Chief Concerns: Taking Care Of Our Own: Planning For The Unthinkable

We plan for everything! We pre-plan for fires, hazardous materials incidents, mass-casualty incidents and even for the safety of our people.


We plan for everything! We pre-plan for fires, hazardous materials incidents, mass-casualty incidents and even for the safety of our people. We, as an industry, have embraced the customer service concept, and we do all we can do to provide quality service to our customers, both internal and...


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In Module 2, pre-incident planning is discussed and the major elements to consider for a plan are presented. Valuable information regarding survivor benefits is introduced in this time. Module 3 covers the five principles of notification, with the class divided into groups to brainstorm different ways of handling scenarios on reactions to the notification of a death of a firefighter. Samples of what to say during a notification are examined and participants have the opportunity to practice this difficult task.

Module 4 involves family support. Symptoms of grief and issues related to sudden death are presented and immediate and long-range support that the department can provide a family are discussed. A helpful exercise about interacting with grieving family members also is part of this module.

Modules 5 covers support for the department. This module introduces a “chief-to-chief” network and teaches participants how to access that network after a firefighter line-of-duty death. The kinds of support surviving firefighters need are identified, as are several ways that a fire department can remember the fallen firefighter.

Taylor facilitates the training, bringing a mental health perspective to the process. She has 20 years of experience in critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) and serves as the grief specialist for all National Fallen Firefighters Foundation programs. Taylor is a caring, compassionate person and as well as being an expert in her field. She also has an insider’s view of the fire service family as she is married to a firefighter.

All three are all outstanding presenters. They bring a unique perspective to the issue, are informative and are helpful in establishing the need to pre-plan such an incident. It is truly an honor to hear these three respected individuals present this very important topic.

The class is fast paced and ends too soon. There are many suggestions and exercises that will help every department pull together a plan to deal with a line-of-duty death. The text is easy to follow and has several supporting appendixes. Taylor and members of the foundation encourage departments to use the materials as a guideline. Many of these useful materials can be obtained on a computer disk, reducing the amount of work needed to create a plan for your department.

Fire departments should continue to make safety training their top priority. Our members’ lives must be our first and foremost concern. Preparing for a line-of-duty death should not take anything away from the injury-prevention effort, but should be a part of that process. Take the time to prepare now; this is not something that should be put off until it is needed. We owe it to our people to be prepared to assist their families in this time of tremendous need.

The “Taking Care of Our Own” class is scheduled to be given at least 10 times in 2000, including five sessions at the National Fire Academy on weekends and two during the Fire Rescue International conference in Dallas in August. To learn more about the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and upcoming classes, check out the website at www.firehero.org. The foundation may also be contacted at (301) 447-1365.

Chief Concerns is a forum addressing issues of interest to chief fire officers. Opinions expressed are those of the writer. We invite all volunteer and career chief fire officers to share their concerns, experiences and views in this column. Please submit articles to Chief Concerns, Firehouse Magazine, 445 Broad Hollow Road, Melville, NY 11747.