ICAO Adopts Safety Management Annex, Accident Victims Policy

The Montreal-based organization took both actions during its 2013 Safety Week.

A new policy adopted by the governing council of the International Civil Aviation Organization calls on the 191 member states to firmly commit to support the victims of aviation accidents and their family members. NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman applauded the policy in a blog post this week, saying until now, no worldwide guiding policy of this type existed. Assistance is provided to victims of major U.S. aviation accident victims and families from NTSB and other agencies because of the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996, she noted.

ICAO's March 4 announcement said some states have responded "more slowly than envisaged with respect to incorporating related provisions" of an earlier guidance document into their national laws, which prompted the council to elevate the guidance to the policy level. "Through this decision, ICAO's Council members have placed stronger emphasis on the need for states to take responsibility for the care of accident victims and their families," said ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González. "Elevating this issue to official policy level will hopefully accelerate states' adoption of the necessary measures and better ensure that the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of accident victims and their next of kin is fully recognized and accommodated."

ICAO also adopted a new Safety Management Annex during its recent Safety Week 2013 as it confirmed 2012 was one of the safest years on record for global aviation. There were 3.2 accidents per million departures in 2012 -- a total of 99 accidents in about 31 million flights -- and 2012 aviation fatalities declined to372 from 414 in 2011. The new annex, Annex 19, supports ICAO’s global safety strategy, which calls for improved standardization, increased collaboration among aviation stakeholders, new information-sharing initiatives, and prioritizing investments in technical and human resources required to ensure safe operations.

"I am particularly pleased with the ICAO announcement and recognize the leadership and hard work that enabled this important step to be taken. The NTSB, working with other international governmental and non-governmental interests, played an important role in the development of the policy and the revision of the supporting guidance document. Our Transportation Disaster Assistance program staff provided consultation during the process and continues to respond to requests from other countries about implementing and managing an effective family assistance program," Hersman wrote in her post. "Thankfully, major aviation accidents are rare, but, when they do happen, victims and their families' needs should be addressed in a compassionate manner -- the new policy and guidance go a long way towards making that happen."

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