Rapid DNA’s Role in Disaster Victim Identification

Rapid DNA’s Role in Disaster Victim Identification

This webinar originally occurred on May 2nd, 2019
Duration: 1.5 hours


Historically DNA technology has been used as a last resort in the identification of disaster victims. Traditional DNA testing can be a lengthy process and can be costly having to send samples out to laboratories and waiting for the results. Rapid DNA technology can cut the time and costs for DNA testing drastically as it can produce viable DNA profiles in only 90 minutes. In 2015 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) began exploring the use of Rapid DNA technology in mass fatality responses. Rapid DNA instruments were deployed to mass fatality incident drills and exercises to test different capabilities. DHS S&T was able to identify and mitigate potential logistical challenges and determined that these instruments are easy to use and effective. Just-in-time training is effective, sample collection is simple, and the instruments produce real-time results in the same time it takes a family to complete a victim identification antemortem interview.

In November of 2018, California experienced its deadliest destructive wildfire in history. The Camp Fire in Butte County, CA tragically took the lives of 85 people in a matter of just a few hours. Due to the heat and intensity of the fire, traditional methods of identification were not feasible. The Butte County Sheriff’s office turned to Rapid DNA in order to identify the victims. ANDE provided instrumentation and staff for the DNA for the unprecedented response efforts. The quick and accurate identification of these victims demonstrates that Rapid DNA is a viable option for disaster victim identification. This rapid response not only saved time and money, but brought information and understanding to the families of those victims much faster than traditional DNA testing methods.

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Understand how the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate has used Rapid DNA technology in mass fatality response operations.
  2. Become aware of how mass fatality response exercise participants welcomed the use of Rapid DNA to identify victims.
  3. Appreciate how Rapid DNA was used in the 2018 Camp Fire mass fatality human identification response to quickly identify victims.


  • Dr. Amanda Sozer | Founder and President of SNA International
  • Dr. Richard Selden | Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at ANDE

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence webinar has been provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this webinar are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Contact us at with any questions and subscribe to our newsletter for notifications.

Related Content

DNA Recovery After Sequential Processing of Latent Fingerprints on Black Polyethylene Plastic

Publication Journal of Forensic Sciences, February 2024  Authors Abigail S. Bathrick | Bode Technology Sarah Norsworthy | RTI International Dane T. Plaza | Bode Technology Mallory N. McCormick | United States Secret Service Donia Slack | RTI International Robert S. Ramotowski | United States Secret Service …

Success Story: NIJ and The New York City OCME Validating Confirmatory Body Fluid Identification Assays for Real-World Impact

National Institute of Justice and The New York City OCME Date December 2023 Overview Support from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) enabled the New York City OCME to develop and validate proteomic mass spectrometry body fluid assays to support…

What Medical Examiner’s and Coroner’s Offices Should Know about Molecular Autopsy

Date December 2023 Overview A molecular autopsy consists of “postmortem genetic testing of decedents who died naturally, suddenly, and unexpectedly at young ages.” Molecular autopsies can enable a more accurate determination of cause of death in cases where the scene…