While horror movies sometimes depict an autopsy being done in a cold, echoey room with flickering lights, the reality is a lot more sterile. As described by “Forensic Autopsy” they are typically performed in rooms near the mortuary. They are brightly lit, well ventilated, and specifically built for these procedures. Typically, the techs and forensic pathologists are wearing medical scrubs. In emergency circumstances, however, emergency autopsies have been performed in more unusual ways.

Autopsies sometimes have to be conducted where a corpse is discovered, because the decomposition is so extreme that moving it to a morgue would damage it. This may also be necessary when a body is exhumed in the course of an investigation. Mass-disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes can also necessitate autopsies outside of a morgue.

The disaster manual “Management of Dead Bodies in Disaster Situations” advocates that disaster preparedness should include preparation for autopsies. This requires facilities that will have running water, be well-lit, and has tables of the appropriate size. Ideally, these should be stocked with instruments like scales, hammers, and scalpels. While not every person who dies during a natural disaster is autopsied, it can be highly useful to understand how and when victims were killed. It can also assist in identifying the bodies. In emergencies like these where it is not possible to bring a body to a morgue to be inspected by forensic experts, emergency autopsies have been performed by ordinary doctors with nothing but a kitchen knife.