Emergency Medical Services, like all their emergency response brethren, tend to run towards danger to do what they can to help others, or sometimes each other. Whether a crew’s response is to a medical emergency where there may be the risk of infection, or a trauma such as a car accident where they are in a roadway rendering aid, they face risk. EMTs, Paramedics and all who respond to an emergency dispatch will transverse snow-covered roads, enter homes where they may not know who (or what) is inside, will exert themselves carrying patients and equipment, and even deal with volatile and sometimes dangerous angry outbursts from a patient or family member.
While Line of Duty Deaths in EMS have a lower rate than firefighting, it can and does happen. Agencies need to be prepared to notify the families and survivors of the member, deal with the media and public, help with funeral planning, provide emotional support to those who are grieving and help obtain whatever financial assistance possible. Informing the next of kin BEFORE the media releases the name and possibly gruesome details is a priority and needs to be done IN PERSON by a supervisor or agency officer; ask your agency chaplain to attend if possible. If the next of kin is out-of-town, it is advisable to contact a local EMS agency and ask for their assistance in making the notification so that the news doesn’t travel faster than your compassion. An agency PIO (public information officer) should be assigned to disseminate information to the media to help reduce speculation and rumors. All other members and local agencies should be notified of the LODD by dispatch.
No matter what traditions your agency normally adheres to, the family’s personal preferences and religious requirements take priority when it comes to funeral planning, but your agency should indeed show respect for both the deceased and the family by being present (unless specifically asked not to be). Don’t offer support unless you, and your agency, plan to follow through and rather than say “Let me know if you need something” actually offer specific help. Beyond emotional support and presence, many families will need financial assistance with burial expenses, normal household bills and even future funds to help support growing children. Even though the deceased is no longer there, always remember to invite the family to agency functions, even if they decide not to attend.
Financial help is almost always needed, but it is wise to check with the family before attempting to publicly solicit funds; if everyone is okay with fundraising, check with the bank for their advice as to type of account and how to collect donated funds. Other financial sources may be available depending on your location, your agency resources (such as LOSAP programs) and government funding. Volunteer EMS providers may be eligible for benefits under the Federal Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) Program and/or the N.Y.S. Volunteer Ambulance Workers' Benefit Law (VAWBL). A capable member of your agency should be assigned to assist the family in applying to these sources.
A very helpful online resource to help guide your agency through Line of Duty Deaths and assisting the survivors can be found at https://bit.ly/3dqxd3n.