Creating and Operating a Family Assistance Center - A Toolkit for Public Health

SUPPORTING FAMILIES DURING TIMES OF CRISIS

Call Center Operations

A call center or crisis hotline is a critical component of FAC operations and provides an important communications link to families and the public that are seeking information about their loved ones. It serves three primary functions:

  • To provide a centralized number for families or the public to call regarding inquires about their loved ones. This may help reduce the number of calls to other local emergency lines, such as 911, or to hospitals.
  • To collect missing persons reports regarding individuals that are unaccounted for following a mass-casualty or mass-fatality incident.
  • To serve as the primary communication point for families and to funnel and triage all calls to the FAC. They can be referred to the appropriate units within the FAC when needed, such as to complete a family interview.

The call center should be activated as soon as possible after an incident, ideally within two hours and should operate 24/7. It can be located off-site, and does not need to be physically located at the FAC.

The following are recommendations regarding call center operations:

  • The call center operations should be coordinated with the Joint Information Center.
  • Call center operations involve interacting with callers who may be in a high state of stress, trauma, or grief. Call takers should be appropriately trained to handle basic crisis intervention strategies, strategies for talking to individuals about death and should understand the sensitive and confidential nature of many of the calls.
  • The call center should have access to a resource guide that includes local community resources, as well as services available specifically as a result of the disaster.
  • Call takers should log each call and have forms, or a database available, to document information about each caller, the person they are calling in regards to, and how the call was managed.
  • Call takers should have access to the most current information about the incident including:
    • Services available at the FAC,
    • Daily family briefing updates,
    • Press releases,
    • Resource information such as lodging and transportation, and
    • Lists of injured, unaccounted for, and known deceased.
  • Thorough documentation of all call center activities should be maintained on a daily basis and summary information or key issues, problems and concerns should be brought to the attention of the FAC director.
  • Call takers should have resources available to refer callers needing immediate assistance, such as care from a spiritual care or mental health provider.

Resources

Call Center Intake Form