GAST/EPIC, which has its seat at the Munich Airport police station, is used by both the Bavarian police and the supporting initiative “GAST/EPIC”.

The institution was designed to manage “major incidents” (“Große Schadenslagen” = GSL), but also as an information and service centre for the next of kin of victims and missing persons, which can be contacted via a uniform phone number. It collects and controls all information concerning persons who have been involved in an accident and offers the next of kin and the authorities relevant information and support. The information centre has its seat at the Munich Airport in the building of the local police station.

The following explanations have been developed from the viewpoint of the police and are dealing primarily with the police’s operational procedures. The complexity of the measures following a major incident and the global concern it causes require an institution which is fully operational.

GAST/EPIC was founded to meet these needs and is able to take over the tasks of the subsection “Auskunfts- und Vermisstenstelle” (information centre on missing persons) of the special commission GSL partly or completely, if necessary.

We are talking about a “major incident” (GSL) if the lives or the physical integrity of a great number of persons are at threat or have been harmed, especially in the case of particularly serious accidents.

The first reports, which contain hardly any information in most cases, cause a strong feeling of insecurity and a considerable need for information among those who fear that a relative, a good friend or an acquaintance might be affected.

The following examples reflect that impressively:
1988 Crash of the PANAM-Jumbo near Lockerbie (Scotland) 10,000 calls
1998 Crash of the Swissair MD 11 near Halifax (Canada) 52,000 calls
2005 London bombings (England) 108,000 calls

GAST/EPIC is ready to operate within 30 to 45 minutes after news of a major incident have spread.

Thus, the phone number for the public can be announced on radio and television at a very early stage and the flood of calls is channelled through GAST/EPIC; considerably reducing the burden on other institutions.

Our own experience and the experience of other similar foreign institutions teach us that even at this early stage (with a definite list of victims still missing) many callers can be calmed down by providing them with basic information about the incident. This includes information on its place and time, on the companies involved, on the flight number etc.

The distribution within GAST/EPIC:

In total, there are 27 work stations (subdivided into four separate areas/rows of tables) to process the incoming calls from the next of kin and other persons seeking help. The data of the calling party and the requested person is entered into a database by means of the software GSLweb. If we have already been provided with a passenger list (or a list of victims, in other cases), we can immediately decide whether it is a “positive” call (there is information concerning the requested person) or a “negative” call (there is no information concerning the requested person). All persons on whom there is no information available are automatically registered as missing persons. The fate of these persons has to be clarified through further investigations.

In the service area, there are in total eight work stations for the head of GAST, his GAST managers and for staff with a psychological or ecclesiastical background. If certain callers need intensified psychological support, there are well-trained members of staff for first steps. But the majority of the work stations at these tables are intended for staff with foreign language skills.

The GAST-managers primarily supervise the processing agents by providing them with the latest information on the operation and by acting as a contact point when questions or problems occur. Moreover, they keep the list of victims up to date, compile lists according to the needs of the requesting party, and supervise the communication and the printers.

In the adjoining room, there are eight additional work stations for the officials of the criminal investigation department. Here all information concerning the victims and their next of kin comes together:

  • Results from incoming calls
  • Results from the investigation at the scene of the accident
  • Messages from rescue coordination centres or hospitals
  • Results from the questioning of next of kin
  • Results from the identification squad
  • Hints from the responsible police station (or also from other police stations)

For the case of an air accident, there is a work station with a CUTE-terminal (Common User Terminal) and a DSL-internet computer for the representative of the air company concerned. By means of this CUTE-terminal, the air company’s representative can communicate and exchange relevant data internally with his emergency management but also with all other stations of his company worldwide.

For the contact man of the Munich Airport GmbH, there is also a special work station with a computer with network connection and printer. In this way, we have immediate access to the Munich Airport GmbH with its logistic possibilities.

A laptop work station with connection to a projector, three fax machines for the different areas, an additional DSL-internet computer, as well as two flat-screen TVs as external news sources complement the equipment.

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