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


Role of Federal Partners

In the event of a mass-casualty or mass-fatality incident, there are many scenarios in which federal assistance may be needed, or where federal agencies have pre-established responsibilities or jurisdiction. 

The most common MCI/MFI during which this occurs are aviation or passenger rail incidents.  In these situations, the National Transportation Safety Board, the American Red Cross, DMORT, and other agencies have roles and responsibilities outlined in legislation. For more information on the expectation of federal or national agency partners in these events see The Office of Transportation Disaster Assistance.

The following are examples of roles or responsibilities maintained by some key federal or national partners during a disaster. 

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):  In the event of an aviation or passenger rail accident the National Transportation and Safety Board will be the lead agency in establishing and operating a FAC. The NTSB will coordinate assistance efforts with local and state authorities, including the medical examiner, local/county/state law enforcement, an emergency management agency, hospitals, and other emergency support personnel. 

During incidents in which the NTSB does not have a legislated role to coordinate FAC services, the NTSB may serve as a technical advisor to assist local jurisdictions with FAC operations.

Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team (DMORT): DMORT may be activated in the event of a mass-fatality incident if the local medical examiner/coroner’s resources are overwhelmed, to assist with victim identification and mortuary services. DMORT may provide mortuary staff and resources to an incident, as well as a FAC team, to aid in the establishment of a FAC.

American Red Cross: In the event of a legislated aviation or passenger rail accident the American Red Cross is the lead agency of family care and crisis intervention after the accident. As such they will coordinate and manage the numerous organizations and personnel offering counseling, religious and other support services to the operation. If necessary, they will also deploy a Critical Response Childcare Team (CRC) to coordinate on-site childcare services.

In other mass casualty or mass fatality the American Red Cross may be called on to help to provide Mental Health and Spiritual Care support to the FAC or provide other assistance depending on local resources and local plans.

Department of State (DOS): The DOS will assist with providing services to aid in information collection and communications with foreign countries, foreign nationals, or Americans living or traveling abroad. The DOS may assist in gathering antemortem data or DNA reference samples. DOS may also be responsible for notifying foreign governments and families of foreign citizens involved in the incident. The DOS may provide additional interpretation or translation services and assist families of foreign victims with entry into the United States. 

Department of Justice (DOJ): After an incident the DOJ may be able to aid in fingerprint collection and supplementing laboratory assets. In the event that an incident is officially classified as a criminal act the DOJ may coordinate communications with families and friends to gain and provide information about the incident. The DOJ will also be the lead agency on coordinating Crime Victim Assistance for families.