A. To report a family member missing, following a disaster, call the Family Assistance Center. The Family Assistance Center will also have up to date information on the current status of the incident and the available missing person support.
Q. How can I help find my family member?
A. As a family member or friend you may have key information that can aid in finding your family member. Communicate all information to the Family Interviewer regarding your family member. You can also help by checking with the missing person’s friends, school, work, neighbors, relatives, or anyone else who may know their whereabouts. Search web based programs to locate family members including social networking sites, the American Red Cross Safe and Well site, and any other internet sites set up to assist in finding family members. Follow up frequently with any contacts and keep the Family Interviewer informed of any developments.
Q. What information do you need from me to help find my family member?
A. An interviewer will ask you for the information outlined on the Family Interview Information Sheet in this packet. Information will include a physical description of your family member, including any identifying marks they may have, descriptions of jewelry or clothing, and the contact information of your family member’s dentist and physician. In addition, please provide any information you may have as to their last known whereabouts and anyone they may have been with.
Q. What is being done to find my family member?
A. The Family Assistance Center staff is working diligently with local law enforcement, healthcare organizations, shelters, and partners to locate your family member. If you have any questions regarding the specific steps that are being taken please do not hesitate to ask your Family Liaison.
Q. How long will it take to find my family member?
A. Depending on the incident it may take a prolonged period of time for the Family Assistance Center to locate your family member. We encourage you to continue to reach out through your regular channels to locate your family member.
Q. How do I know if my family member is injured, missing or deceased?
A. The Family Assistance Center staff is in close contact with local healthcare organizations and shelter organizations to identify if your family member is located at a healthcare facility or shelter. The Family Assistance Center staff is also coordinating with local law enforcement to identify if your family member is missing. If your family member is believed to be deceased, representatives of the Medical Examiner’s Office will meet with you when remains that might be your family member are recovered. If you are not able to be present in person at the Family Assistance Center, arrangements will be made to notify you in person.
Q. What happens if my family member is not found?
A. If the Family Assistance Center has closed and your family member has not yet been found, your case will be transferred to local law enforcement to continue investigation.
Q. Does anyone care that my family member is missing?
A. Yes, Family Assistance Center staff are working diligently to locate your family member as quickly as possible. If you have any questions regarding the process do not hesitate to ask any member of the staff.
Cause of Death: The causal agent resulting in death
Manner of Death: The manner of death can be determined to be one of five categories: natural, accidental, homicide, suicide or undetermined
Frequently Asked Questions When your Family Member is Deceased
Q. Where is my family member?
A. Your family member is in the care of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. The Medical Examiner’s Office has jurisdiction over all victims of this incident and is working to positively identify all victims and establish the cause and manner of death in accordance with Minnesota State law.
Q. How will I be notified if remains are identified or recovered?
A. Representatives of the Medical Examiner’s Office will meet with you when remains that might be your family member are recovered. They will continue to meet with you regularly throughout the identification process. When a positive identification of your family member is made, you will be informed in person and given the opportunity to ask questions. If you are not able to be present in person at the Family Assistance Center, arrangements will be made to notify you in person. A phone number to the Family Assistance Center will be provided if you have any questions.
Q. Why can’t I visually identify my family member’s remains? Why must I wait for a scientific identification?
A. For legal reasons, the Medical Examiner’s Office is required to establish positive identification on all victims of this incident. In most instances, positive identification requires scientific confirmation, either through DNA, fingerprints, or x-ray comparisons. The medical Examiner’s Office is working as quickly as possible to establish positive identification of your family member.
Why is it taking so long to identify the victims?
A. The first step of the identification process is to confirm, through scientific means that your family member is deceased. This requires obtaining medical or dental x-rays, or waiting for fingerprint or DNA confirmation, all of which can take some time. After positive identification establishes that your family member is deceased, the Medical Examiner will continue the identification process to insure that as much of your family member’s remains are positively identified as possible.
How did my family member die?
A. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of your family member’s death. The circumstances surrounding the death, including how it occurred, are part of the scene investigation by the Medical Examiner’s Office and investigating law enforcement agencies. When details are available, and when they are able, the Medical Examiner’s Office will provide you with any information regarding the death of your family member. However, details may not be available until much later in the investigative process.
Q. Can I see the site of the incident?
A. The investigating agencies will determine when and if it is safe for family members to visit an incident scene. If visits are permitted, the Family Assistance Center will make arrangements to transport you to the incident scene. You are not required, or expected, to make the trip. Doing so is a personal decision.
Q. Will an autopsy be done?
A. The Medical Examiner’s Office is required by law to determine the cause and manner of death. In almost all incidences, this will require an autopsy examination. An autopsy is a surgical procedure performed by a medical doctor (forensic pathologist). The Medical Examiner’s Office recognizes that every decedent is a treasured member of a family and of a community and as such, treats each decedent with the highest respect and dignity.
Can I choose not to have my family member’s body autopsied?
A. No, the Medical Examiner is required by law to certify the cause and manner of death; they do not require permission of the next of kin to perform an autopsy on a death under their jurisdiction.
Q. My cultural beliefs dictate that I must bury my family member’s remains immediately, is this possible?
A. When made aware of time constraints, the Medical Examiner’s Office will do their best to expedite the examination and identification process. However, the circumstances of the incident may make it impossible to meet time limits. Please inform your Family Liaison of any cultural considerations and every effort will be made to accommodate those requests.
Q. My cultural beliefs dictate that my family member’s body must not be marked or scared, is this possible?
A. The Medical Examiner’s Office will do their best to honor cultural traditions but cannot do so if it impedes the ability to certify cause and manner of death.
What is the condition of my family member’s remains?
A. The condition of your family member’s remains is dependent on the circumstances of his/her death. Medical Examiner staff will provide you with honest answers to your questions regarding the condition of your family member’s remains. How much information is requested and how detailed that information is a personal choice and entirely up to you.
Q. Can I see my family member’s remains?
A. The standard protocol is that the Medical Examiner recommends that all viewing be done at the funeral home. Viewing prior to release to a funeral home is at the discretion of the Chief Medical Examiner and is dependent on a number of factors related to the investigation. The ability to view your family member’s remains is also dependent on the condition of the remains. Any decision regarding viewing will be communicated to you by Family Assistance Center Staff.
Q. What should I do if my family member’s remains are identified over a prolonged period of time?
A. Because the Medical Examiner will do everything possible to identify as much of your family member as possible, it is entirely conceivable that the identification process will take a prolonged period of time. The Notification Team at the Family Assistance Center will discuss with you whether you would prefer to be notified each time an identification is made or whether you prefer to be notified when all identifications are complete and the remains are ready for release to a funeral home.
Q. Can my family member’s remains be released to the funeral home/location of my choice?
A. Yes, the Medical Examiner’s Office will work with whatever funeral home you choose to transfer care of your family member once the examination and identification is complete.
Q. What will happen with the remains that cannot be identified?
A. If there are remains that are not identified despite all efforts to the contrary, the Medical Examiner will meet with each family to discuss the options and decisions regarding those remains.
Q. Can I receive my family member’s personal affects?
A. Yes, personal effects will be released to the legal next of kin. If the legal next of kin is not local, they can designate in writing someone to act on their behalf in receiving personal effects. Personal effects may not be releasable if they are in any way contaminated or are considered evidence in a criminal investigation.