Taking Care of Our Own

Fire departments don't know when they will have a line-of-duty death or serious injury. The big question is "Does your department have a plan in place to deal with this issue?" Do you know how to notify survivors in a timely and proper way? Do you know how to access federal, state, and local benefits? If you answered "no" to any of the above, questions, then maybe you should consider the training class: "Taking Care of Our Own." Targeted for senior fire officers and chaplains, this course covers pre-incident planning, survivor notification, family and coworker support, and benefits and resources available for survivors.

A daylong training program sponsored by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, addressing the many issues a chief or chaplain will have to face when a tragedy takes place. Does the department know how to make timely and proper notification to the survivors? Fire chiefs and survivors tell us that most fire departments are not prepared for a line-of-duty death. "Taking Care of Our Own" provides senior fire officers specific information and valuable insights into addressing the multitude of elements that must be addressed when a department suffers such a loss.

In Module One, participants assess their own views and attitudes on key points that the training will cover. Throughout the training, the participants can compare these with some of the principles and procedures suggested. The first module concludes with first-hand experiences of a chief and a family member whose stories set the stage for the rest of the day.

Module Two focuses on the importance of pre-incident planning. It covers; putting together a pre-incident plan for line-of-duty deaths and serious injuries; maintaining up-to-date employee emergency contact information, and knowing what benefits are available to survivors, including the Public Safety Officers' Benefits and State and local support. Class participants discuss ways to support the family immediately after the death, during the funeral planning, the funeral and long term support.

Module Three concerns notification of the survivors. It discusses the five basic principles of notification and lets the participants suggest ways to handle difficult situations.

Module Four presents the basic concepts associated with grief and mourning and explores the challenges of dealing with sudden death. It ends by asking the participants to reframe inappropriate statements commonly made to grieving people.

Module Five examines ways to provide support to members of the department, including the chief. It presents a sequential checklist of actions to take immediately after a line-of-duty death. It explains the Chief-to-Chief network which offers professional and personal support to senior fire officers during the funeral and afterwards. In addition to exploring ways the department can help coworkers of the fallen firefighter. The module ends with suggestions on ways to remember the fallen firefighter.

The training manual appendices contain extensive information including survivor benefits, ways to support the family, examples of line-of-duty death SOP's, funeral protocols, investigations, and other useful resources.

The course is provided free of charge to members of the fire service through a grant that is provided by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The courses are offered in areas all around the country and on scheduled weekends at the National Fire Academy. Approximately 15 classes are offered each calendar year and pre-registration is required. More information and the proper process for registering to take this valuable management training program is available on the Foundation's web site at www.firehero.org.