If you or a loved one has decided to be cremated rather than buried, it’s important to remember that just as much effort should go into choosing a reputable crematorium as it does for choosing a good funeral home.
Although the majority of crematoriums you’ll encounter are reputable (especially those that are located on cemetery grounds), there should be some transparency in the process. You should feel free to tour the area, ask questions, and be confident in the fact that your loved one is being handled with respect.
What to Look for in a Crematorium
If you opt for cremation, chances are you’ve chosen a funeral home that’s willing to handle all the details for you. There is nothing wrong with this, but just because the funeral home looks nice doesn’t mean their crematorium follows suit. In fact, some companies have crematoriums located way off site—maybe in an industrial area or somewhere else the public can’t see. It’s your right to know where your loved one is going and what will be happening to his or her remains, so don’t be afraid to ask about the crematorium BEFORE you decide on which funeral home is right for you.
Things to look for include:
- Cleanliness and efficiency. The crematorium should be in good repair and be free of ashes (from previous cremations). Transportation should be made in clean, well-kept transport vehicles, and the entire process should be run like a public business, even though it’s not generally seen by the families.
- Date of equipment. For reduced greenhouse emissions, it’s important that the crematoriums have updated equipment.
- Refrigeration process. Even though the bodies are being cremated, there are usually several that need to be cremated (one at a time). On-site cold storage should be clean and up to funeral industry standards.
- Body identification. How do they identify and keep the bodies separate? Because all you’ll be receiving is a box or urn of ashes, you must trust that the right body gets to the right person. Ask how their process works and what they do to prevent error.
- Spectator options. Although some people might shudder at the thought of watching a cremation, other families find comfort and closure in witnessing the event. Ask if you are allowed to be either on site or within viewing distance.
- Number of cremations. A crematorium with one retort (one body at a time) cannot do more than 3 or 4 cremations per day. If they schedule more than this, they could be skipping steps like properly cleaning after each body.
- Return of items. Pacemakers are removed prior to cremation, and should be recycled as part of a national recycling program. Other items (like surgical screws or dental gold) should come with an option to return to the families.
- Licensing. As is the case with all funeral industry organizations, the crematorium should be licensed by the state, with the license available for anyone to see.
Visiting a crematorium might not seem like your idea of a good time—especially if your loved one recently passed—but smart funeral consumers can take the time to do this before death occurs. When you pre-plan a funeral or make advance arrangements, you can take your crematorium tour well in advance of death and make your decision with a clear, level head—and trust that you’ll be in good hands when your time finally does arrive.