Continuation of 6.3.

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6.3.3. Storage of bodies (read more beginning on page 4 of Management of Dead Bodies 
in Disaster Situations: 
A Field Manual for First Responders)

The conservation of bodies is very important for identification purposes. Warm temperatures accelerate decomposition; bodies are best conserved in cold conditions. This is important in deciding where to store recovered bodies. Basic standards for storing bodies include:

  1. Each body or body part should be kept in a bag or wrapped in a sheet, regardless of the type of storage being used.
  2. Use moisture-resistant labels (for example, paper labels sealed in plastic) that bear a unique identification number. Never write identification numbers on a body, bag, or sheet, since they can easily disappear during storage.
  3. Ideal storage is in refrigerated conditions between 2ºC and 4ºC.
  4. For refrigeration of bodies, commercial refrigerated transportation containers can be used.
  5. For short-term storage, dry ice—carbon dioxide (CO2) cooled to -78.5ºC—can be used, but it should not be placed directly on the body since even if it is wrapped it can cause deterioration. Other acceptable practices are:
    • Building a wall of dry ice approximately 0.5 meters thick around every group of 20 bodies, and covering them with plastic, waxed material, or a tent.
    • Approximately 10 kg of dry ice per body per day are required, depending on the ambient temperature.
    • Handle dry ice with caution since it can cause cold burns if handled without appropriate gloves.
    • When dry ice melts, it gives off a toxic gas (CO2) and thus it should not be used in closed spaces. Areas with good natural ventilation are preferable if dry ice is used.
  6. Insofar as possible, avoid using ice made from water, since this uses water that may be needed for other purposes, produces large amounts of wastewater when it melts, and its mere presence can lead to diarrheal diseases. Moreover, water can cause bodies and personal belongings (such as identity documents) to deteriorate, not to mention the fact that large quantities of water are required to provide the necessary amount of ice.
  7. Temporary burial is a good option for immediate storage when no other method is available or when prolonged temporary storage is required. Since underground temperatures are lower than temperature at the surface, burial provides a form of "natural refrigeration."
  8. When temporary burial is used, measures should be taken to facilitate locating the bodies at a future time and completing identification.