NACA Recommended Procedures

Protecting consumers

The NACA lists a number of recommendations to protect consumers who have selected cremation as a burial option. The following are the Cremation Association of North America's Recommended Procedures for Handling Human Remains for Cremation by Mortuaries, Cemeteries and Crematories. Consumers should pay special attention to sections three through five.

Preface: Purpose for Procedures

There are many considerations that must be taken into account when a mortuary, cemetery or crematory is entrusted with the disposition of human remains. Identification of the deceased, holding the remains for the cremation process and processing, packing and disposition of the cremated remains are items of concern not only to the mortuary, cemetery and crematory, but also to the public. High standards must be employed during all phases of the cremation process.

Therefore, uniform procedures have been developed in order to maintain the professionalism and public trust expected from those involved in this vital service. It's the objective of the following guidelines to ensure that all procedures reflect those high standards and serve as a guide for those professionals charged with the sacred trust of the disposition of the human dead by cremation within the realm of law and dignity.

Section One: Terminology 

Section one suggests there are several terms that are important to the NACA procedures: 

  1. An authorizing agent is the person who's legally entitled to request a cremation.

  2. Cremated remains are the bone fragments that are left over after the cremation process.

  3. Cremation is the heating process that combusts and evaporates human remains into bone fragments.

  4. The cremation chamber is the enclosed space where cremation is completed.

  5. The cremation container is the case in which human remains are delivered to the crematory. It has to be composed of combustible material; be easy to handle; assure protection for the crematory employees; cover the remains; and meet moral codes for the proper treatment of the deceased.

  6. The crematory authority is the representative of the crematory.

  7. The crematory or crematorium houses the cremation chamber.

  8. The holding facility is where remains are kept until cremation. It has to comply with public health laws; demonstrate the dignity of the remains; and ensure the safety of the crematory staff.

  9. Human remains refers to the body of the deceased before cremation.

  10. Processed remains are the result of the cremation process (bone fragments).

  11. A sealable container is where processed remains are kept to prevent contamination.

Section Two: Removal and Identification of Human Remains

Section two covers the arrival of the deceased at the crematory:

  1. The crematory authority has to verify that the remains are identified clearly.

  2. Any identification has to include the name of the deceased; date, time and place of death; name and relationship of the authorizing agent; and the name of the authorizing agent that has requested cremation.

  3. If the remains are already in a cremation container the crematory authority has to make sure they have been identified and affix similar identification on the cremation container.

Section Three: Holding Human Remains for Cremation

Section three addresses how the remains should be held prior to cremation:

  1. If cremation can't be completed immediately, the crematory authority has to provide a holding facility.

  2. Remains have to be held in a cremation container. The container can't show evidence of any leakage of body fluids.

  3. Remains that aren't embalmed have to be held in a refrigerated facility.

  4. Holding facilities must only be accessible to crematory personnel.

Section Four: Cremation of Human Remains

Section four contains rules for the actual cremation:

  1. Only one body can be cremated at a time in a single cremation chamber.

  2. Identification of the remains has to be verified before they're placed in the cremation chamber, and the identification must be kept close to the chamber during the cremation process.

Section Five: Processing of Cremated Remains 

Section five provides guidelines regarding what happens after cremation:

  1. After cremation the cremation chamber must be swept clean. All residual will be contained to prevent contamination of other remains, and identification will be attached to the container.

  2. The residue of the cremation must be put in a sealable container if further processing is required. Cremation may leave recognizable bone fragments, which should be further processed to an unidentifiable element before inurnment or scattering.

  3. Unless the authorizing agent requests otherwise, any items removed from the remains before cremation (prosthesis, bridgework, etc.) will be disposed of by the crematory authority.

Section Six: Packaging of Cremated Remains 

Section six covers what is to be done with the remains following cremation:

  1. All processed remains will be placed in a sealable container and not mixed with any other objects unless requested by the authorizing agent.

  2. The sealable container and identification must be placed in either a temporary vessel or the designated vessel ordered by the authorizing agent. The vessel should be completely filled by the sealable container, or provisions will be made to fill in the extra space.

  3. If the processed remains can't fit into the designated vessel, the remainder will either be returned in a separate container or disposed of by the crematory authority if approved by the authorizing agent.

  4. If a temporary vessel is used, the container should be placed in a taped or sealed corrugated box to ensure security. The container should be clearly identified.

Section Seven: Disposition of Cremated Remains 

Section seven addresses the disposition of cremated remains:

  1. The crematory authority must keep record of all cremations and disposals for at least five years.

  2. Any cremation authorization must include a provision that allows a crematory the authority to dispose of unclaimed remains after a certain amount of time.

  3. The authorizing agent can permit a crematory to dispose of cremated remains in any legal manner.
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