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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
quizzes on forensic subjects prepared by experts.52 Regular in-house training on emerging technologies in pathology and forensic science, and journal clubs covering a broad spectrum of journals, can help educate and reeducate forensic pathologists and investigators. Medical death investigators may attend the same meetings. The College of American Pathologists offers self-assessment programs in anatomical and forensic pathology, as well as a continuing education program of forensic pathology case challenges.53
As part of homeland security, the National Response Plan (National Response Framework as of March 2008) identifies ME/Cs under Emergency Support Function 8 as responsible for management of the dead resulting from any hazardous event.54 All deaths resulting from any form of terrorism are under the jurisdiction of the ME/C. MED-X, the bioterrorism surveillance program provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for ME/Cs, utilizes syndromic surveillance of primarily out-of-hospital deaths (deaths occurring before the opportunity occurs for hospitalization and medical assessment and testing) to quickly identify deaths resulting from bioterrorism.55
With the exception of some large city, county, and state systems, the level of preparedness of ME/C jurisdictions is generally very low. Larger medical examiner systems may be able to manage events causing several hundred simultaneous single-site recoverable bodies with minimal outside assistance. Any event with thousands of fatalities would require federal assistance. Some statewide systems have developed consortia with neighboring states to supplement staff and equipment, but smaller cities and counties will need to rely entirely on federal assets such as Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams and the DOD Joint Task Force Civil Support.56 Homeland security and disaster response would be well served by universal improvement in ME/C offices to manage mass fatality events such as the multistate Hurricane Katrina tragedy and the World Trade Center attacks, while also surveilling for the links between bioterrorism