A Fire Chief’s Guide to Preparing for a Line-of-Duty Death
A fire department does not know when it will have a line-of-duty death or serious injury. Does it have a plan in place? Are personnel records current? 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.
Download Class Materials
To make it easier for you to create or expand procedures and policies for your department, the Foundation offers materials developed for or used in our training class. Feel free to download these materials and customize them to meet the needs of your department.
- Resource Guide: Handling Firefighter LODDs
- Employee Emergency Contact Form
- Planning Considerations for a LODD
- Financial Benefits Checklist
- Helping Families: Suggestions from Survivors
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 being 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: 1) putting together a pre-incident plan for line-of-duty deaths and serious injuries; 2) maintaining up-to-date employee emergency contact information; and 3) 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 and service, and long term.
Module Three deals with 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 persons who are grieving.
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 that offers professional and personal support to senior fire officers through the funeral and afterwards and looks at 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.
Each training team includes a chief, members of fallen firefighters’ families, and a mental health professional. In addition, the Foundation invites family members from the local area of the training to participate.
This course is designed for senior fire officers, career or volunteer, chief officers and senior deputies of federal and state government, honor guard commanders, chaplains, and officials of national and state fire organizations.
To measure the effectiveness of Taking Care of Our Own®, the Foundation sends participants a questionnaire six months after completion of the course. We ask participants what actions they have taken as a result of the course, to provide suggestions, and to share any procedures or plans developed as a result of the program.
Senior fire officers, chaplains, and other personnel told us they have taken the following actions as a result of the training program:
- 81% updated employee emergency contact information
- 62% reviewed and revised an existing plan or policy for line-of-duty deaths
- 59% used the training materials to develop documents and plans in their department
- 76% used the Benefits Checklist and/or the Foundation’s list of state benefits to update information on benefits available to department members
- 39% developed SOPs for line-of-duty deaths
- 42% assigned personnel to key positions such as family liaison, notification team, etc.
The class has led to the development of numerous resources:
- Standard Operating Procedures and other guides developed by agencies and departments whose members participated in the training program are now available through a Resource Clearinghouse on this Web site.
- A Resource Guide containing key materials from the class provides a ready reference for departments to use. The Foundation has disseminated over 30,000 copies of this guide.
- An electronic newsletter gives participants information on updated survivor benefits, legislation related to line-of-duty death issues, and new course materials and resources.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, through a Department of Justice grant, offers a training program to help fire departments prepare for the worst – a line-of-duty death or serious injury. Fire service personnel and families who have lost a firefighter in the line-of-duty helped develop this one-day course called Taking Care of Our Own®. It covers pre-incident planning, survivor notification, family and co-worker support, and benefits and resources available to the families.