Editor’s note: In part oneof “In the Line of Duty,” David Becker talked about what to do immediately after a line-of-duty death, such as notifying members of your agency. The second part of his column suggests steps to take in the days and weeks following a death.
After the incident
If the employee’s death is the result of an accident or occurs at the scene of an emergency, the on-duty crews will need to be evaluated to determine if they should be relieved of duty for the remainder of their shift. Depending on the employee, they may not want to leave work. Those who ask to leave work should be given that option.
Employees should not leave work until initial interviews are done and all reports related to the incident are completed. Any member of the agency who was there when the incident occurred should prepare a written report of their actions as they relate to the event.
If the body of the deceased can’t be removed immediately after the incident, identify members who wish to assist in that task, if needed.
Depending on your organization, you may need to coordinate or manage the investigation of the line-of-duty death. In most cases, law enforcement officials will do a formal investigation and report their findings to the appropriate agency. The EMS agency should have a group of people who were not on scene or involved in the incident to help coordinate reports and gather information for the incident report. In some cases, members of other local EMS agencies could be asked to help.
There will also be a number of items and documents related to the incident that you’ll need to assemble. They include:
The EMS patient care report on the deceased employee;
- Copies of any dispatch tapes related to the incident;
- Copies of any recordings (audio/video) made on scene;
- All photos taken at the emergency scene;
- Any autopsy reports;
- Documentation of all training records for the employee;
- If vehicle-related, copies of all maintenance records for the vehicle involved and;
- Written incident reports from all members who were at the scene.
Depending on the family’s wishes, your agency could be involved in planning and carrying out a LODD funeral. Putting together a funeral of this nature can require a great deal of planning and preparation in a short amount of time. Areas like honor guards, memorial services, the use of official EMS vehicles in the funeral processions, the funeral service and cemetery procedures will need to be considered, along with information on how the EMS agency can assist the family in the funeral plans. A great resource for planning official funerals for public safety officers is “For Those Who Gave So Much,” written in 1993 by Dwaine E. Booth. I recommend you get a copy for your agency. A second edition was published in 2000.
In the event the family asks the EMS agency to assist in the funeral planning and service, the agency should appoint a funeral officer. They will work with the family, the EMS agency and the funeral home to coordinate the events before and after the funeral. They will also need to be available to the family around the clock.
Members of the organization, both those on the scene and those not, may require follow-up counseling before and after the funeral. In some cases, workers directly involved in the incident may need some extra time to work through the events that resulted in the death.
It is important to put into place a support system for the family that keeps them a part of your organization.
Every year, the National EMS Memorial Service is held to honor EMS professionals who died in the line of duty during the previous year. Make sure that your deceased employee is recognized at this service and make arrangements for the organization and family to attend.
This is not a list of everything that will need to be a part of your planning process. It is simply a general overview of the main areas with some suggestions to consider in your agency’s plan. Taking the time to develop some plans and prepare your management team for what they need to do in the event of a LODD can help minimize the chaos and trauma. You owe it to your employees and their families to be as prepared as you can be should the unthinkable occur.