Template Field Operations Guide

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Background and History

The Twin City metropolitan region of the State of Minnesota has been involved in a preparedness, response and recovery cycle in the area of family support and behavioral health for well over a decade.  In the early 2000s local public health and hospital compact program representatives worked in parallel processes of understanding what an assistance center would look like and developing procedures to manage the human impact.  On August 1, 2007, reality hit our community with the collapse of the I-35W Bridge in the heart of the City of Minneapolis. Many of us who had participated in planning and exercised were assigned the responsibility of managing the City’s Family Assistance Center (FAC) and work with the family members of the 13 victims. 
National response organizations recognized the management of the center as a best practice, but the leadership team of the FAC felt we still had a great deal to learn and develop in the wake of that difficult time.  A regional stakeholder group was established to formalize after action tools and plans after the bridge collapse, which in turn established a path of planning, template development and exercise over the next seven years.  The most recent full scale exercise, a test of reunification and assistance center operations named Operation Curtain Call, occurred in the City of Minneapolis on January 16, 2013, and included 746 participants. The resulting After Action Work Group met for the following year to finalize this template for the region. This Field Operations Guide for Reunification and Family Assistance is a product of a deep and compassionate commitment to the survivors, friends and relatives of those impacted by disaster.


We would like to acknowledge the work of the Seattle & King County Advanced Practiced Center, which provided a foundation for us to begin the construction of this guide.


Rodger Amon

Emergency Preparedness Supervisor, Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department

Pam Blixt

Emergency Preparedness Manager, Minneapolis Health Department

Lisa Brodsky

Emergency Preparedness Manager, Bloomington Public Health Department

Jonathan Bundt

Metropolitan Regional Behavioral Health Coordinator, Healthcare System Preparedness Program

Laurie Burns

Coordinator, Metropolitan Medical Response System

Jill DeBoer

Director, University of Minnesota Academic Health Center Office of Emergency Response

Deputy Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy
Toni Hauser

Emergency Preparedness Specialist, Minneapolis Health Department

Jason Matlock

Director, Minneapolis Public Schools Office of Emergency Management, Safety and Security

Janet Mengelkoch

Community Preparedness Specialist, Minneapolis Health Department

Mitch Morey

Assistance Medical Examiner, Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office

Kristi Rollwagen

Manager of Emergency Programs, Metropolitan Airports Commission

Ruth Talford

Local Disaster Coordinator, American Red Cross Twin Cities

Jackie Ulven

Senior Investigator, Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office

Courtney Wetternach

Principal Planner, Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department

Abbreviations Glossary

ADA Americans with Disabilities Act

AED Automatic Electric Defibrillator

ASL American Sign Language

BH Behavioral Health

CPR Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation

DAC Disaster Assistance Center

DBH Disaster Behavioral Health

DMORT Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team

EMS Emergency Medical Services

EOC Emergency Operations Center

EOP Emergency Operations Plan

FAC Family Assistance Center

FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency

FOG Field Operations Guide

FRC Friends and Relatives Center

IC/UC Incident Command/Unified Command

ICS Incident Command System

JAS Job Action Sheets

JITT Just-In-Time Training

MDH Minnesota Department of Health

ME Medical Examiner

MHz Megahertz

MOU Memorandum of Understanding

MRC Medical Reserve Corps

MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets

NECLC National Emergency Child Locator Center

NEFRLS National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System

NOK Next of Kin

NOKR Next of Kin Registry

PFA Psychological First Aid

PIO Public Information Officer

POC Point of Contact

RHRC Regional Hospital Resource Center

SC Survivor Center

TTY Teletype

VOAD Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster


An assistance center may be implemented after any disaster when there may be a need for friends/relatives or groups of individuals to reunite with loved ones, seek information, obtain support and/or connect with services. The event will determine the type of assistance needed at the center. Types of assistance centers include:

  1. Reunification operations

    1. Survivor Center

    2. Friends and Relatives Center

  2. Family Assistance Center

  3. Disaster Assistance Center

An assistance center may be applicable to any disaster including, but not limited to, a mass casualty incident.

Potential target populations served by an assistance center may include:

  1. survivors of the incident;

  2. friends and relatives seeking reunification;

  3. friends and relatives of missing persons seeking information and support; and,

  4. survivors seeking information, resources and services.

An assistance center should be located within close but safe proximity to the disaster location if applicable, and should minimally have the following components:

  1. command area necessary for coordination of operations including tables, chairs, internet connectivity, telephones, etc.;

  2. staff check-in area for the documenting and tracking of initial reporting staff as well as all subsequently reporting staff;

  3. registration area for family/friends and survivors to sign in;

  4. first aid room with licensed staff;

  5. central waiting area/briefing room;

  6. area for food services;

  7. private rooms available for services such as counseling, meditation, or notification; and

  8. space for partner or participating agencies to set up as needed.
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