Washington County
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Unexpected Deaths

When someone you know or love dies suddenly or unexpectedly, your first responsibility is to call 911 for medical assistance and guidance. Please try and have the following information available:

  • Name and address of the decedent
  • Age and date of birth of the decedent
  • Place and circumstances of occurrence
  • The name and location of the treating physician
  • Any other information which may be helpful

Arrival Of EMS

When such a call is received by the county communications center, it is our county’s policy to dispatch emergency medical assistance. The EMS unit will verify that dead-on-arrival criteria exist as set forth by State EMS Protocol:

  • Decomposition
  • Rigor mortis
  • Dependent lividity
  • Decapitation
  • Unwitnessed cardiac arrest of traumatic cause
  • Traumatic cardiac arrest in entrapped patient with sever injury incompatible with life
  • Incineration

In cases where these criteria are not clearly met, EMS personnel will initiate resuscitation efforts. The patient will be immediately transported to the nearest medical facility.

Next Steps

In all cases where:

Death has been determined: First responders will notify the 911 Communications Center of the death. Communications Center staff will immediately notify the coroner. The coroner then uses criteria established by law to determine whether the death is natural, or either un-natural or not explained with the information known. The coroner then determines the extent of the response necessary, again using the law.

Coroner has jurisdiction to investigate the facts and circumstances of death: State Law requires that the body and its surroundings shall be left untouched until the coroner has had a view thereof or until he shall otherwise direct or authorize. (16 P.S., Article 12, Sec. 1222B.) It's also important to note that the law gives the coroner sole responsibility for personal effects and property on and around the body. Personal effects, including wallets and jewelry, should not be moved without consulting the coroner. (16 P.S., Article 12, Sec. 1215B.)

The scene is a suspected crime scene:  It is important for all concerned to not move the body or disturb anything at the scene, and do not allow others to enter the scene until the police arrive. This is very important, as any alteration of the body or the crime scene may interfere with the ability of the investigating authorities to discover the "truth” and bring any guilty parties to justice.


95 W Beau St, Washington, PA 15301 | 724-228-6700