegibility in writings and inaccuracy in electronic database and may lead to mismatch information
- A very environmentally unfriendly system of tagging and labelling in the need for them to be waterproof
- Photographs taken by camera have to be matched individually to the papers recorded.
- System is very slow as it is all done manually where rapid identification is needed to reduce psychological burden to surviving relatives.
The Quick DVI system is built to do all the job a recorder have to complete per body in a 4 person team for dead body management with one compact device that is complemented by a label printer for tracking and tagging purposes. This device is fully automated, therefore reducing human errors and illegibility problems. The Quick DVI has an integrated digital camera with intelligent functions such as auto focus, auto flash exposure, scene, face, and motion detector. Other features include a resistive qwerty touch screen that is adaptable to other languages to record all the information needed that is recorded in the 4 pages of forms in the current system that also record the evidential photographs under one file named under the specific unique body number code automatically generated. An inbuilt GPS will assist inaccurate burial or storage information will later assist in further forensic investigation. This system will reduce the need for manual inventory or input to electronic database from paper later on as well as a more efficient and accurate system of identification of the bodies with those claimed by surviving relatives. With this device, the recorder no longer have to carry the stack of forms to fill out for a whole day of work, staplers, clipboards, plastic cover for clip-board and folders to store the papers.
The label printer will print the corresponding unique body reference code, date and organization for the purposes of tagging the body, the body bag and any other evidence found in relation to the body such as personal belongings, jewelries, identifying documents etc. The label will be printed on polypropylene label with resin ink to withstand scratches, smudges, chemical contact and harsh environment such as water submersion or full sunlight for a long period of time. This small label will replace the paper and plastic bag system current in use and reduce the material and the amount of time it will require them to complete their fieldwork such as cable ties, tags, suture needles and cords to attach securely the paper and plastic tags to the bodies. Printing longer labels, which will wrap around ankles or wrist as a normal hospital tag would be and sticking the 2 ends to each other, is a more respectable and environmentally friendly way of tagging bodies than the current system. The unique body number is also no longer made up by the person recording and therefore reducing all chance of doubling any codes by any 2 recorders as well as illegibility.
Time management was probably my weakest element and didn’t help at all in finishing my project on time. I was aiming to start early and finish it early but it ended up like any other studio project and I was working till 5 in the morning before it’s due which is pretty crap and it’s all because my model took me “SIX” frigging day to finish. THREE of the six days goes to fucking sanding. And probably during those 3 days I didn’t learn anything except making models out of blue foam is shit and it’s a fucking waste of my time. I was pretty happy with the rest of things but, the posters, and the model turned out better than I expected just because I didn’t actually know how the product was supposed to look like in 3D from paper drawing exactly even after making a mock up with cardboard.
The concept was solid enough and most of the research I did earlier in the start of the project didn’t go to waste. Probably the best thing I realized from this project is that, stick with one concept and run with it and put as much thought in it to make it worthwhile and viable cos if you keep changing the concept you just end up getting stressed and confused and you panic and then you end up just doing shit you don’t want to do like the first project I did last semester.
In terms of disasters, I did learn a lot about how much was actually lacking in those situations and there’s so many things that can be done about it. The only real major problem is who’s gonna make them? Considering that disasters don’t happen everyday but they’re a real need when they do actually happen. I guess then with this project it was also really important to considering other uses of whatever it is you design so it can be used in everyday life as well. And that was one of my problem when I started with this project. I mean who’s gonna make an touch screen camera the size of a brick? Then Andrew was telling me in context, it should be the US army who’ll be producing this shit out and the UN and the NGO’s can just buy it off them since they have casualties pretty much everyday mostly man made disasters and they have unlimited supply of funding to make the most expensive products. So at least from that end I have an aim to broaden the need to cater for military uses as well. Hence why it looks like a giant tank with a lens in the middle.
So overall I was glad that it was over, I felt like I’ve put 9 weeks of my life thinking about dead people and a solid 30 hrs more sleep hopefully should cure me out of it before I start thinking about the next project. Hopefully the next one won’t be as morbid or maybe I should start thinking about a system of burying dead bodies… now that’s pretty gruesome ugh…