Disaster Mortuary Operational Response
Suffolk County Chief Medical Forensic Investigator (Retired)
Suffolk, New York
DMORT- 2, Deputy Team Commander
His first night in Puerto Rico, Bob Golden slept in a sports arena. The next few nights he set up a cot in a chapel.
Bob, a medical forensic investigator from Long Island, New York, was one of the first members of a National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) to arrive in San Juan after Hurricane Maria. “The conditions were harsh,” he recalls. “Access to food, lodging, and transportation were difficult and there were a lot of safety concerns. The people of San Juan were having a tough time, I’ll never forget the look of hope and relief on their faces when they saw NDMS teams coming to help.”
As a team commander, Bob, who has been serving with NDMS since 1997, is one of the first to arrive at a disaster site so he can assess the situation, usually meeting with local officials to understand current capabilities and needs. Bob also ensures that his DMORT team has what it needs to get the job done, such as food, shelter, and a safe environment. Then the team members are assigned roles that often shift in the dynamic conditions of a disaster site.
“NDMS deployment can be like the wild west,” says Bob, “and sometimes the fatalities overwhelm the local jurisdiction. That’s when we show up to help. DMORT identifies the victims who lost their lives so they can be returned to their loved ones.”
Deploying to New York City in April 2020, during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, stands out to Bob as a very rewarding opportunity to contribute to his hometown. “At the time we didn’t know much about this disease. We were operating in hazmat conditions. We worked as a team. Not only our DMORT team but everybody: the police, the fire department, the military. Everybody.”
Bob helped lead more than 55 DMORT professionals staffing a Disaster Portable Morgue Unit (DPMU) in Brooklyn. The temporary facility operated 24 hours, 7 days a week, and his team worked around the clock tracking, documenting, and storing human remains at the DPMU until they could be transferred to a funeral home for burial or cremation or to another designated area. “We work behind the scenes. No matter what happens, we will get the job done. DMORT is about respecting every deceased person.”
Bob is proud to serve his country as part of NDMS. “Americans come through when they are needed. We help each other out. When the chips are down, we know that we can get through it, no matter what happens.”
NDMS responders combine expert skills, passion for their profession, and compassion for people facing disasters and emergencies. Responders like Bob step forward to make an immeasurable human and community impact on every NDMS deployment.