Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use this app to report a crime?

No. This app is designed solely to aid disaster and relief workers in the passive reporting of bodies and at-risk individuals. No real or implied response to these reports is expected. All crimes, including suspected crimes, must be reported immediately to appropriate authorities.

Can I send a record of a body or at-risk individual to the makers of this app?

No. The creators of Memoriam do not receive or manage reports. All reports accidentally sent to Memoriam websites or emails will be deleted unopened. Please check with disaster authorities for the most up-to-date and/or appropriate agencies for receiving your reports.

What if I can’t find a receiving agency?

You may use your browser to search for an appropriate receiving agency. If you do not have web access, Memoriam will allow you to save records and submit them later.

I’m working in an unstable situation. What if I can’t finish creating a report?

Your personal safety is the most important priority. Do not stay in an unsafe situation or endanger yourself in order to create or finish a report. To create a record that can be submitted, you must include   location information (either by using the GPS feature, or manually). For all other data fields, Memoriam will allow you to save an incomplete record, or to submit it with Unknown information.

What if I’m reporting an at-risk individual who later dies – do I change the report?

If a record has been submitted, you cannot modify it. If a record has not yet been submitted, please do not attempt to change a Living record to a Deceased record for the same individual. You should create a second Deceased record, even if you have already created and/or submitted a Living record on the same individual. A Living and a Deceased record capture different data fields. If you go back and change the type of report, you will lose crucial data.

Why are you charging money for this app?

The makers of Memoriam deliberately charge a small fee in order to encourage registration of appropriate users, and to discourage intentional misuse of the app. A portion of all proceeds goes to humanitarian aid.

DNA Sample FAQs

What equipment do I need?

1)      Personal protection equipment – mask, face shield, paper gown, multiple rubber gloves, etc.

2)      Cotton swabs

3)      Permanent marker or pen and/or paper for labeling specimens

4)      Specimen container – can be seal-able plastic bags, pill-bottle type containers or other completely dry, clean empty containers devoid of residue that can be closed tightly

5)      Headlamp or other hands-free light for low-light conditions

How do I take a DNA sample?

You may want to label your container in advance of taking a sample. While taking the sample, you should designate one hand for using your smartphone, and the other hand for collection of samples. Only one adequate DNA sample is needed. DNA samples can be taken by gently wiping a cotton swab along the inside of the mouth, against the lining of the cheek or gum. Alternatively, you can also dip a swab into fresh or congealed blood, or swab up dried flecks of blood or tissue. Try to get as pure a sample as possible. In other words, if there is blood from several bodies combined, try to swab inside an isolated wound of the body you are reporting.

WARNING: collect and report at your own risk! The most important priority is to protect yourself. The creators of this app assume no liability for infection, injury or even anxiety that might arise from the use of, misuse of, or refusal to use, this app, or the accuracy of these tips and/or the collection of any DNA samples, or reporting of tragedies, or bodies. Make sure your surroundings are secure. Make sure you use universal precautions.

Do I have to wait for the cotton swab to dry?

Yes. You may want to prop the sample inside an open, labeled container (such as a seal-able plastic bag, or clean, dry container bottle) while waiting for it to dry. DO NOT blow on the sample. Besides the potential infection-control risks, you could also blow flecks of your own saliva (and, therefore, your DNA) onto the sample and contaminate it.

Can I submit hair or fingernails or toenails?

Hair, fingernails, and toenails are all keratinized tissue – which means they do NOT contain whole-cell DNA. Hair, fingernails or toenails contain only mitochondrial DNA. Whole-cell (or nuclear) DNA, such as from a swab of a cheek or blood, is much better for DNA analysis.

What if I didn’t get enough?

DNA technology is now so sophisticated that only very tiny amounts are needed. As Agent Chris Hopkins of the Northern California F.B.I. described it, “you could get enough of a sample by just swabbing the nosebridge of a pair of glasses.” He also added, “a damp swab from a cheek sample is usually a good sample, because you generally know you’ve got enough.”

What if the sample is contaminated?

A pure sample is clearly the goal in all circumstances. However, if you are considering throwing out the only DNA sample available for reporting a body or at-risk individual, keep in mind that contamination is a relative issue. For example, a 50-50 amount of two kinds of DNA is a bad sample, because it could come from either person A or person B. A sample that is 97% one person’s DNA (person A), and 3% another person’s DNA (person B) is most likely from the 97% origin (person A) and is still potentially useable.

Where do I send this dried and labeled sample?

Sorry, you’re on your own there. The creators of this app have merely provided a tool for data collection and reporting, but do not and will not receive, process or forward along any results obtained from the use of this app. The creators also accept no liability for samples, either their collection, their disposition, their quality or use or misuse, for deliberate, accidental, or unintentional reasons. Check with international or local aid and governmental organizations, or check websites for up-to-date reports of who is collecting information in your area.

Will my sample go bad?

While we are not, and do not pretend to be, forensic experts, we highly recommend that you submit your sample as soon as possible, for many common sense reasons. Dried DNA samples, properly stored, are stable for varying lengths of time.

Photos FAQs

What equipment do I need?

1)      A pencil, pen, ruler, or other standard-sized item for size comparison

2)      Headlamp or other hands-free light for low-light conditions

Is there a limit to how many photos I can take?

You can take as many photos as you wish, discarding ones that are not of sufficient quality. However, because of the limitations of emailing photos, you can only include four photos in a Memoriam report. It is best, if possible, to include one photo from each of the listed four categories (face, body, identifying marks, and a picture of passport/license/identity card). For many bodies or at-risk individuals in disaster areas, all four of these will not be available. In that circumstance, we recommend that you take photos from the categories that you can, then additional photos that, in your judgment, may also help with identification, up to the limit of four pictures. You may want to read the tips for taking photos to help you decide what photos might be best.

Tips for taking a face photo

Try to get a full-frontal, centered picture of the face that fills the frame, similar to a passport photo, even if the face is damaged or partially missing. A profile photo is a secondary priority in identification.

Tips for taking a body photo

Place your standard-sized object (pencil, pen, ruler, etc.) next to the body or at-risk individual. Do not contaminate your standard-sized object if you must re-use it. Try to center the body in the photo. Doing so will require stepping back – take care for your safety when positioning yourself.

Tips for taking photos of identifying marks

If a person has several identifying marks, try to take a photo of the most distinctive as the first priority (a tattoo, for example, instead of a small surgical scar).  Identifying marks can be tattoos or other intentional markings, birthmarks, scars or moles.

What if the body is decayed or severely injured?

You can take pictures that fit these categories, even if there is considerable damage and/or decay.

What if the body is in pieces?

Try to take four photos of the body parts that are most likely, in your judgment, to aid in identification, using these categories of pictures as a guideline.

What do you mean by “other identification”?

A photo of a treasured piece of worn jewelry, for example, may be very helpful for identification purposes. Piercings, hair-plugs or other permanent body alterations can help with identification.

Should I move the body for photos?

Remember, your safety is the first priority. If bodies are being moved for disposition, you may want to position a body for photos prior to removal. At all times, however, you must be aware of the serious risks of contamination – both of yourself, of your equipment, and, if applicable, of a potential crime scene. If applicable, all of these are important reasons to NOT TOUCH or MOVE anything.

Should I undress a body or at-risk individual?

No. Please use appropriate ethical, legal, and culturally sensitive precautions when taking photographs of deceased or at-risk individuals. Photos of a person naked are not necessary for identification. Identifying marks can be found by discreetly unclothing and recovering parts of a body. If you are dealing with an at-risk individual, do not undress anyone, even partially, even if it is within your professional capacity, without their full and complete consent. Clearly, if someone is unable to consent – an unaccompanied minor, for example, or someone with altered mental status or diminished cognitive ability – he/she clearly should not be undressed. Keep in mind cultural norms and applicable laws regarding child pornography, as well as other types of indecency.

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