Funeral homes asked to prep for pandemics
While Canadian health officials have extensive plans to ensure people survive a future influenza pandemic, they’ve also made macabre recommendations for the nation’s funeral homes for those who don’t.
“In a pandemic, each individual funeral home could expect to handle about six months work within a six- to eight-week period,” the Public Health Agency of Canada warns on a web page about the management of mass fatalities during a pandemic flu.
“That may not be a problem in some communities, but funeral homes in larger cities may not be able to cope with the increased demand.”
One of its recommendations is that funeral homes make advance plans for what to do if their own staff gets sick, including making arrangements with volunteers from service clubs or churches to dig graves.
Storage space for corpses could also be a problem, the agency notes, and it says refrigerated trucks or ice rinks could be pressed into service if needed.
“Funeral service providers, I can assure you, throughout their history, have responded to these sorts of tragedies and would do so again to the very best of their ability,” says Allan Cole, a board member with the Funeral Services Association of Canada and president of MacKinnon and Bowes, a company that provides services for the funeral industry.
But finding a funeral home that’s willing to talk about its own pandemic planning is difficult.
The Canadian Press reached out to numerous funeral homes in several Canadian cities and asked whether they were prepared for a pandemic, but not one returned the calls.
Cole has been serving on committees for about a decade that deal with infectious diseases and how they affect the funeral profession.