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Providing Relief to Families After a Mass Fatality: Roles of the Medical Examiner's Office and the Family Assistance Center

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2002
19 pages
Publication Series
This document focuses on working with families of crime victims after a mass fatality, and is offered to medical examiners and coroners for guidance.
Experiences gained from mass-fatality incidents, including the Oklahoma City bombing, reinforce the need to impose the structure of a family assistance center on an otherwise chaotic event. In most cases the response falls on the medical examiner or coroner that is local to the incident. In a mass fatality event, procedures must be established and followed to collect antemortem data, conduct death notifications, coordinate and manage many volunteers, determine fiscal responsibility for expenses, dispose of common tissue, establish victims’ suffering, implement security measures, and work with the media. The establishment of a family assistance center is necessary to facilitate the exchange of information and address the families’ needs. The effective operation of a family assistance center depends on many organizations and individuals working together as a team, the establishment of a chain of command, and the selection of a site that is acceptable to all the individuals and agencies that will be working there. Site selection considerations for the Family Assistance Center include availability of facility, infrastructure, and space and floor plan. In any mass fatality, it is extremely important to be humane and considerate when notifying next of kin after identification has been made. Decisions about how to accomplish this may differ in different mass-fatality events. When a mass-fatality event occurs, the community should already have in place a crisis response plan to effectively respond to the needs of victims and families. Brief summaries of the victim support tasks performed by the National Transportation Safety Board, American Red Cross, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Department of Justice are included. 6 notes, bibliography

Date Published: November 1, 2002