Frequently Asked Questions
What is FGI?
Forensic Guardians International (FGI), is a private company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada that specializes in forensic human identification. We provide a range of professional and technical services globally that address preventative measures such as storing personal information in the Identity Vault and fatality planning as well as deploying forensic expertise to critical incidents to serve the personal needs of our clients. FGI relies on the expertise of a network of highly qualified and seasoned forensic specialists and experts to develop a range of identification services: these are not theoretical assumptions but based on the actual lessons learned and years of experiences dealing with critical incidents.
How does FGI differ from other bio-profiling companies?
FGI does not collect information from clients for ancestry assessment, predisposition to illness or paternity testing. The information collected by FGI with our Identity Vault services is for identification purposes only. Once information is collected from our clients, the data is encrypted and securely stored in our facilities in Canada where there is no access to the information except by those that have been authorized by the client themselves. We do not process the data that we collect for purposes other than the identification or confirmation of identification and do not share any information beyond those that are authorized to see it.
Under what circumstances is an individual an appropriate client for FGI services?
We work with clients to collect and protect unique identity features that will be required for comparison if the client is involved in a critical incident leading to disappearance, serious injury or death. Risk is inevitable in many global professions, particularly those who work in emergency professions or challenging environments such as conflict, foreign services, oil and gas industry, fisheries, the private and government security industry, journalism, and humanitarian aid, to name a few. Frequent travellers also experience unavoidable risks that render this service particularly applicable to airline staff and passengers. FGI understands the necessity of providing this information at short notice and works with clients to identify the most suitable product for their environment.
What biometric information is required to set up a client profile with FGI?
FGI experts collect a variety of information in a forensically relevant process, from physical characteristics, medical and dental information to a DNA sample, fingerprint and voice samples. Depending on the needs of the client we offer different processes to collect and store this information.
Why is it important to collect biometric information prior to a critical incident?
Facial recognition by a family member cannot be made in all situations as there can be factors that cause this method to be unreliable or impossible. When visual identification is not possible a scientific and legal confirmation of identity relies on a comparison process of very specific and individualizing characteristics that are unique to each person. By collecting this information directly from the client before a critical incident occurs, FGI ensures that the details specific to that person are accurately captured and readily available to expedite identification and notification of families of the whereabouts of their relative.
How long does the biometric collection process take?
The collection of the information takes approximately 15-20 minutes per person when working with a team of FGI specialists.
Why not just take a DNA sample from families after a critical incident?
This is a common approach after disasters because proactive efforts were not taken in the first place. Families who have endured waiting for DNA results after disasters will argue that it should not be the preferred option. Furthermore, while DNA profiling is a powerful tool, it should not necessarily be the first and only method used for identification. Extensive experience has shown that DNA based identifications still require a comparison of other unique features for identity verification and to ensure that laboratory results are correct. In addition, a particular mark, tattoo, or unique feature collected and forensically documented for comparison purposes may generate an identification in minutes compared to waiting days and sometimes weeks and months for DNA results. In certain cases and locations, DNA laboratories may not be available or not accredited to undertake the analyses required to utilize this method.
How long does it take to perform the assessment to identify human remains?
The length of time to reach a conclusive decision about the identity of a living or deceased individual is dependent on the situation, the condition of the individual being identified and the available facilities in the country where the identification is taking place. In order to maximize and expedite the identification process as much as possible, FGI collects different types of biological information that can be used to uniquely identify an individual person while accommodating the various previously mentioned factors.
What are the specific steps involved to identify human remains following a critical incident?
Following a critical incident, the methods used to identify people can vary widely depending on the scale of the event, the resources available in the country where the event has taken place and the information available about the individuals affected.
The process of identification can start as soon as a person or group is reported seriously injured, missing or presumed dead. Typically, the first step is to collect antemortem data. Antemortem data refers to any information or document collected about a person’s life that could assist in identifying them after a serious incident when they can no longer speak for themselves. This includes a physical description of their sex, age, hair colour, stature, medical and dental records (including radiographs); individualizing traits like abnormalities, marks, freckles and tattoos; and recent photographs. If available, antemortem information may also include details of how a person was dressed at the time of their disappearance and what personal effects they might have been carrying. Any piece of evidence that might identify the person is relevant. Often this information is collected from family members or relatives after a person goes missing by authorities who may not have ever experienced interviewing for such detailed information before. Once forensically collected through detailed descriptions and photographs, this data can be compared to similar information obtained from unresponsive patients and unidentified bodies in an attempt to find a match. Whether a single individual is missing or whether multiple fatalities are involved, antemortem records are an essential component of the identification process.
What is the threshold of information required for the positive identification of a deceased client?
Institutions that are following best practice will usually rely on 1 of 3 main identifiers to confirm the identity of an individual which includes DNA, fingerprints or dental comparisons. In certain situations, visual identification will also be used to confirm an identity however this method can be difficult particularly if the person has sustained injuries to recognizable attributes. In many countries around the world, DNA technology is not readily available and other methods for identification such as dental or fingerprint comparisons are needed to reach a positive ID. While any one of the three identification methods are required in critical incidents, they are also usually supported by additional comparison of antemortem data to prevent human error and inherent bias in the identification processes.
Have bodies been misidentified by authorities?
Misidentification of bodies is frequently an issue in critical incidents involving multiple victims or in cases where trauma is severe. Misidentifications have also been known to occurred in situations of living patients in hospital and bodies in mortuaries. There are multiple manuals created by organizations such as INTERPOL in order to improve the credibility of the approaches being relied on and the scientific procedures being undertaken. But misidentifications still occur every day in both developed and developing countries. Working with information directly collected from the client provides a more accurate set of unique features to compare against and significantly reduces the potential for confusion and stress facing forensic practitioners and authorities who may have little to no disaster training.
How are the remains of a positively identified client repatriated to their home country?
Legal identification of the deceased’s remains is required for completion of the Medical Certificate of Death and transportation permits before a body can be released to the family through repatriation. A funeral director is usually appointed to manage the logistical and administrative requirements for repatriation. Clearance to release the remains must be received from the authorities at the country of origin and clearance to enter the body on arrival. Following this, the coroner or designated medical officer in the country or jurisdiction receiving the repatriated remains will require a number of documents prior to providing clearance for burial (Journal of Travel Medicine, 2017, 1–6). The funeral home in the country where the death occurred may be able to obtain the official death certificate and register the death according to local laws. It is important to understand that each country has different policies and procedures and local laws apply following the death of a foreigner in their territory. In many cases, timelines may be longer than in developed countries and delays could occur at any stage but almost certainly if identification cannot be confirmed. Airlines have their own regulations for the repatriation of remains (https://travel.gc.ca/docs/publications/death-abroad.pdf).
How Do I Get Started?
Discuss your needs with our support team.
Develop A Customized Plan
FGI specialists will develop a tailored plan based on your needs.