"Obtaining Death Certificates in Iowa"
102a #102 – Line of Duty Death Date Issued: 09/05/2006 Date Last Revised: 01/06/2007 Purpose: The purpose of this policy is to outline the initial steps to be followed in the event of a line of duty death. This policy outlines steps for notification of family, media, and others. It also outlines the duties of the appointed Public Information Officer and Family Liaison Officer. Policy: An e motiona l a nd tense s ituation occurs at a n inc ident with the death, probable death, or injur ies severe enough that they will like ly lead to the death of a fire fighter. Actions need to be taken to control the s ituation and to prepare for the events whic h will take place. Initial Ste ps : Don’t forget the rest of the incident. Institute a radio discip line policy. Assign a PIO: o Expect a major med ia event. o Use prepared scripts so that the release of infor matio n is conc ise and accurate. o Schedule press conferences. Begin notifications : o Firefighter’s fa mily; Chie f and an add itiona l representative fro m the department s hould notify ( in person) the fa mily o f death and facts related to the inc ident. Ha ve a med ic unit nearby, but out of sight. A fa mily Lia ison s hould re ma in with a nd/or be ava ilable to the fa mily (24hrs) a nd should be the conduit for all infor mation to/from the fa mily. o All fire department personne l o Mayor and City Administratio n o Coroner for an autopsy (refer to Resources Section) Initiate a thorough investigation into the inc ident: o Recover & secure all personal protective equip me nt o Secure the scene – consider it a possible crime scene o Establis h an investigation tea m – should be separate and distinct fro m the fire cause investigation tea m; but, both should work well together. Contact support agencies : o Provide for critica l inc ident stress debriefing and gr ie f counseling for the department. o Iowa State Fire Chiefs Assoc iation o Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office o Polk County Fire Chie fs Association o Polk County Fire Fighters Association o Polk County CISD o Public Safety Officers’ Bene fit Progra m (PSOB) o National Fa llen Fire fighters Foundatio n o Neighbor ing departments 102b #102 – Line of Duty Death Date Issued: 09/05/2006 Date Last Revised: 01/06/2007 Investigative Issues A thorough investigatio n into the cause of the fata lity should be conducted, inc luding the possibility of crimina l activities. Lega l representatio n ma y be required. A full autopsy sho uld be conducted. Secure the scene. Conduct thorough investigation, possib ly with the a id of a local law enforce ment unit – possible crimina l activity may be involved. Due to local or state protocols, the local law enforce ment age ncy ma y conduct an investigatio n. Collect appropriate statements fro m ind ividua ls. Use restraint to collect informatio n. This is not inte nded to suppress the facts, but rather to s uppress incorrect and unnecessary opinio ns. Stick only to the facts. If facts are not known, this sho uld be clearly stated. Recover and secure all protective clothing and equip me nt. Maintain records – interviews, radio tapes, incide nt report, photographs and drawings. Have an autopsy perfor med in accordance with United States Fire Administration, Fire fighter Autopsy Protocol, us ing the post morte m protocol for fire victims. It is essentia l that steps be taken to ensure that the cause and death is accurately reported. Obtain at least six (6) certified copies of the autopsy report and death certificate. These copies ma y have to be requested by the family. Document, Document, Document! Post-incident Issues Assist the fa mily in p lanning the funera l/me mor ia l as they c hoose. This ma y inc lude fire departme nt invo lve ment, transportation, ho me mainte nance, mea ls, childcare, etc. The fire department assigned Family Lia iso n Officer should be the interface between the fa mily, the department and others. Continue to infor m fire department me mbers and offic ia ls of arrange me nts. Solic it loca l law enforceme nt offic ia ls and others for support. This may inc lude assista nce with the investigation, tra ffic control dur ing the funera l and routine checks of the fa mily’s res idence. Monitor department me mbers closest to the inc ident to see how they are dea ling with the loss. Provide for cr itica l inc ident stress debrie fing and gr ie f counse ling for the department as ne eded. Consideration ma y also ha ve to be give n to allow me mbers time o ff to cope with the tragedy. 102c #102 – Line of Duty Death Date Issued: 09/05/2006 Date Last Revised: 01/06/2007 Notifications Ne xt of Kin The importance of the ne xt o f kin notification cannot be over - emphasized. This process sets the tone for the diffic ult times the sur viving fa mily will face. Sensitivity and compassion are important. The na me of the deceased fire fighter must never be re leased by the Departme nt be fore the immediate fa mily is notified. Do not infor m ne ighbors of the death before telling the fa mily. If asked, inform the m yo u need to find the fa mily regard ing a med ical e mer genc y and ask if they k now whe re the fa mily can be found. Family notification s hould be made as quick ly as possib le to avo id the fa mily rece iving a notification fro m another outs ide party. The media may e mp loy ma ny e fforts to seek out the na me of the fa llen fire fighter. Use all necessary meas ures to protect the next of kin fro m unwanted media exposur e. For this reason, a Notification Tea m needs to be assembled rap idly. The tea m s hould cons ist, if possible, o f the Chie f (or the highest rank ing ava ilab le Officer), Chaplin, C lergy (Fa mily b ishop, Pastor, Minister, etc.), Family Lia ison Officer, and a fire fighter fr iend o f the fa mily or c lose c ivilian fa mily fr ie nd. Check the fire fighters file for the ir wis hes and or recommendations. If the falle n fire fighter’s fa mily lives far e nough o ut o f the area as to make the departme nt’s notificatio n impractical, the local F ire Agenc y (or law enforce ment a genc y) in the area should b e notified to make a time ly notification. In the eve nt that the department exper iences the loss of more than one me mber, then multip le notificatio n teams will need to be assembled and deployed. Before arriving at the res idence, ver ify the latest informatio n, decide who will speak and wha t they will sa y. Because of the e motiona l c ircumsta nces invo lved, be prepared for the fa mily to str ike out and blame the fire department for the ir loss. Steps to be taken at the residence: 1. It is reco mmended to have a med ic unit sta ndby near the res idence, but not in view, especia lly if there is a known medica l problem with an immed iate sur vivor. 2. At the door identify yourse lf and ask to come in. (Notification should take place in a private setting.) 3. When ins ide, ensure yo u are notifying the right person. 4. It is important to p ut a ll of the known basic facts into one se ntence. Make sure the message is absolute ly c lear and direct. 5. Begin with, “I have ver y bad news” or “I am ver y sorry to tell yo u.” 102d #102 – Line of Duty Death Date Issued: 09/05/2006 Date Last Revised: 01/06/2007 6. Let the m know what happened, “Your husband/wife d ied responding to a fire,” or “John was killed in a build ing collapse.” (Use the victim’s first na me when appropriate.) 7. Allow the fa mily to express the ir emotio ns. Do not try to talk the m out o f the ir gr ie f. Also, since this is a ver y sad time, do not mask your own gr ief. 8. Provide only the facts you know, never speculate. Answer all questions honestly. If you cannot answer a question, find the correct answer. 9. Avo id the fo llowing p hrases: a) “I k now how you feel” b) “It was God’s will” c) “Life will go on” d) “He would have wanted to go this wa y” e) “Be brave” f) “Passed away.” 10. Ask if the Department can ass ist by notifying immed iate fa mily me mbers (parents, brothers and sisters). 11. Never leave immed iately a fter making the notification. Ha ve at least one me mber of the Department stay with the fa mily – preferably the Family Lia ison Officer. 12. Do not take the victim’s personal ite ms with you. 13. Ask the survivor(s) if the y wish to see the deceased firefighter, even if the body is badly dis figured. People often have a need to see, touch a nd hold the deceased; otherwise they may be in denia l. This is often very help ful in the fa mily gr ie f process. It gives a sense of fina lity. 14. If fa mily me mbers wish to see the fire fighter, arra nge me nts need to be made rapid ly for viewing. Sens itivity to the fa mily is ver y important. Provide the best possib le e nviro nment and avoid delays that he ighte n the family’s anxiety. 15. Offer to transport the fa mily to the locatio n o f the fire fighter, and he lp prepare the m for what they will see. It is highly recomme nded that the fa mily not dr ive the mse lves. If the family ins ists on driving, a unifor med fire fighter sho uld accompany the m in the fa mily ve hic le. (NOTE: I f fa mily me mbers arr ive on the scene dur ing on- go ing operatio ns it is important to identify the m and keep them out of the direct flow of operations, particular ly if the body is still trapped or on the scene.) 16. If you transport the fa mily, advise d ispatch that yo u are tra nsporting the re latives and if possible, tur n off yo ur radio or switch to an alternate channe l. Communicate by phone. 17. If the Departme nt’s Family Lia ison Officer is not present at the notificatio n, the fa mily sho uld be give n the name pr ior to the tea m dep loyment. Wr ite down the ir telep hone and pa ger numbers. If possib le, this person should a lready be known by the fa mily. 18. Advise the fa mily that the Family Lia ison Officer will contact the m to assist with the necessary arrange ments. 19. Advise the fa mily o f possib le med ia calls. Unwa nted media e xposure will o nly add to the difficulty o f the traged y. Suggest that a fr ie nd of the fa mily screen inco ming calls. Offer to be the media spokes person for the family. 20. Assure the fa mily that the ir wishes are important to the Departme nt. 21. Advise the fa mily that an autopsy (re fer to Resources Section) ma y be required and why it is necessary. 22. Ens ure that the fa mily understands that the y do not have to make any immed iate decis ions regarding services, mortuar y, wills, etc. The Department’s Family Lia ison Officer may be able to provide assistance. 102e #102 – Line of Duty Death Date Issued: 09/05/2006 Date Last Revised 01/06/2007 Fire De partme nt Me mbe rs It is very important that a ll me mbers o f the Department be notified o f the death(s) as so on as possible, inc lud ing those off- duty and vacationing personne l. In the event of an on- duty death, the externa l monitoring of fire freque nc ies ma y be extensive. Communicatio ns regarding notifications sho uld be restricted to the telephone whenever possib le . Department personne l sho uld not give out any infor mation about the inc ident unless it is approved by the Chie f or his designee. Me dia The line- of- duty death o f a fire fighter is fortunately a rare occurrence for most fire departme nts. When it does occur, the med ia, as well as ma ny others are interested in obtaining as much de tailed infor mation as possible. Every effort sho uld be made to provide essential facts, but the infor mation provided should be done only after the next o f k in has been notified. Care should be given s o that infor mation critical to an investigation of the inc ident is not compro mised. The Pub lic I nfor mation Officer (PIO), with the approval o f the Chie f, can arran ge for news conferences, wr itte n news re leases and inter views. I nformatio n provided dur ing a news co nference should be prepared in advance. A press kit can be prepared that ma y inc lude Bio(s), p ictures, and service infor matio n. Othe rs Depending on the c ircums tances surro und ing the inc ident, and the fa mily and co mmunity s ituation, notificatio n of the death of a firefighter ma y also be give n to: Local elected or governing o ffic ia ls Iowa State Fire Chiefs Assoc iation and the Iowa State Fireme n’s Association Polk County Fire Chie fs Association Polk County Fire Fighters Association Neighbor ing fire departments Public Safety Officers Bene fit Progra m (1 - 888- 744- 6513) National Fa llen Fire fighters Foundatio n (301- 447- 1365) Elected State and Federal Senators and Rep resentatives 102f #102 – Line of Duty Death Date Issued: 09/05/2006 Date Last Revised 01/06/2007 Public Info rmation Office r ( PIO) – The Pub lic I nfor mation O fficer sho uld coordinate and disseminate, with the approval o f the Chie f, all infor matio n regard ing the Line- of- duty Death. The release of names of injured or deceased fire fighters should nev er be done prior to the notification of the next o f kin. The PIO’s responsibilities ma y inc lude: 1. Coordination and/or presentation o f a ll med ia contacts inc lud ing inter views, news conferences and writte n news re leases. 2. Coordinate the notification o f: a. Local pub lic offic ia ls b. Iowa State Fire Chiefs Assoc iation c. Polk County Fire Chie fs Association d. Polk County Fire Fighters Association e. Neighbor ing fire departments f. Public Safety Officers Bene fit Progra m (1 - 888- 744- 6513) g. National Fa llen Fire fighters Foundatio n (301- 447- 1365) h. Iowa State Fire Marshal i. State and federal elected offic ia ls j. Other related State and local organizations 3. Establis h infor mation te lephone numbers – recorded or live. 4. Prepare press kits – bio(s), pictures, service info, maps, etc. 5. Organize med ia coverage. Use med ia pool coverage to limit and ma nage med ia areas at the service and bur ia l. 6. Prepare printed service programs for viewing and bur ial. 7. Manage VIP arrangeme nts. 102g #102 – Line of Duty Death Date Issued: 09/05/2006 Date Last Revised 01/06/2007 Family Liais on Office r (FLO) – The FLO is the pr imar y fire department connectio n with the family – the conduit for a ll infor mation flow to/fro m the fa mily. The FLO should be ass igned a departme nt vehic le for the entire funera l process and should be available to the fa mily 24 - hours a day by phone or pager. The FLO should be prepared to discuss all parameters of the funeral process and ceremon ies, and to counse l the fa mily in its decis ions. These ma y inc lude, but are not limited to: the of inter nme nt; wake; funera l ho me; re ligious service; ce metery; bur ia l gar ment ( unifor m or other); mus ic; eulogy; procession; reception; child/fa mily care. The FLO needs to know what services the Departme nt can and cannot provide. The Family Lia ison Officer a lso needs to work with the fa mily to obtain necessary documentatio n – autopsy reports (refer to Resources Section), birth and death certificates, marr iage certificates, military records, and ins urance documents. The FLO can assist in obtaining the bene fits d ue the fa mily such as : 1. Public Safety Officers Bene fits 2. Pension/retire me nt syste ms 3. Volunteer Fire Fighters Dependents Bene fits 4. Local ins urance benefits 5. Workers’ Compensation 6. Social Secur ity 7. Veterans benefits 8. Union or State fire fighter related organizations 9. State/Federal education bene fits 10. Other local, state or regiona l organizations 11. Setting up a Family Fund thro ugh a local bank.