The specific content of each family briefing will depend on the situation. The PIO or the Deputy PIO should work with the ME, the FAC Site Manager, and other response agencies to develop the agenda for each briefing. Below is a suggested agenda for a family briefing:
Media Frequently Asked Questions about Family Assistance Centers
Q. What is a Family Assistance Center?
A. A Family Assistance Center is a secure facility established to serve as a centralized location to provide information and assistance about missing or unaccounted for persons and the deceased. It is also established to support the reunification of the missing or deceased with their family members.
Q. Who can come to the Family Assistance Center?
A. Any member of the missing or deceased person’s “family” may attend the Family Assistance Center. “Family” may include any individual (family, friend, partner, distant relative) that considers them to be a part of the victim’s family, even if there is not a legal familiar relationship. This may include people other family members characterize as family.
Q. What do family members need to bring to the Family Assistance Center?
A. All family members visiting the Family Assistance Center need to bring photo identification if possible. Upon entering the facility all family members will receive a unique badge. Each family will be interviewed at the Family Assistance Center. Information necessary for a family interview will include a physical description of your family member, including any identifying marks they may have with photographs if available, descriptions of jewelry or clothing, and the contact information of your family member’s dentist and physician. Do not bring original or photocopies of any medical or dental records. In addition, please provide any information you may have as to their last known whereabouts and anyone they may have been with.
Q: How do people report their family members missing?
To report a family member missing, following a disaster, call the Family Assistance Center. The Family Assistance Center will also have up to date information on the current status of the incident and the available missing person support.
Q. How can people help find their family member?
A. As a family member or friend they may have key information that can aid in finding your family member. Communicate all information to the Family Interviewer regarding their family member. They can also help by checking with the missing person’s friends, school, work, neighbors, relatives, or anyone else who may know their whereabouts. Search web based programs to locate family members including social networking sites, the American Red Cross Safe and Well site, and any other internet sites set up to assist in finding family members. Follow up frequently with any contacts and keep the Family Interviewer informed of any developments.
Q. What happens if victims are not found?
A. If the Family Assistance Center has closed and people have not yet been found, their case will be transferred to local law enforcement to continue investigation.
Q. Why can’t people visually identify my family member’s remains? Why must they wait for a scientific identification?
A. For legal reasons, the Medical Examiner’s Office is required to establish positive identification on all victims of this incident. In most instances, positive identification requires scientific confirmation, either through DNA, fingerprints, or x-ray comparisons. The Medical Examiner’s Office is working as quickly as possible to establish positive identification of decedents.
Q. Why is it taking so long to identify the victims?
A. The first step of the identification process is to confirm, through scientific means that your family member is deceased. This requires obtaining medical or dental x-rays, or waiting for fingerprint or DNA confirmation, all of which can take some time. After positive identification establishes that someone is deceased, the Medical Examiner will continue the identification process to insure that as much of the decedent’s remains are positively identified as possible.
Will autopsies be done? Can someone choose not to have their family member’s body autopsied?
A. The Medical Examiner’s Office is required by law to determine the cause and manner of death. In almost all incidences, this will require an autopsy examination. An autopsy is a surgical procedure performed by a medical doctor (forensic pathologist). The Medical Examiner’s Office recognizes that every decedent is a treasured member of a family and of a community and as such, treats each decedent with the highest respect and dignity. The Medical Examiner is required by law to certify the cause and manner of death; they do not require permission of the next of kin to perform an autopsy on a death under their jurisdiction.
Q. How are cultural beliefs being honored by the Medical Examiner?
A. The Medical Examiner’s Office will do their best to honor cultural traditions but cannot do so if it impedes the ability to certify cause and manner of death