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Zhijin Zuo Ph.D
Interpol DVI Coordinator

Disasters are often international by nature, with many causes including accidents or terrorism and are increasing in number and scale. Many countries and people may be affected by disasters, and it is generally the responsibility of the Police to deal with them, particularly with regard to victim identification. The International Criminal Police Organization - Interpol has elaborated a programme related to the handling of disaster situations. This is called the Interpol Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Programme. As one of the roles of the Police world-wide is to identify victims, the primary objective of this DVI programme is aimed at identifying victims of disasters. Such disasters may involve air crashes, shipwrecks, serial killings, mass disasters, natural disasters, etc. The Interpol General Secretariat DVI program is dictated by the member countries. The overall aim of the Interpol is to facilitate DVI activities within all member countries and to enhance the service provided.

What Interpol has done

Interpol's involvement in the area of DVI commenced in 1968 with the forming of a working party to develop an international DVI form for use in mass casualty incidents.

Seven Resolutions adopted at Interpol General Assembly

These resolutions adopted by Interpol General Assembly concern the promotion of DVI form and providing international DVI assistance which are the guidelines for facilitating DVI amongst Interpol member countries.

DVI guide and DVI forms

Interpol DVI guide and Forms are accepted as one of the most important and popular tools on DVI. They have been translated into the four Interpol official languages, Arabic, English, French and Spanish and posted on the Interpol public web site. The DVI forms including ante-mortem and post-mortem have been downloaded over one thousand times. An electronic data entry form has been available on Interpol web site since June of 2003 in order that the user can fill in the form using a computer rather than by handwriting.

DVI pages posted on Interpol DVI website

There are DVI pages on the Interpol public web site at and since 2002 a secure DVI web site has been created at

Successful actions and experiences in different cases and regions.

Interpol General Secretariat maintains a network of DVI experts and teams from all over the world willing to provide international assistance and support on DVI matters within member countries upon as request. For example, the simultaneous explosions on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali that killed 187, injured 300 others with 200 people still missing in the middle of the night of 12th October 2002. The following measures were taken on 13th October 2002 and the following days:

1. Urgent message sent:

o To IP Jakarta to request detailed facts of the attack and advising them to utilize disaster victim identification (DVI) service through internet to identify victims. o To all member countries to inform that those whose residents had been possibly killed in this attack that they must complete the DVI ante-mortem forms with all relevant personal information and transmit these forms directly to IP Jakarta. o To eleven Interpol National Central Bureaus (IP Rome, Canberra, Copenhagen, London, Brussels, Paris, Oslo, Madrid, Washington, Wiesbaden, Hague) asking that assistance be provided to the Indonesian authorities in identifying the victims. This message was also copied to the DVI teams in these countries directly.

2. Under the assistance provided by Interpol, Australian, Canadian, Dutch, Hong Kong China, Japanese, New Zealand, Taiwan China and Swedish DVI teams were involved in the victim identification in BALI working with Indonesian DVI team. Belgian and Spanish DVI teams were already in Indonesia for DVI assistance since 15th October.

3. Assisting to Link with Danish and Indonesian DVI teams. Danish DVI team could assist Indonesian DVI team to utilize the advanced DVI system developed by Plass Data free of charge in this accident.

4. Building the communication channel with the Indonesian DVI team directly. Then it transmitted all useful information to BALI directly, especially including three Danish victims' ante-mortem data and roster of victims from Hong Kong.

Organizations: Standing Committee, Steering Group and five Working Groups

The DVI programme is managed, in conjunction with the General Secretariat of Interpol, by a Standing Committee. Since 1996 the membership of the Standing Committee has increased together with its roles and responsibilities, there are currently thirty five Interpol member countries represented on the Standing Committee. The annual meeting of the Standing Committee is held in order to exchange information and experience and to adopt common standards and practices in relation to DVI issues. The 15th meeting of Interpol Standing Committee on DVI was held on 21st-23 May 2003 and there were eighty two delegates from twenty nine member countries and two observers from international organizations attending the meeting. Due to the increasing number of countries and delegates represented on the Standing Committee there was an identified need for a small core group, representative of the Standing Committee, to be created to address issues of policy and to act as the planning group for the annual meetings. A Steering Group was formed. The 7th meeting of the Interpol Steering Group on DVI was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 26th -28th February 2003. DVI arrangements in member countries What Interpol will do MISSION: To promote excellence in Disaster Victim Identification It is important that policies and work standards are developed, implemented, promoted and rigidly adhered to. The policies and standards must be based on international best practice with input from all major stakeholders. The training and work practices in all the areas associated with DVI must reflect the current needs and requirements of the industry. The DVI community must maintain pace with new technologies, systems and processes.

The DVI community must be proactive in their approach and possess the capacity and capability to respond to the range of potential incidents, especially terrorist incidents.

Develop the capacity and capability to prepare for and respond to multi casualty terrorist incidents.

Interpol will support the development of networks for advice on DVI and develop operational standards for international DVI support and assistance and identify and recommend appropriate research and development facilities or opportunities

Develop family assistance guidelines for victims and the families of victims of DVI incidents.

The DVI Working Group on care of victim and their families will determine the scope of the guidelines and identify response agencies involved in the provision of support and the role of private sector organizations in provision of support. The communication requirements and protocols between individual response agencies and with family members will be identified. The Working Group will formulate media policy. The training programs in crisis management for all personnel involved in providing services to victims and families will be promoted.

Develop guidelines for the occupational health, safety and welfare of DVI practitioners.

Interpol Standing Committee on DVI will support the development of protocols for hazard and risk assessment and of practices and procedures to eliminate or mitigate hazards and or risks and of policies on the level and use of personal protective equipment such as provide safe working systems, workplace and equipment. The development of formal accident reporting protocols will be promoted and the development of an appropriate psychometric evaluation program for initial and ongoing assessment of DVI practitioners will be initiated. Promote compliance with international quality system standards by all agencies contributing to the DVI process. Interpol Standing Committee on DVI will facilitate the promotion of the systematic documentation of all DVI practices and procedures and the development of appropriate assessment mechanisms, which ensure the competence of all practitioners, is regularly monitored. The review of procedures and processes used by jurisdictions by external assessments is necessary and the guideline will be developed to be followed for organizations with identified areas of non-conformance. The provision of a relevant quality DVI service should be supported. Develop and maintain ante mortem and post mortem incident information forms. The international ante-mortem and post-mortem DVI forms are to be reviewed every five years. The next review of the forms will occur in 2007 by the DVI Working Group on Form. According to the demand from DVI experts in member countries it is necessary to update the Interpol DVI guide because the DVI form has been updated. Some new sections may be added into the DVI guide, such as guideline of use of DNA in DVI and DVI response to multi-casualty terrorist incidents. Promote the formulation of training and development programs in support of best practice within DVI. An Interpol inquiry has been delivered to each NCB in the beginning of July 2003 concerning DVI training, such as the capability of providing training course and demand of training on DVI. Interpol will develop a training needs analysis survey for distribution to all DVI member countries. In order to facilitate the development and implementation of competency based training programs covering all areas and phases of DVI. Interpol will create a DVI training interface within DVI page and develop liaisons with related associations including technical and scientific working groups to facilitate a cross flow of information between all bodies. Promote policies in support of information sharing and exchange, international co-operation and liaison and provision of DVI operational support.

Interpol Standing Committee on DVI will support the continued development of the Interpol DVI web site. Interpol Secretariat General will initiate the development of a national and international DVI register of experts assessable and an international register for major DVI incidents through the Interpol web site. Another task is to develop a register between member countries for the provision of operational support in major DVI incidents or incidents where particular skills or expertise are required. The Standing Committee and Interpol Secretariat General will promote and support regional DVI meetings and conferences and develop liaisons and share information with international bodies, associations and groups involved in areas associated with or aligned to DVI. Provide operational assistance and support to those countries which have no DVI capacity or insufficient capacity to manage a specific DVI incident. Interpol Standing Committee on DVI will work on possible developing formal agreement for DVI assistance for the approval of the Interpol General Assembly. Interpol Secretariat General has to maintain a liaison network with international and national aid agencies regarding protocols and provision of support and also liaise with international and national foreign affairs representatives regarding protocols, administrative considerations and logistical support. The liaisons will be posted onto Interpol secure web site in order that NCB can consul them urgently. Identify research opportunities and support research programs. Interpol Standing Committee on DVI will identify specific areas and sources of research on DVI. Interpol Secretariat General should foster relationships and develop liaisons with universities and research institutions to support relevant research projects on DVI. The annual meeting of Interpol Standing Committee and Interpol web site will promote publication of research projects on DVI. Conduct systematic international evaluations of selected DVI operations to ensure that DVI processes are relevant and appropriate. Interpol Standing Committee on DVI will reach agreement on the minimum standards of practice and procedure for incident response in all DVI phases at both national and international level and develop an international guide on the minimum content and standard for the DVI report/brief to coroner/medical examiner. It is necessary to develop an incident evaluation checklist for all DVI phases to facilitate scene, technical and administrative reviews/evaluations and assessment protocols including scene and administrative assessments. Develop protocols for the use of DNA in mass casualty incidents.

Interpol DVI Working Group on DNA will develop policy on the use of DNA as an identifier, which including developing policy on the collection, storage and destruction of samples collected from victim and volunteers and policy on the DNA markers to be used in DVI incidents. The policy on the standards for profile matching and exclusion necessary for laboratories undertaking the extraction, analysis and profiling of samples and on the security of samples and profiles will be developed.


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Last modified: 08/19/2003