Disposal of Human Corpses Part One
The radio next to Brandon’s sleeping bag squawked bringing him instantly awake. He heard his oldest son, “Dad, Dad, we have visitors, lots of them, and they are armed”. For several weeks he had observed a number of roving bands scavenging in the neighborhoods at the base of the hill. Brandon had quietly observed the rising pyres of his neighbors’ homes with the mild satisfaction of having watched every one of them drive away behind the Sheriff to the relocation center. Apparently, the hoodlums had run out things to steal and destroy closer to town and decided to look for new venues. Tonight all of Brandon’s planning would be sorely tested – a time he had hoped would never come, but a time he and his family had trained long and hard to meet with the odds stacked in their favor.
Almost four years ago he had selected his family’s home site at the top of a steep hill accessed by a long winding gravel road and well hidden behind an old growth of trees. He had even planted additional trees, several areas of bamboo, and fertilized the wild rose bushes he found along the property lines to further hide his residence. Even though there were a number of other houses further down the hill, some of them extremely large and obviously home to well off people, Brandon had hoped his home’s not-so-obvious location would deter anyone from becoming overly curious as to who lived beyond the simple mailbox mounted on a wooden post. Brandon knew most of his neighbors, hard not to in a small town, and even hunted and camped with some of them. However, he wasn’t really close to any of them; certainly not close enough for them to know how well prepared he was for the financial meltdown and subsequent food riots most of them had studiously maintained was a brain exercise for political extremists and survivalist kooks.
His wife, Naomi, was out of bed and headed down the hall to collect their daughter for the short run to the barn behind the house. This was their fall back location and the movement, even in the dead of night, was well rehearsed with minimal excess motion and noise. Stuffing his feet in his boots, zipping them, and grabbing his gear Brandon was out of the house and headed for the rabbit hole within 20 seconds. Brandon knew his wife and daughter would establish radio contact once they were safely in place. He slid into his position; a well emplaced fighting position which had both cover and concealment. He would be virtually impossible to see and extremely hard to hit.
Brandon knew his son, Michael, was in the tree stand they had built together; a location they had selected for its panoramic views of the valley where they could sit above the world (and their chores), enjoy the evening breeze, and watch the stars through their NexStar 8 telescope. Now it was his family’s aerie to watch the world below them take a daily turn for the worse. Every night a different family member was assigned to sit in the aerie and watch for trouble, a plan that had now paid off.
Once in place Brandon keyed his radio, “Brandon in place, radio check”. He heard, “Mike, 5 by 5,” followed by “Naomi and Emma, in place, 5 by 5”. He rekeyed his radio and said’ “Mike, Sitrep”. He heard the excitement in Michael’s voice even through the radio, “Seven, repeat seven, on foot, in line, about 2 meters spacing. Number 3 appears to be unarmed, the others have long guns, several look like military style weapons, no special security provisions evident, they are walking right up our driveway like they own the place.” Brandon keyed in and said, “OK, game plan 2 – remember your targets are from the back to the front”. He grinned a little when he heard, “Duh, knew that already”.
When Michael popped his transmit button twice indicating the intruders had reached a preset location, Brandon flipped the switches on the board next to the ammo can and light blazed from 5 high intensity spotlights. As if on cue, the intruders stopped and looked directly into the lights completely destroying their night vision. Brandon picked up the microphone which led to the PA system he and Michael had installed several months previously and said, “We don’t want any trouble, drop your weapons, place your hands on your heads, turn around and go back the way you came. This is your one and only warning.” It could have gone either way, the intruders could have turned and left, the night could have remained quiet and peaceful, could have beens don’t always pan out.
After the smoke had cleared, Brandon and Michael waited 30 minutes to let the bodies finishing leaking and then carefully approached the 7 bodies. Brandon mused about how lucky he and his son were to have encountered a band of idiots who thought the lights and loudspeakers were more important targets than the defenders. Naomi and Emma joined them to provide perimeter security, so the grisly process of sorting through the remains began. As Michael had said, Number 3 was unarmed, handcuffed, and apparently a prisoner. He was just as dead as his captors one of whom had shot him in the back when he tried to run back down the hill. His anonymity joined that of the others. Michael policed up the weapons and what little gear they had while Brandon looked for any form of identification. He found a few odd scraps of paper, a USGS quad sheet with several areas circled in red pencil, and a Readers Digest with about half of the pages ripped out. As the two men began to collect the bodies into a pile Michael asked, “Dad, any ideas on how to dispose of this mess? I don’t remember you covering that in any of our discussions”. Brandon responded, “I didn’t think you really needed a lecture on how to operate a shovel”. Michael got in the last word, “I can operate a shovel just fine, I just thought a smart guy like you would know some way to avoid investing a lot of sweat equity in a pile of garbage”.
Depending on your situation, location, team composition, age grouping, and other factors you will in all likelihood eventually have to deal with a corpse in a true SHTF episode. For this discussion, a corpse is defined as the dead remains of a human being. If necessary, animal corpses can be dealt with in a manner similar to human corpses; however, unless the flesh is contaminated, rotten, or in a condition or location which precludes your ability to turn it into useful components they might also be considered a potential food source, fertilizer, or bait. This discussion will focus on human corpses.
First, for many people there is little difference between a “funeral” and the subsequent disposal of the deceased. They are two completely different issues. In fact it is not necessary to have one without the other. It is quite common for a family to hold a funeral rite for a loved one without having a body to dispose. A funeral is simply a ceremony for celebrating, respecting, sanctifying, or remembering the life of the dearly departed.
Disposal of a corpse is the practice and process of dealing with the remains of a deceased human being. Across the world and throughout history numerous methods for disposal have been practiced. In many cases, the manner of disposal is dominated by spiritual concerns and a desire to show respect for the dead, and may be highly ritualized. This event may be part of a larger funeral ritual. In other circumstances, such as war or natural disaster, practical concerns (health, sanitation, odors) may be forefront. Many religions as well as legal jurisdictions have set rules regarding the disposal of corpses. Since the experience of death is universal to all humans, practices regarding corpse disposal are a part of nearly every culture.
Currently, in the USA the most common methods of disposal are:
- ·Burial of the entire body in the earth, usually within a coffin
- ·Cremation, which burns soft tissue and renders much of the skeleton to ash. The remains, known as “cremains” may contain larger pieces of bone which are ground to the consistency of ash. The ashes may be stored in an urn, buried or placed in an ossuary, or scattered on land or water.
- ·Medical disposal – research, organ donation, and other post life use of tissues and bones. Although some dead tissue may be retained indefinitely and donated organs will be disposed of with their new host, most cadavers used for medical purposes are eventually cremated.
- ·Permanent Storage in an above ground vault or mausoleum (referred to as immurement).
Less common means of disposal (in the USA, other countries have different ethical considerations and attitudes) include:
- Exposure – body left in the open to decompose as practiced in Tibetan Sky Burials and some Native American Groups.
- Burial at Sea – generally self explanatory, make certain you keep a couple of spare cannon balls lying around to ensure negative buoyancy.
- Space Disposal – body is cremated and some of the remains are lofted into low earth trajectory with final destruction occurring when the container reenters the atmosphere and incinerates.
- Dissolution – body dissolved in strong acid or lye and disposed of in a liquid state
- Promession – think freeze drying with a good shaking to render the bits into a fine powder.
- Ressomation – alkaline hydrolysis at a high temperature without allowing the liquid to boil. The body essentially dissolves into a green-brown liquid with flakes of bone floating in it.
- Cryopreservation – preservation in liquid nitrogen.
- Taxidermy – now there’s a conversation starter.
- Plastination – only to be used if you want to become a museum exhibit.
Many jurisdictions have enacted regulations relating to the disposal of human bodies. The law may restrict the locations in which this activity is allowed, in some cases expressly limiting burials to property controlled by specific, licensed institutions. For most jurisdictions, failure to properly dispose of a body is a crime. In some places, it is also a crime to fail to report a death and to fail to report the disposition of the body. The following suggestions are intended to be used under extreme duress in a situation which precludes the use of normal Health and Sanitation services.
The widespread belief that corpses pose a risk of communicable disease is wrong. Especially if death resulted from trauma, bodies are quite unlikely to cause outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, or plague, though they may transmit gastroenteritis or food poisoning syndrome to survivors if they contaminate streams, wells, or other water sources. Even so, it is prudent to exercise basic protections to avoid contamination from bodily fluids; especially if you have no knowledge of the deceased’s recent activities or health condition. At a minimum use gloves and wear rain gear and boots to prevent contact. If you have better protection, use it – better safe than sorry. After you finish disposing of the body or bodies, wash everything (including you) in hot water with soap or sterilize in alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or boiling water.
Look for Part Two tomorrow…….