Mobile mortuary a part of Harrison County disaster preparedness

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County is now better prepared for any future disasters with mass casualties.

Coroner Gary Hargrove showed supervisors a new "mortuary response trailer" on Monday. It's one of three such trailers in Mississippi, paid for with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

"That's an inflatable tent, 14 by 18 foot," said Hargrove, as he showed county supervisors the new equipment and mobile trailer.

It's filled with special equipment designed to assist coroners in responding to any disaster with many deaths.

"It's got a lot of equipment in it. Inflatable tents. Air conditioning and heating for the tent. Sinks. Refrigerator. All the tools we need to get up and going after a disaster occurs and the loss of life is very high," said Hargrove.

The single trailer carries enough gear to help the coroner and his team handle up to 100 bodies. The Department of Homeland Security paid the $50,000 cost for this one and two others.

"Preparedness takes many forms in this state and this is one of them," said Jay Ledbetter, with the Mississippi Department of Homeland Security. "There are three of these trailers stretched across the state. One north, one central and one southern. They're stocked. They're ready to go. They're ready to respond to any critical incident that comes up."

"These are designed to be mobile so that we can move and go wherever the disaster is at," says Coroner Hargrove.

Harrison County certainly could have used such equipment and resources five years ago.  After Hurricane Katrina hit, some bodies were kept cool inside refrigerated semi trucks.

"This will allow us to come in, set up and get going on identification and returning loved ones back to their family quicker than what we were able to do after Katrina.  We're headed in the right direction to help us take care of our loved ones when we do lose them in a disaster," said Hargrove.

Along with the mobile mortuary, the homeland security grant also paid for three trucks to pull the disaster response trailers.

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