Goals and Objectives
The goal of this toolkit is to create an online resource for local health departments and other emergency response organizations to learn about and access tools to support planning and operating a Family Assistance Center.
The objectives of this toolkit are to help local health departments:
- Develop tools and templates to guide planning and for use during operation of a Family Assistance Center
- Develop guidelines for communities to scope and plan for a Family Assistance Center
How to Use This Toolkit
Use this toolkit as a planning guide. It is designed to lead you through basic steps in the process of developing a FAC plan. Model tools and templates are also included to use as you equip your organization and your community to provide family assistance services in an emergency or disaster. The FAC plan you develop should serve as an annex or accompaniment to your local mass-casualty or mass-fatality incident plan. This planning will also complement, and should be coordinated with, your local disaster behavioral health planning activities.
This toolkit is made up of four primary sections:
- Prepare to Plan: This section provides background and information to help you prepare for a planning process. This includes a discussion of the purpose of FACs, key terminology and definitions, and tips for assessing your current capabilities and identifying your starting point.
- Components of the Plan: This section provides an overview and guidance for the major sections of your Family Assistance Center plan including the define your purpose and scope, establish your planning assumptions, and develop your concept of operations. The concept of operations section includes details on the major components of your FAC operations, such as behavioral health services, victim information, call center operations, as well as tools to assist you with the logistics of operating a FAC.
- The Role of Federal Partners: This section provides an overview of key roles and responsibilities of federal agencies that are common in some FAC operations. This includes information on the National Transportation Safety Board, the Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team, as well as the American Red Cross, a key local and national non-governmental agency partner.
- Training Resources: This section provides a list of training tools, sites, and resources that may be useful to your and your partners.
Over the last several years Public Health – Seattle & King County (Public Health) has worked with partners throughout the county to develop a concept of operations plan for providing family assistance services during mass casualty and mass fatality incidents. The primary focus of this work has been planning to operate a FAC. As the lead agency for Emergency Support Function - 8 (ESF 8) Public Health and Medical Services, PHSKC as an important role in helping to coordinate the planning for mass-casualty and mass-fatality incidents. As a part of a comprehensive health, medical, and mortuary response, our concern is both addressing the physical well-being of the injured and the respectful handling of the deceased, but also the overall social and psychological well-being of the survivors, their loved ones, and the responders.
In King County, PHSKCas the unique role of housing the County Medical Examiner Office. While this organizational relationship is not customary for many local health departments, the difference in mission, functions, and organizational culture between the Medical Examiner Office and other aspects of PHSKC are similar to many other communities. Successful planning for mass-fatality incidents has required us to work together, learn more about each other’s roles and responsibilities, understand our respective goals, and develop collaborative strategies for best meeting the needs of our community members during a disaster. It has also required us to reach beyond our own department to build a collaborative planning team with multiple stakeholders including law enforcement, emergency management, fire and EMS, healthcare organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other community partners in order to develop a community-wide family assistance plan.
In order to share some of the tools and lessons from our work, PHSKC has partnered with the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) to produce this FAC planning toolkit. We hope you find the toolkit to be a helpful guide as you develop or enhance your own FAC plans.
Comprehensive Resource Descriptions
Identify Your Partners
Partner Roles and Responsibilities Matrix: The partner roles and responsibilities matrix outlines many of the local partner agencies and identifies possible roles they can fill in a Family Assistance Center. This document can aid in training and mobilizing partners following an incident.
Review Your Current Capabilities
Planning Considerations Checklist: This checklist is a tool to aid in assessing the current status of family assistance planning in a region or organization. It will also act as a prompt to suggest actions that you could take for further planning.
Activating FAC Operations
Activation Checklist: This form should be used to aid in setting up a Family Assistance Center to establish an appropriate level and size Family Assistance Center, and outline all services that will be provided at the site.
Demobilization Checklist: This checklist outlines items that should be considered when demobilizing a Family Assistance Center Facility, as well as action items that should be addressed when a Family Assistance Center is closing.
Mass Fatalities Family Assistance Activities: This chart outlines that major purpose, location, services, and special considerations that should be taken into account while planning for specific family assistance activities.
Support Agencies Contact Information: This worksheet can aid in organizing possible support agencies that help establish primary services within a FAC.
Family Reception Services Guidelines for Hospitals: These are guidelines for hospitals on how to set-up, staff and operate a Family Reception Services area within the hospital, to support families seeking information about missing or injured family member, before a Family Assistance Center is established.
Family Assistance Center Services
Family Assistance Center Functions: This document outlines many of the primary services provided at a FAC and the agencies or organizations that may be responsible for those services.
Family Assistance Center Services: This checklist outlines the primary services that should be represented in a FAC, as well as the support services that could also be necessary depending on the incident.
Operations Overview: At the end of each operational period this form should be filled out by the planning section and submitted to the FAC Director or Command Staff. The information can be used to inform planning and operations.
Cultural/Religious Considerations in FAC Planning and Operations: This document outlines many of the areas that should be considered when establishing Family Assistance Center operations including religious, cultural and linguistic differences.
Cultures and Religions Overview: These charts outline many of the religious customs and beliefs that should be considered when establishing and operating a FAC and interacting with families.
Reception and Registration
Family Registration/Check-in Protocol: This protocol outlines all of the necessary steps, staff, and forms involved in family registration and check-in.
Family/Friend Registration Form: This form is used at the reception desk for family members and friends that come to the Family Assistance Center seeking information about their family member. This form can be used in addition to an electronic sign in system and then entered/transcribed, or in place of an electronic sign in system.
Family/Friend Daily Sign-in Sheet: Each day every family member must sign in using this form at the registration desk to ensure that the appropriate people are at the Family Assistance Center
Family Resource Packet: The family resource packet is designed to be given to the families during registration to provide them some key information about the Family Assistance Center. The family resource packet include information on what services are provided, general rules, information that they will be asked, and answers to frequently asked questions.
- Family Letter: This document is a letter to the families of the victims from the Local Health Officer (or his designee). This should be written just in time and included in the Family Resource Packet.
- Important Information for Families: This document outlines some key information about the Family Assistance Center processes that families may need to know.
- Services Provided at the Family Assistance Center: This document is meant to outline all services provided at the facility as well as any special considerations with those services, including hours of operations. This document must be updated with current information before a facility is opened.
- Map of the Family Assistance Center: This will be a map of the actual Family Assistance Center facility. This document must be updated with a current map before a facility is opened.
- Web Resources for Finding Your Family Member: This document is meant to provide families with several resource they should consider accessing to help find their missing family member.
- Family Interview Information: This document outlines the information that families will be asked to provide during a family interview. Families should be given access to telephones, computers, and other assistance to attempt to find the information necessary to answer interview questions.
- How Identification is Made: This document outlines the methods that the Medical Examiner/Coroner will use to make a scientific identification of the decedent.
- Frequently Asked Questions When your Family Member is Missing: This document answers many of the questions that families may have about the investigation process if their family member is missing. The Missing Persons Group may wish to address many of these questions during the family briefings.
- Frequently Asked Questions When you Family Member is Deceased: This documents answers many of the questions that families may have for the medical examiner/coroner regarding the victim identification process. A representative from the ME/Coroner’s office may wish to address many of these questions/concerns in the family briefings.
- Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family: These are resources for family members to help them take care of themselves and their families following an incident. These resources are meant to be supplemented by any other mental health or spiritual care resources available from the behavioral health providers.
- Notifying Government and Financial Agencies: This is a guide for families to notify the appropriate agencies once the Medical Examiner/Coroner has scientifically identified their family member.
- Credit Reporting Agency Notification: This is an example notification letter that families can be filled out and sent to credit reporting agencies to notify them that their family member is deceased.
- Resources/Contact Information: This document provides contact information of some key resources for families. This document must be updated with current contact information for these agencies and any other necessary resources before a facility is opened.
- Notes: These pages are designed to give families a place to take notes during their time at the Family Assistance Center.
Family Briefing Protocols: This document outlines the necessary steps and staff required to set up and run family briefings.
Example Family Briefing Agenda: This example agenda outlines some topics that should be covered at family briefings. Not all topics will be relevant to every briefing and more may need to be added depending on the incident.
Media Frequently Asked Question about Family Assistance Centers: This document answers many of the frequently asked questions by the media about Family Assistance Center operations. The PIO may wish to go over many of these questions in their briefings with the media.
PIO Cheat Sheet: This sheet is meant to assist PIOs in gathering information for their briefings with the media. This sheet is not meant to be given to the media but used as an aid in compiling data.
Information Flow through the Victim Information Branch: This flow chart outlines how information will flow throughout the Victim Information Branch and to other operations. This chart shows the importance of information sharing and communication within the Victim Information Branch and with the larger incident operations in finding and identifying missing persons.
Missing Persons Call intake form: This document is meant to be used by missing persons call center staff when receiving calls from families/friends about missing persons. If an electronic call center intake form is available you can use this document and then enter/transcribe the information. If an electronic call center intake form is not available scan the form to keep an electronic copy and then file the form in the case file.
Missing Persons Protocol: This protocol outlines the responsibilities and staff involved in the Missing Persons Group, the Patient Tracking Unit, the Shelter Unit, and the Web Search Unit. It also outlines how information will be shared and how partners will be contacted concerning missing persons.
Family Liaison Team Theory and Process: Family Liaison Teams are created in larger event to provide families with a core group of people that will help them with the interview and notification processes. This document outlines the purpose, core concepts, and process for implementing family liaison teams for a Family Assistance Center.
Family Interview Protocol: This document outlines the process, staff and forms involved in the family interview process. Family Interviewers should be trained individuals what have experience dealing with grieving families.
Missing Persons Form: The Missing Persons Form is one method that could be used in collecting antemortem data from families. The form provides the information necessary for the Medical Examiner/Coroner to make a scientific identification and the Missing Persons Group to investigate a missing person. If an electronic records and tracking system is available the contents of the missing persons form should be entered or scanned into the system. If an electronic system is not available the forms should be scanned to keep an electronic copy and paper copies should be filed.
DMORT VIP Form: The VIP form is a form used by DMORT to collect antemortem data from families and friends about the suspected missing person at the Family Assistance Center. This form can be used if DMORT is assisting or if the Medical Examiner/Coroner deems necessary. If an electronic records and tracking system is available the contents of the VIP form should be entered or scanned into the system. If an electronic system is not available the forms should be scanned to keep an electronic copy and paper copies should be filed.
Dental Records and DNA Sample Release Form: The Medical Examiner/Coroner is not required to attain written consent to access medical or dental Records for the purpose of identification, but if a person is missing and it is not known if they are deceased it is important to gain written consent from the family to access dental records and collect DNA sample to find their family member. This form is an example of a release form for family member to sign.
Medical/Dental Records Request Form: This letter is an example of a request form that Medical Examiner/Coroner should use to request medical or dental records from healthcare providers for the purposes of identification.
Medical/Dental Records Protocol: This document outlines the process, staff, and forms involved in requesting and receiving medical/dental records from healthcare providers for the Medical Examiner/Coroner.
DNA Protocol: This document outlines the process and staff involved in collecting DNA samples from personal items or close family members.
Requested Records Log: This form tracks all requests for records relating to an individual victim/missing person and should be kept with the victim’s file.
Case File Cover Sheet: This cover sheet should go at the front of all victim case files to document all changes and additions made to the file as well as who accessed/viewed each file and when it was checked in and out. This document is very important in maintaining the integrity of information and confirming the chain of evidence.
Notification Protocol: This protocol outlines all of the procedures, staff and forms required for making all of the different types of notification that may occur at the Family Assistance Center. This could include Hospital/Shelter notifications, Missing Persons notifications, Tentative notifications, and Death notifications. All notification staff should be trained and have experience working with grieving families.
Decedent Affairs Protocol: This document outlines all the processes, staff and forms required for the decedent affairs unit. The decedent affairs staff will assist families will disposition arrangements and personal effects release.
Remains Release Authorization: This form is used to release the remains of the decedent to the legal next of kin, and to the designated funeral home or mortuary services.
Personal Effect Release: This form is used to release personal effects of the decedent to the legal next of kin. Descriptions of the personal effects should be complete and as detailed as possible.
Behavioral Health Annex: This annex outlines the main purpose and services of the behavioral health unit. It also provides an overview of job qualifications, required resources, and operating procedures.
PHRC Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team Qualifications: This document is an example of the job qualifications necessary for staff that will work on the Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team.
Psychological First Aid Worksheets for Providers: These worksheets will aid providers in assessing clients within the FAC facility and referring clients to outside behavioral health assistance.
Psychological First Aid Handouts: These handouts provide clients with tools to recognize common behavioral health responses after an incident. These forms can be useful tools to give to a client, but could also be used by providers
Behavioral Health Services Referral Form: This form is meant to be filled out by behavioral health providers to refer a client to behavioral health services not provided at the Family Assistance Center. This form is meant to be given to the family member with the contact information of the services recommended.
Behavioral Health Position Checklists and Job Descriptions: These checklists outline the main job responsibilities of Behavioral Health staff members at the Family Assistance Center. These job descriptions outline the qualifications required and main operations responsibilities of Behavioral Health staff positions in the FAC
Childcare Set-up Guidelines: The pediatric safe area table provides some guidelines on resources to consider when setting up a childcare area. The sign-in/out-sheet can be used to help document the flow of people in and out of the childcare areas.
Secondary Services Referral Form: This form should be filled out by behavioral health providers or other family assistance staff to refer a client to secondary services not provided at the FAC. This form is meant to be given to the client with the contact information of the services recommended.
Prospective Site Assessment Worksheet: This document can be used in preplanning to establish possible FAC sites, or just in time to provide suggested guidelines and site assessment tools. This document outlines planning considerations when setting up a FAC including the type of facility, room specifications, all of the services that can be provided at the facility, and suggested specification for a FAC.
Scalable Org Chart for FAC: This organization chart is an example of all of the possible units that may need to be activated for a Family Assistance Center Facility in an event. Depending on the size and type of the event some functions may not need to be activated or can be combined. This example also does not include some units that may support a Family Assistance Center but may be located off site (e.g. at an Emergency Operations Center)
Staffing Overview: This document lists all potential staffing positions and suggested numbers necessary to run a Family Assistance Center. Depending on the size and type of incident some positions may not be necessary or could be combined.
Equipment and Supplies: This document outlines all of the necessary equipment to set up and run a Family Assistance Center. To calculate the equipment needs of a specific size facility, fill out the Resource Breakdown by Functional Area and the Staffing Overview chart and then complete the General/Scalable Guidelines for Supplies to total up the supplies.
Sample FAC Floor Plan and Guide: This document outlines some basic guidelines to follow when creating a floor plan for a Family Assistance Center Facility. This floor plan is an example of a Family Assistance Center facility lay out for a catastrophic event. The floor plan is not drawn to scale or based on any specific facility space.
Site Scaling Guide: This document gives a basic scaling guide for a Family Assistance Center site. To use the chart enter the number of casualties from the incident in the cell and press enter, all other cells will automatically populate giving you a suggested guideline for facility size.
Position Matrix:This matrix outlines the missions of all of the sections, groups, units and teams outlined in the org chart. In addition it gives suggestions on possible sources of staff for each of the functional areas.
Example Position Checklists and Job Descriptions: These checklists outline the main job responsibilities of many of the staff positions outlined for the Family Assistance Center. These job descriptions outline the qualifications required and main operations responsibilities of staff positions in the FAC
Staff Confidentiality Agreement: The staff confidentiality agreement should be signed by all staff working and visiting the Family Assistance Center to ensure the security of confidential information about the families and victims.
Staff Daily Sign-in Sheet: All staff must check in and out of the Family Assistance Center each day using this form.
Role of Federal Partners
Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996: The aviation disaster family assistance act of 1996 outlines the roles of responsibilities of federal and local partners following a commercial aviation accident. In these cases the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is responsible for overseeing and coordinating Family Assistance Center Operations.
Rail Passenger Family Assistance Act of 2008: The rail passenger disaster family assistance act of 2008 outlines the roles of responsibilities of federal and local partners following a passenger rail accident. In these cases the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is responsible for overseeing and coordinating Family Assistance Center Operations.
*Last updated 2012