Think Tank (FAQs)
Welcome to the ICCFA Think Tank!
You'll find information below that is often asked, some useful statistics that may help members with research, tidbits of trivia and factoids that you might find fascinating. Enjoy!
Q: What are some facts about disease and illness associated with death?
A: According to Chris Molyneux from the South Africa Funeral Directors Association:
- HIV lives up to 16 days after death
- Formeldahyde does not kill worms, which live on after death
- Anthrax spores can live on in soil for 90 years
- Rabies is almost 100% fatal and can usually only be diagnosed after death
- Smallpox remains viable for an indeterminate period after death
- Antibiotics are useless against viruses, and are effective only against bacteria
- Hepatitis B is the most common occupational infection acquired by funeral directors and embalmers
Q: How do I become a pet funeral director?
A: In this up-and-coming field of pet loss, there are still no official requirements to become a pet funeral director. However, the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance has instituted a program for individuals to receive the designation of Certified Pet Loss Professional (CPLP) with the following criteria:
- 2 years of working with those experiencing the loss of a pet
- Application completed and approved by PLPA
- Attending PLPA College which consists of 12 hours of educational information on pet loss, running a business, crematory practices, etc.
- Maintaining the certification with 5 hours of continuing education each year
There are also other classes that can be taken that focus on the topic of pet loss. For example, Two Hearts Pet Loss Center offers a Pet Loss & Grief Companioning Certification class that focuses on every aspect of the topic from the pet parent's grief journey, children and pet loss, pets and pet loss, rituals, and much, much more.
If you'd like to stick your toe in the water of pet loss funeral directing, check with pet loss professionals in your area or state. Reach out to them and ask to assist in their operations. The practical experience is a wonderful way to begin the journey into this field.
Q: How much and what type of materials are being buried in a cemetery? UPDATED!
A: Acoording to Mark Harris's book, "Grave Matters," roughly 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid are buried each year. He goes on to say that per 10-acre cemetery, there is enough coffin wood to frame 40 homes, over 900 tons of casket metal and 22,000 tons of concrete vaults.
According to a Scientific American articles: "In the U.S. alone, 30 million board feet of casket wood is used annually for burials. Similarly, the U.S. uses 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid, traditionally used to preserve a body rather than allow it to decay, each year. The toxic fluid contains a known carcinogen—formaldehyde—that leaches into the soil following burial. Cremations aren’t much better, emitting 246,240 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year from the U.S., says the Funeral Consumers Alliance."
Q: How many cemeteries, funeral homes and crematories are there in the U.S.?
A: The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there are 109,000 cemeteries in the U.S. and more than 1 million acres of cemetery land.
The National Directory of Morticians Redbook reported that in 2013, there were 19,486 funeral homes in the United States. Source info
Based on a 1999 study from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, they estimated that there would be 1,907 crematories in the U.S. by 2010. Given the spike of the number of people dying and the increasing popularity of cremation, we think that it is safe to say that there are at least 2,100 crematories in the U.S. today. Source info
Q: Where may I find statistics on death in the U.S.?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks death and mortality statistics on an annual basis. Facts include death rates and the leading causes of death. You may find information at www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm.
Q: What are some statistics about cremation and columbaria use?
A: Here are some compiled statistics from a few sources:
• From a 2006 Cremation Association of North America (CANA) study: About about a third of the families indicated they were working with a cemetery.
• CANA states that the official national 2013 cremation rate was 45.1%.
• 2006 CANA Cremation Container, Disposition and Service Survey: Survey conducted with some of their members in June 2006 indicated that 3.1% of cremations were being placed in a columbarium.
• 2010 Funeral and Memorialization Information Council (FAMIC) Survey: Telephone survey conducted in 2010 that asked participants what their plans would be for their loved one’s cremated remains. Indicates 19% would choose a columbarium.
Q: What are religious beliefs regarding cremation?
A: See this nifty, one-page cheat sheet provided by Southern Funeral Director Magazine in July 2014.
Q: Is there an average size of a grave?
A: In modern cemetery design, most cemeteries use a standard 8-foot by 3-foot plot. It's not unheard of to expand that to 9 feet long or to 4 feet wide to accommodate a person of larger size.
Q: What are some facts about the environmental impact of cremation?
- The usage of hardwoods and steel have declined since Woodsen first compiled usage figures in 2002.
- The rate of cremation has shot up dramatically since that time – about 12% between 2007 and 2012.
- If you have dental fillings, the mercury in those fillings goes into the atmosphere during cremation.
- Cremation of an average sized person generates 352 pounds of CO2.
- The natural gas usage for cremation in one year could power an automobile for a distance equivalent to 2,500 trips to the moon and back.
You may also want to contact the Green Burial Council for more information.
Q: What are some statistics on the millenial generation's attitude towards end-of-life arrangements?
A: Here is an interesting article from ConnectingDirectors.com.
Q: What is the cost of dying in the UK?
A: According to a Sun Life Direct report, the cost of dying in the UK is £7,622. A funeral costs £3,914 and a cremation is £2,998. See the full report here.
Q: How do I start a crematorium?
A: This is a great question--but also one that is very difficult to answer. There are many steps in any business, and add in a regulated business, such as funeral/cremation, and the steps increase. Here is the general answer (Please keep in mind that these are more of guidelines of things to consider and there may be other factors depending on your specific needs and local rules/laws):
1) A demographic study should be made to determine the market and potential business. This is always a worthwhile investment and particularly in your area where cremation may not be viewed as a positive option.
2) State and local laws, ordinances and regulations should be reviewed. I know this sounds self-serving, but hire legal counsel to help you determine what you need to know here. Also, you can make calls to local regulatory groups to see if there is anything they can provide.
3) Zoning is a huge are of concern for a crematory. You need to reach out to local zoning authority and confirm if a crematory is even allowed, and if so what permits are required. Keep in mind that many areas are quite uncomfortable with crematories and may place special restrictions--including where you are allowed to locate.
4) A business plan is always a suggested idea. This will outline everything you are doing and force you to lay out exactly your plan. This will also allow you to determine the "profit" side of your business. While there are many steps to setting up a business--it is equally important to determine how you will stay in business after you open.
5) One last suggestion is to hire a consultant that can offer industry specific advice. This person can also help with estimating other needs, costs, special issues. In addition to a consultant is the use of industry supplier that may provide services or equipment to you. For example if you are going to put in a retort, you can contact various suppliers and ask them not only about their equipment--but also about setting up and using their equipment.
In addition to all of the general suggestions listed above, you can, and probably should, get involved with local and international groups in this field. You are already reaching out to ICCFA, but you can also attend many programs and expos that will provide educational opportunities. Additionally, by attending these meetings, you will make your own contacts in the profession that can assist you as you go forward.
Q: From a consumer: "Can I be sued by the estate if I choose not to sign my mother's cremation document?"
A: Refusing to participate in the funeral arrangements is not typically the basis for a lawsuit. However, most states do set forth whom is responsible for the funeral arrangements, and the children are typically very high on this list of responsible parties. Because you may be responsible as an authorizing agent to handle the arrangements, it is possible that you will be asked to sign appropriate paperwork.
If you choose not to participate, then other family or the cremation provider may have to file a claim in court. The claim in court would not be to sue you--rather it would be to get the court to allow someone else to handle the disposition. An easier way to avoid this issue is for you, or anyone not wanting the responsibility to handle the funeral arrangements, to waive any rights or responsibilities you have. With a simple form you can either waive your rights or assign your rights to another individual. This way the cremation provider can legally move on to another responsible party and proceed with the cremation.
Q: How do I start a cemetery?
A: The first step is to check with your state funeral/cemetery board. Each state has different regulations and requirements. After that, ICCFA has a brief white paper on "How to Establish a Cemetery." Take a look by clicking here.
Q: What are some facts about baby boomers?
A: According to Prudential in February 2013, baby boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day.
Q: What are some facts about the "tween" generation?
A: See this infographic courtesy of AdWeek.
Q: What are some statistics about our profession?
A: CNBC's news special "Death: It's a Living," which originally aired on January 31, 2013, pulled a variety of facts from around the industry, including:
- Our profession is a $17 billion a year industry
- Metal caskets outsell wood 4 to 1
- Wooden caskets sell more in the Southern U.S.
- Caskets are marked up by 2x the cost to make them, on average
- Aurora Caskets employs 200 employees, sells 160,000 caskets a year with the Dakota being the best-selling model. Their annual revenue is $200 million.
- There are 1.5 million caskets sold a year
- Wholesale caskets sell for $300 to 8,000
- 90 percent of casket doors are cut in half
- The northeastern U.S. tends to purchase caskets with full doors
- The top three casket manufacturers are, in order, Batesville Casket Co., Matthews Intl. and Aurora Caskets
- Cremation usually costs between $1,500-1,700 vs. the average burial that costs $6,500-8,000
- Profits in the industry are usually 6 percent
- Service Croporation Intl., Carriage Services and StoneMor Partners LP account for 14 percent of the funeral home locations in North America
- The industry will increase by 30 percent by 2030, the date at which the average baby boomer will reach age 85
There are also more statistics provided by PBS that may be found here.
Q: How do I find a cemetery, funeral home, cemetery-funeral home combo, crematory, pet loss service provider or allied/related business professional in my area?
A: Here is a listing of ICCFA members. You may search by type of business, city and state. You may also search for a particular property name to find out if they are an ICCFA member.
Q: What was the worst cemetery disaster in United States history?
A: The Great Midwestern Flood of 1993 that washed out the Hardin Cemetery in Hardin, Missouri. Nearly 800 headstones, vaults and caskets were unearthed, sending them through streets and fields. It took a massive effort to help recover, identify and return the remains to their rightful resting ground.