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Mass fatality trailer ready to be deployed

Photo by Jay Forness

Cape Girardeau County has a mass fatality trailer that can hold up to 24 dead bodies, keeping them chilled until funeral arrangements can be made. That trailer is ready to be deployed to Springfield or Kansas City if those areas become overwhelmed by COVID-19 deaths.

“Cape Girardeau County is in care of a regional Homeland Security mass fatality trailer. We were asked whether our equipment was in suitable working order, and if so, if it would be ready to be deployed to other parts of the state if necessary, particularly the Springfield area and the Kansas City area” Mark Winkler, director of the County’s Emergency Management Agency, told the Cape Girardeau County Commission July 29. “Our unit is ready, available and since it’s an RHSOC portable asset, when they ask for it, we need to let it roll,” he reported.

“Do we deliver that or do they come get it?” asked Commissioner Paul Koeper.

“It’s a mutual decision,” replied Winkler. “I would rather they come get it but if they can’t, Charlie [Herbst] will dive it there.”

“I’ve already volunteered” commented Commissioner Herbst. “It just makes sense. It’s our piece of equipment.”

In addition to being a county commissioner, Herbst is part of the RHSOC Board.

RHSOC is the Regional Homeland Security Oversight Committee. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Homeland Security established regional response committees throughout the nation. The local committee makes decisions for this region on how to spend Homeland Security funds. Some of those funds have been used to purchase various assets, including this trailer. The trailer is tested regularly and has been used, but it has never been deployed to a major disaster area.

Springfield and the Kansas City area are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 deaths. When these deaths involve younger people, they often do not have funeral arrangements made. It then takes longer to bury or cremate the bodies, and local funeral homes can be overwhelmed. This trailer can keep up to 24 bodies chilled for many days until funeral arrangements can be made.

In other action:

Communications: Winkler updated the Commissioners on the County’s communications plan.

“We’re trying to wrap up our whole communications plan that we laid out, and one of the remaining pieces is to make sure that all first responders in the county have access to Active 911 as a paging alerting system. With your approval this week, we’ve gone ahead and purchased all the seats, if you will, the licenses for up to 325 responders in the county, and that will all come out of the 911 program [funding].”

Concrete: The Commissioners accepted the bid of Red-E Mix Concrete Corp. for a couple of projects in the county.

Memorial bench: The family of Sheila Sauer, who had been a longtime employee of the State of Missouri Drug court, requested permission to place a memorial bench outside the new courthouse.

The Commissioners approved the request. Because space is limited, the Commissioners will explore the idea of creating a memorial plaza across the street on the grounds of the old courthouse when it is repurposed, and move all the memorial benches there.

Adopt-A-Highway agreement: County workers currently mow the median and pick up trash along U.S. Hwy. 61 as it passes between Cape County Park North and South. The County is seeking a formal adopt-a-highway agreement with MoDOT giving them the right to be there, mow and maybe make other improvements in the median.

Elevator: Every five years, a rupture valve must be tested and inspected on elevators. The Commissioners added $2,750 to the contract with Otis Elevator Co. to have that work done. Funds for this will come from use-tax collections.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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