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COHEART Volunteer Program

The Colorado Human Remains Extraction and Recovery Team (COHEART) was developed in accordance with a grant funded by the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) under the Department of Homeland Security.  COHEART encompasses the North Central Region (NCR), UASI, and all jurisdictions within the nine county NCR all hazards regions.  The Denver Office of the Medical Examiner and NCR instituted this unique program to establish a volunteer force to assist in the medicolegal investigation of human remains in the event of a mass casualty event. A mass casualty is a situation in which the resources needed for the recovery and examination of human remains are above the capacity of local agencies.  Traditionally law enforcement, EMS, and fire departments provide assistance in these situations whilst performing their own duties. COHEART utilizes trained citizen volunteers to aid local agencies during a mass casualty event.  Currently the team is comprised of approximately 200 members of all different experience levels and areas of specialties.

Program Information

The purpose of the COHEART is to assist in the medicolegal investigation of human remains in the event of a mass casualty event. Mass fatality management encompasses five main areas:

  1. Search and recovery
  2. Transportation and storage
  3. Forensic examination and determination of cause and manner of death
  4. Family assistance center operations
  5. Transportation and final disposition of remain

COHEART is comprised primarily of former interns and employees of a medical examiner or coroner's office. Additionally, the team accepts inexperienced individuals with interested in gaining experience in death investigation. Training includes autopsy observation; death scene investigation; identification and collection of evidence; forensic photography; technical report writing and other related areas.  All team members participate in ongoing ride-alongs, autopsy viewings, and in-house training sessions.

Teams are established based on individual experience level. Reservists without prior experience or training are assigned to a level one team. As training and experience increases so will a individuals team level. Reservists with prior experience are assigned to higher level teams. Members with extensive experience  are given senior status.

The COHEART is a volunteer based organization to be used in the event of a mass fatality situation.  Individuals must meet the following criteria and supply the requested documents in order to be considered for volunteer service. 

  • 18 years of age
  • Must be a high school graduate
  • Has a valid state issued ID or Driver's License
  • A background/criminal records check must be provided*
  • The ability to work with deceased individuals
  • The ability to work with diverse cultures
  • The ability to work well in stressful situations

*Additionally, an internet investigation will be performed, including - but not limited too, Google, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter accounts.

In the event of a mass fatality situation assistance will be required for all areas of concern. Interested volunteers should send a completed COHEART Volunteer Form and then submit it to