New York State Funeral Directors Association

Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health completed a national, Web-based survey of 42 questions to assess the pandemic preparedness in the death care profession in the United States.

The University received responses from 492 individuals – 77 percent of whom were funeral directors in 46 states – as well as professionals from all areas in the death care sector, for the School’s study, "Pandemic Influenza Preparedness in Funeral Service and Allied Professions."

New York State Funeral Directors Association (NYSFDA) Board member, Martin D. Kasdan and New York State Tribute Foundation Family Assistance Commission (FAC) and NYSFDA member, Edward Mockler were presenters for the Emergency Preparedness in the Death Care Sector Conference’s panel discussion, facilitated by Dr. David Abramson, Director of Research for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

Also included were: Regina Smith, Academic Dean and Chief Academic Officer of the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service; and John Toale, President and CEO of the Woodlawn Cemetery.

Their discussion focused on preparedness planning challenges and current best practices, and sought to identify research gaps and opportunities for improvements in preparedness planning at multiple levels. Scheduled, but unable to attend to serve on the panel, was NYSFDA Board member and FAC Chair, Douglas R. Brueggemann.

Brueggemann had been activated earlier in the day for DMORT duties in Joplin, MO, following the devastating tornado that leveled the town, and took more than 120 lives.

Dr. Robyn Gershon, Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences, at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, shared the findings on May 24, 2011 during the Conference hosted by the Mailman School’s Department of Sociomedical Sciences and co-sponsored by the New York State Tribute Foundation.

The Conference brought together more than three dozen working in the field to discuss related issues.

Survey Respondent Highlights

  • 60% are on call 24/7
  • 87% are affiliated with a trade organization (such as NYSFDA or NFDA)
  • 9% are DMORT members
  • 12% are emergency response volunteers
  • 78% of death care professionals were willing to assist other sectors during an emergency
  • 87% of retired funeral professionals were willing to assist sector during an emergency
  • 96% of mortuary students were willing to assist sector during an emergency

According to researchers, the sample was highly motivated (with levels similar to physicians and EMS)

“The New York State Tribute Foundation was pleased to assist the University with this important research study,” said Richard J. Sullivan, Board chair of the New York State Tribute Foundation.

"The Mailman School of Public Health is a world renowned leader in education,” Sullivan said.

This study was generously funded by the New York State Tribute Foundation, the Funeral Service Foundation, and the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards.

Founded in 1922 as one of the first three public health academies in the nation, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world.

New York State 
Tribute Foundation

1 South Family Drive
Albany, NY 12205
Phone: 518-452-8230
Fax: 518-452-8667
kelly@nysfda.org