Coroners & Mass Fatality

Mass fatality incident

The Coroners’ Mutual Aid & Mass Fatality Management Planning Program is an integral component of the California Law Enforcement Mutual Aid System. In the event of incidents that result in mass fatalities, the Coroners’ Mutual Aid System and plan serve as an essential resource to the impacted local Sheriff-Coroner, Coroner, or Medical Examiner should mutual aid be requested. To ensure an effective and efficient response, the Law Enforcement Branch State Coroners’ Mutual Aid Coordinator coordinates all inter-regional mutual aid and state agency activity relating to mutual aid under the Coroner Mutual Aid Plan. The State Coroners’ Mutual Aid Coordinator is the state point of contact for any out-of-state official request for coroners’ mutual aid.

In October of 2006, the Cal OES Law Enforcement Branch incorporated a catastrophic mass fatality management planning element into the Coroners’ Mutual Aid Program. Hurricane Katrina, the World Trade Center 9-11 attack, and the Indian Ocean tsunami, among other events, provided the stimulus to initiate prepared planning for California in the event of an incident resulting in catastrophic mass fatalities.

A State Mass Fatality Management Planning Committee was established as a forum to discuss and advance critical mass fatality management planning issues. The Committee will aid in the development and maintenance of a document describing the state’s mass fatality organization and functional role. Furthermore, the purpose of the committee is to forge alliances with public, private, and volunteer organizations in order to enhance mass fatality response and recovery activities. In September of 2007, with the assistance of this committee, the Law Enforcement Branch published a mass fatality planning guide to assist federal, state, and local agencies in preparing for a catastrophic mass fatality event.


The Cal OES Coroners’ Mutual Aid Program publishes and maintains several documents to assist Coroner/Medical Examiners and other emergency management disciplines in correctly applying coroner mutual aid while offering planning guidance to agencies developing their own mass fatality plans and programs. The following documents are offered in PDF form for online reading or downloading. These publications will be updated as necessary. Any comments or suggestions for improvement are welcomed and should be forwarded to the program coordinator. For additional information, please contact Assistant Chief Dennis Smithson at   Coroner’s Mutual Aid Program Coordinator.

References for Coroners
A guide that details the coroner’s organizational response to a mass fatality event incorporating the Incident Command System (ICS).
A framework of operations for the Forensic Odontologists of California to assist neighboring jurisdictions through the Coroners’ Mutual Aid System in the event of a mass fatality disaster which may require a large number of dental identifications.
A guide that distinguishes the state’s role and responsibilities in an event that results in catastrophic loss of life. The guide recognizes critical issues in mass fatalities and offers planning guidance in the management of mass fatality incidents.
A guide to provide a concise front and back overview of the coroner’s mutual aid system. It is ideal for designated department mutual aid coordinators.