Former flower shop could serve as impromptu morgue

February 15, 2013

In the wake of Sept. 11, the Centers for Disease Control has been encouraging counties across the country to prepare for disasters with mass fatalities. In depopulated areas, however, it’s not always easy. As KJZZ’s Stina Sieg reports, one Arizona county has devised a new, and surprising, game plan.

Most small, rural counties don’t have the resources to deal with large-scale tragedies. But Cochise County in southern Arizona has come up with an innovative solution. The health department recently signed a five-year deal to store dead bodies in the walk-in cooler in a former Bisbee flower shop.

Elizabeth Lueck, Emergency Preparedness Program director, explains the storage could be used in the event of a disaster, like a plane crash or flu epidemic. She spotted the cooler during a recent trip to the building, now a gallery.

"And there, right in front of me, was this huge, lime green cold storage facility that was not used for food," Lueck said, "and I thought that would be an absolutely perfect device to use for mass fatality storage."

The deal allows the county to use the cooler free of charge -- provided it is cleaned afterward.