Mark Cerney and his wife were on their honeymoon in Hawaii in 1990 when a family member Mark had been visiting in a convalescent center passed away. Although Mark, a former marine had left instructions with the staff on how to notify him, there was a mix-up and Mark’s family member was buried before he ever knew she had died.
When he returned home and learned what had happened, he was devastated. He was further inspired by the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when people walked the streets of New York in shock as body after body was carried out of the rubble of the twin towers and family members were begging for news of their loved ones.
Because of these events and Mark’s conviction that there should be a national database in which to notify next of kin in the event of an emergency, he developed the National Next of Kin Registry (NOKR). NOKR is a free service that will notify your next of kin in an emergency or in the event of your death. The fact that you carry a driver’s license or other identification will tell the authorities who you are. That still doesn’t help them locate your next of kin. When identification isn’t kept updated, that would present an even more complex problem.
NOKR was instrumental in notifying next of kin during hurricane Katrina. It could have been more helpful, though if more people had known about the free service and registered for it. NOKR was developed in January 2004 and while millions of people have become involved with NOKR, there are many millions left to reach. For that reason, Reach out to America (ROTA) has kicked off a 50 state and more than 250 city tour promoting the services of NOKR and signing people up.
Here’s how it works: You go to the website, http://nokr.org and click on register. Start by filling out the form. This system is even for the homeless. In the place of address, they encourage the homeless to type in homeless. Not only is NOKR actively holding events to sign people up, they encourage people without computers to use the ones at the public library to register.
You have the opportunity to upload a photo. This would be especially helpful if you are registering a child or the elderly. In the case of either, multiple agencies would have access to this information immediately and be able to circulate the photo.
Next is a box in which to include additional information. This could be identifying marks, such as moles or tattoos or even medical information. I included the names of my doctor and dentist. Obviously, the dentist would be helpful in obtaining dental records if the body was unrecognizable. True, it sounds morbid but having this information in a national database could save family members the heartbreak of having to wait additional time for the identification of a loved one.
Then you enter the name and contact information for the person you want to be contacted in the case of your death or emergency. There is also a box here for additional information. You can use this box for the names and phone numbers of additional people to contact or other pertinent information. I added another daughter’s name and number as my initial next of kin is a daughter also. It’s that simple. Now I am registered in the National Next of Kin Registry and my loved ones will be notified in the case of my death or emergency. Now I can print out a NOKR card if I choose. I can even fill it out online. It has room for my name, contact information and medical information including blood type. It is recognized as a NOKR card so although next of kin information isn’t printed on the card, emergency service personnel would know to access the NOKR website in order to get the next of kin information. NOKR recommends the use and lamination of these cards. I still need to register my daughters so that I will be notified if something happens to one of them. In fact, we should register all of our loved ones, young and old. Let’s get the word out about NOKR.