ROUGH FACT SHEET

THE LOUISIANA STATEWIDE CEMETERY RESPONSE TASK FORCE

  • The Statewide Cemetery Response Task Force (“CRTF”) is activated at the request of the director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness upon the occurrence of two events:
    • the state or a parish has issued an emergency declaration; and
    • there is a report of cemetery damage.
  • There are four phases to a cemetery disruption recovery operation: assessment, recovery, identification, and repair and reinterment.
  • The assessment phase starts on receipt of damage reports.
    • CRTF personnel visit the cemeteries to record the extent of the damage, including searching for exposed caskets, vaults, and remains.
    • During this phase, CRTF personnel also check other cemeteries in the area for damage. During these visits, initial determinations are made as to whether the remains are exposed due to the declared disaster or another event.
    • CRTF personnel work with federal and local partners to conduct public outreach meetings to assist victims with IA registration as well as gathering information on their loved ones for identification purposes. These meetings last for the duration of the IA registration period in an effort to maximize community involvement and assistance.
  • During the recovery phase, caskets, vaults, and remains are retrieved and brought to staging areas for identification. This phase may also include mapping of substantially damaged cemeteries so that recovered caskets, vaults, and remains are replaced in the correct location. This process is often months long and involves massive heavy equipment work.
  • During the identification phase, the CRTF works with family members, cemetery operators, and funeral directors to obtain information about the deceased in order to identify the remains. Efforts to identify remains include the CRTF’s anthropologists analyzing all available evidence in an effort to make positive identifications. This process can last more than two years depending on the scope of the disaster.
    • Despite the CRTF’s best efforts, there are many identified and unidentified exposed remains with no family to claim them through the IA process. In these cases, the remains are “assigned” to a Good Samaritan. These Good Samaritans are IA registrants who act as proxies to make claims for those remains for whom no IA claimant exists in order to ensure that IA funding to accomplish the repairs and reinterments are available.
    • Throughout the entire process, the CRTF works with family members and Good Samaritans to ensure that their IA claims are properly submitted. Included in this process is verifying that the claimed damage was a result of the declared disaster and submitting the state’s attestation to FEMA that the claim is legitimate. This assistance is provided because the IA program was not designed for cemetery claims and is not an intuitive process for the public.
    • The final phase is for repairs and reinterments. Though many contractors provide their estimates of necessary repair work, this phase does not occur until the individual claimants have received their IA assistance and the relevant remains have been identified. The CRTF remains engaged during this process to track the funds from FEMA to the claimants and from the claimants to the contractors to minimize the risk of fraud. CRTF personnel also visit the damaged cemeteries following the completion of work to ensure that the contractors have complied with the work required. This phase lasts several years.
    • The 2016 Flood’s final phase was completed on March 10, 2023. The Hurricanes Laura, Delta, and Ida response work is still ongoing. Hurricanes Laura and Delta are in the final phase. Hurricane Ida is straddling the identification and repair/reinterment phases.
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