Health Watch: Fairbanks Memorial Hospital pulls Surge Morgue out of storage for winter

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Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 4:12 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has pulled their mobile refrigeration unit - which can be used as a surge morgue - out of storage for the winter.

According to Keith Fehr, Facility Operations Director and Safety Officer for Foundation Health Partners, the unit is intended for use in the event of needing extra space to store bodies.

“The unit is a portable refrigeration unit that was brought in to serve as a temporary morgue,” Fehr explained. “It’s part of our mass-fatality planning for the organization. We were able to purchase it last November with some grant funding, and it was received last December and stored on site so that we would have it in case we ever got to a point where our morgue was overwhelmed. We needed to anticipate holding additional bodies.”

The use of the surge morgue will be used to store bodies temporarily until a funeral home can claim the remains. “The whole process is meant just for a surge capacity if needed,” Fehr said, “and then we would work with the funeral homes to actually take bodies from here straight to the funeral home. It would only be if and when our morgue is actually overwhelmed.”

Currently, the placement of the unit is only precautionary according to Fehr.

“There was no reason to pull it out other than we wanted to exercise the capability before the snow fell,” Fehr elaborated. “We wanted to make sure that our facilities and security teams knew how to hook it up - we have a temporary generator that comes out and supports the power - as well as find a way to appropriately store the bodies inside on gurneys instead of just laying them flat. We wanted to work out the whole process, make sure it would work, and [that] the team would know how much time it would take to set up if ever necessary.”

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