COVINGTON, Ga. – Newton County Coroner Tommy Davis has been selected to participate in the Metro Atlanta Mass Fatality Work Group.
“We’ve taken the mass fatality plan that was very extensive and we are simplifying it for use,” Davis said. “We’re taking out a lot of the fluff of it and making it immediately usable. Anytime you have a mass fatality situation, the last thing you want is confusion.”
Davis said after the plan is worked through, a tabletop discussion will be held to make sure it actually works before it is put into practice.
The plan has been reviewed previously and this time the group involves the key people involved in mass fatality incidents.
“When you’re dealing with deaths in a situation like this, or any deaths, the medical examiner’s/coroner’s offices are the ones who deal with that, so in order for us to be prepared for an event like this, we have to be involved from the beginning,” he said.
“Title 45 – the Georgia Death Investigation Act – tells us by law what we have to do. It tells us what our duties and responsibilities are,” he said. “The plan – this Mass Fatality Plan – is going to tell us in an event like this how we would respond.”
Davis said the plan not only includes contacts for help in mass fatality incidents, but it puts everyone on the same page.
“Mass fatality can mean anything involving more fatalities than that office or that area can handle, so then we would enact the plan and we would call in help,” Davis said.
Putting a number on how many fatalities a county, like Newton County, could handle is not that simple, he said. It is dependent on the type of event and other contributing factors.
“You have to weigh out your agency to see at what point you would be stressed,” he said. “You know, would we need to call in agencies from around us on what type of event? Well, I really think it would depend on the event, the place of the event, everything. There would be a lot of factors that would be in place.
“You could have a mass fatality that was not in a heavily-populated area that we could control overtime, versus one that occurred on a major interstate, so you’ve got to think about not only the event but the location of the event as well.”
Davis said Newton County is one of the smaller Metro Atlanta counties included in the plan.
“I think it’s very important for us to be involved in it,” he said. “We are, in my opinion, just outside of Metro Atlanta. We’re on the edge of Metro Atlanta, so that’s sometimes where these mass events occur. So, we need to be prepared. I think it’s very important for our county to have me in this position.”
Davis said he was honored to receive the call from Dr. Jonathan Eisenstat, chief medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, asking for his involvement.
“It was one of those things, the minute he asked I said ‘Yes,’” Davis said. “I don’t think there was any hesitation in either one of us.
“Its awful exciting to part of something like this.”