An expert in mass fatality disasters has joined the growing team of scientists at the University of Lincoln, UK.
Dr Lucy Easthope has advised governments, corporations and relief agencies in the aftermath of major incidents, including the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand, as well as developing contingency plans, training programmes and exercises with a number of international organisations.
She has also participated in the response to major aviation disasters, the Bali terrorist attacks and the operations at Brize Norton during the military campaign in Iraq.
Her consultancy and research specialisms focus on mass fatalities planning, Disaster Victim Identification (DVI), community recovery and the care of survivors, the bereaved and the deceased after disaster. She also has a special interest in the care and return of personal effects.
Her engagements include presentations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the US, Chinese government representatives, the Metropolitan Police and the American Academy of Forensic Science.
Dr Easthope, who will be teaching and conducting research in the University’s School of Life Sciences, said: “My area of work looks at the Disaster Victim Identification process and ensures it is logistically supported. That is things like setting up a mortuary to deal with a large number of cases following a major disaster and staffing it effectively. Research in this area is vital, as is archiving that research. It is about saying we should not forget.”
Having grown up in Birkenhead on Merseyside, Dr Easthope’s early career as a researcher was heavily influenced by the sense of injustice felt about the handling of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 people died. Her interest in disaster management was first established when she worked under Professor Phil Scraton, who went on to be one of the authors of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report.
She went on to work with award-winning TV scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern on Sunday, the documentary based on the deaths of 13 people shot by soldiers in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972. Her job was to research and reconcile the vast number of witness statements and interviews to ensure a completely accurate portrayal of their experiences.
Dr Easthope then took on a position at Kenyon International Emergency Services; a crisis and disaster management company that offers specialist personnel, equipment, systems and advice at incidents, particularly those involving major loss of life. She specialised in the DVI process and the return of personal effect to bereaved families.
During this time the terrorist attacks in America on 11th September 2001 changed everything.
Dr Easthope, who helped to organise a Kenyon team to be sent out to Ground Zero, said: “All of a sudden my work became mainstream. The experiences I had in those years defined me and have influenced everything I have done since.”
On her move to Lincoln she added: “Mass fatalities research crosses the boundaries between law, social science, psychology, health planning and forensic science and is truly interdisciplinary. The skills students will learn at Lincoln will equip them to be the very best forensic scientists. That is what society needs.”