As we discussed in our blog post last week, handling human cremains infected with COVID-19 requires special care. In our continuing effort to educate people in the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys, Los Angeles Basin and Inland Empire, this week, we take a deeper dive into an associated subject – how to safely and lawfully travel with human remains.
Pandemic Precautions with Cremains
With so many Coronavirus-related deaths recorded over the past four months, funeral directors around the world are taking special precautions for managing human remains, aka cremains. For more details about the steps Foothill Funeral & Cremation is taking, click here. But do you know what you should do if your loved one dies of COVID-19 and you need to transport their remains? Even more important is what you should do if you need to travel to a foreign county with an urn for final disposition there.
Official Guidelines for Cremains
According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) have prepared a nine-page document outlining special precautions which should be taken with regard to human remains that were infected by COVID-19.
Traveling with Cremains
Are you taking a road trip this summer and plan to sprinkler your loved one’s ashes along the way? If so, heed local guidelines as you drive across the border from one state to another. You may wish to avoid the issue altogether by shipping cremated remains to your destination in advance. To do so, send within the United States via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Ship by registered or express mail with a return receipt requested. Also, indicate the contents on the outside of the package
Flying with Cremains
Although you can take them in your car and/or on a plane as long as you make sure to meet airline and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines. Please note that some airlines do not allow cremated remains in checked bags. So, check with yours to learn more about possible restrictions.
Cremains in Carry-On or Checked Baggage
Some airlines, such as Southwest, do not allow cremains in checked bags. So, if you plan to transport cremains in a carry-on bag, take these steps to facilitate screening. First, purchase a temporary or permanent crematory container made of a lighter weight material. Available varieties include wood or plastic. Second, make sure the container material generates an opaque image. This is important, since TSA officers will not be able to clearly determine what is inside solid containers. Out of respect for the deceased, TSA officers will not open a container, even if requested to do so by the passenger. In most cases, suitable urns include anything constructed from material which can be x-rayed. But, again, check with your specific airline to make sure. Also, to be safe, you may want to bring a copy of the death certificate.
Cremains by Car
If traveling by car, carry the paperwork provided by your cremation service provider. This will likely suffice at any border crossings. This is especially important if a cemetery or columbarium is involved. (Note: Some states, such as California, where Foothill Funeral is located, may require an additional permit if the remains are not sent directly to the final destination from the crematory or funeral home.)
International Travel & Cremains
If you plan to travel with an urn to a foreign country for final disposition there, do your due diligence well in advance of the trip. You may need to declare the ashes at Customs. Also, make sure you carry documentation proving not only the identity of the person whose ashes you are carrying, but also your relationship to them.
About Foothill Funeral & Cremation Services in Glendora, California
Whether you choose to transport cremains now or hold a memorial or funeral after restrictions are further eased, we would love to help you celebrate your loved one’s life. At Foothill, we will do our best to make sure you can mourn the loss of your loved one in a safe manner. Feel free to contact us now to pre-plan your own memorial or at your time of need (626) 335-0615. Our relationship with United Methodist Church and Sacred Heart provide great places for mourners to host funerals and memorials. However, LA County may limit the number of people who can attend such an event in light of COVID-19. Call today to speak to one of our funeral directors about current options.