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Planning for the Unexpected; Recovering After Tragedy



Aviation operators, cruise lines, railways and bus lines, as well as government and corporate travel services, must respond promptly and effectively when disaster strikes. The way an organization responds to an accident will define the recovery process for survivors and the families of those lost. An effective response is a complex process that must be accomplished in an emotionally-charged, highly scrutinized environment in accordance with laws, regulations, and guidelines that can result in federal penalties for non-compliance. How can an organization be prepared for such an event? Answering that question is why we have a special division dedicated to providing disaster recovery solutions encompassing the entire transportation industry.

Why Does It Matter?

Congress passed the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 following missteps by responders after several aviation accidents. Some survivors and family members felt that their needs were being ignored. Passage of the Act resolved coordination issues between air carriers, responders, and federal agencies and established the National Transportation Safety Board as the overall coordinator of response efforts. The Act ensures that responding parties provide appropriate information, services, and support to those involved.

The legislation (and subsequent acts) and amendments apply to commercial aviation and rail accidents. For aviation, the accident must occur within the United States, its territories, possessions and territorial seas and result in a major loss of life. (49 U.S. Code § 1136, 41113, 41313 and 24316)

Meeting the logistical challenges and the needs of the victims and their families can seem insurmountable. Aside from the actual crash site clean-up, organizations must continuously communicate to survivors and families on the recovery process. Additionally, the standards in the US following a transportation accident can often differ significantly from those of foreign governments.

How Does The Personal Effects Process Work?

While the details may differ based on the location and/or circumstances of a specific event, below is a general overview of the recovery process:

Personal Effects Process Work?


The recovery process takes time. Survivors and families are understandably anxious to receive their belongings or those of a loved one. It is everyone’s goal to process items promptly but it is time-consuming by nature. To avoid inconvenience, survivors may wish to consider immediately replacing essential items or documents not in their possession, for example, driver’s licenses, passports, and prescription medications. • Items are typically returned after items belonging to everyone else involved are ready for return.

It should never be assumed that personal effects can be returned immediately. Even those that appear undamaged may, in fact, be affected by substances such as firefighting chemicals, soot or other undesirable substances. Not every personal effect can be returned. If something is perishable or hazardous, it is in everyone’s best interest to destroy the item.

How Can We Help?

Our foremost responsibility is to be a partner with our customer to assure optimum results in mitigating the effects of any crisis situation. We strive to provide services in an efficient and cost effective manner while maintaining our focus on human compassion.

Recoveries are often complicated and highly emotional, which is understandable considering the human trauma and tragedy of such events. A successful response after any disaster can help ensure that an organization’s good name is maintained, their position in the community is preserved and can aid in the survival of the organization.

The principals involved in the recovery following a transportation accident can be applied to other types of disasters where casualties occur, personal effects from multiple individuals are damaged or unassociated personal items are present.

BMS CAT offers the following services to assist our customers in recovering after a disaster:

Personal Effects Recovery

In addition, our recovery teams provide meticulous documentation. Following an event, the capturing of pertinent information is important to the recovery of personal effects and the disposition of human remains. All costs and expenditures are tracked for accurate billing and cost controls.

What Can You Do?

It is important to have a plan in place for a disaster. It is highly recommended that you pre-contract with a restoration company before a loss occurs. This gets any administrative “red tape” out of the way, expedites response times and allows you to carefully pre-qualify the service for your exact needs. BMS CAT can assist you in your planning, recovery execution and in an advisory capacity. We network with professionals in the transportation support industry that will round out our response to any need that is presented to us.