University of Dundee University of Dundee
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Disaster Victim Identification

The Unit of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology has been awarded a substantial contract to train police officers from all over the UK to form part of the new UK Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) response capability.

UK DVI is a joint initiative between the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK government and this contract is the first of its kind in the UK.

Officers trained under the initiative will learn practical techniques in human identification and be deployed to help identify victims of mass fatalities anywhere in the world.

The training will lead to recognised academic awards of either post-graduate certificates or diplomas in Disaster Victim Identification, with such qualifications - the first of their kind in the UK - being awarded jointly by both the University of Dundee and Centre for Policing Excellent (Centrex).

Officers will learn practical techniques in human identification and employ these skills when the UK DVI team is deployed to mass fatalities either within the UK or overseas following the death of British nationals. Recent incidents including the Bali bombings, the Asian Tsunami, the Sharm-el-Sheikh bombing and the Bahrain boat disaster are all examples of situations where these officers might use the skills they will acquire in Dundee.

The contract was awarded to a team led by Professor Sue Black, head of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology. Professor Black and her team have extensive experience in DVI following deployments to incidents all over the world, including Kosovo, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Thailand.

Each police force in the UK will identify officers who will be trained in a wide range of highly skilled tasks. Once selected, they will have three months to complete a rigorous theoretical awareness course which will be conducted fully within the virtual learning environment at Dundee. Successful completion of this phase allows progression to the practical stages of training that will occur in two parts. The first is a body recovery course run by Centrex that will instruct officers on how to document and retrieve human remains at a disaster site.

In the second practical stage, cohorts of up to 45 officers at a time will attend a demanding week-long residential course in Dundee where they will not only be trained in a variety of disciplines appropriate to working in a temporary mortuary but also in awareness of issues pertaining to forensic pathology, forensic anthropology, forensic odontology, forensic radiography, mortuary management and tissue sampling. Expert teachers in each of these fields will be provided through the Centre for International Forensic Assistance (CIFA), which is the designated provider of non-police forensic, medical, scientific and technical personnel for the UK DVI team.

Professor Sue Black, head of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology at the University of Dundee says, "This is a marvellous opportunity to play a significant part in training our national DVI team to work in situations that demand the highest levels of professionalism, stamina and commitment."

Read a profile of Professor Black's research achievements and goals for the future on page 20 of the current issue of Contact.

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