Guidelines for Notifying Families of Dead or Missing Loved Ones   [open pdf - 52KB]

"This document is written for leaders, health care providers, and disaster workers who assist local and national authorities following natural disasters, terrorist actions, or other events that result in large numbers of dead, injured, and missing persons. In a natural disaster of great magnitude and scope, multiple countries are directly affected and many nations' citizens from outside the region are killed or missing. In such an event, providing information to families whose loved ones are missing is accomplished by government organizations (including embassies, state department consular staff, and military services) as well as a number of non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross. Nations have different organizations that are likely to be involved. Procedures for notification of the next of kin when a family member or loved one is missing or has been confirmed dead are usually highly structured, formal and depend on the particular citizen's country's laws, customs, procedures, and traditions. Non-local disaster workers will be most successful when acting through local authorities. In the absence of official authorities, guidance can be sought from local personnel who hold a respected place in the affected communities. Local officials should perform the notification whenever possible. Local customs will usually dictate who does the informing, who in the family is informed, documentation of the circumstances of the death (manner and cause of death, condition and location of the remains) and actions yet to be taken, if any, before the body is returned to the family. When a person is missing, the following information will help authorities to communicate with family members: the circumstances at the disaster site, status of efforts to recover bodies, and how remains will be returned. Do not offer guarantees about the time required or assurances that a body will be recovered. "

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Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress: http://www.centerforthestudyoftraumaticstress.org
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