Template Field Operations Guide

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Primary Agency: NAME OF AGENCY

Supporting Agencies: NAME OF AGENCY




Provide a safe, protected, and supportive environment for families to gather while awaiting information on their missing, unaccounted for, or deceased loved ones (family and friends) following a disaster.

  1. Initiation of a Family Assistance Center

The decision to activate NAME OF AGENCY to coordinate an FAC will come from the Emergency Operations Center or Incident Command Post.

  1. NAME OF AGENCY Responsibilities

  1. Staffing for site management positions.

  2. Coordinate with local and regional partners to provide support services for survivors and their families and friends.

  3. Provide coordination with Incident Command and the Medical Examiner.

  4. Coordinate personnel resources to staff non-leadership positions. (See NAME OF AGENCY’s EOP – Workforce Annex for call up and options for recruitment.)

  5. Assure behavioral health services and support are available for both community members and staff.

  1. Family Assistance Center Functions

The main operational functions of an FAC are:

  1. overall management of the center;

  2. disaster behavioral health support; and

  3. to support the medical examiner’s operations.

Other functions of a family assistance center may include but are not limited to the following:


Agency/Organization: (Examples)

Family briefings

Collection of ante mortem data for identification of human remains

  • Medical Examiner

  • Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT)

Death notification to next of kin

  • Medical Examiner

  • Chaplains

Management/coordination of all family assistance operations, including all involved organizations and personnel

  • Health Department

Family support services:

  • Call center

  • Reception and information desk

  • Spiritual care

  • Behavioral health services

  • First aid/medication

  • Translation/interpreter services

  • Child care

  • Food services/mass care

  • Web Search/Lead Investigation Center (if the mass fatality involves large numbers of missing persons)

  • A wide range of additional services that are based on the incident. These may include: lodging, clothing, transportation, financial assistance, financial services, legal services, crime victims services, etc.

A wide array of agencies, organizations, and volunteers that work collaboratively under the direction of the health department, for example:

  • Human Services & Public Health Departments

  • American Red Cross

  • Salvation Army

  • Faith-based organizations and churches

  • Nonprofit organizations

  • Local volunteer agencies


  1. Site Activation

There are processes already in place that can be used by Dispatch if/when Incident Command determines there is a need for NAME OF AGENCY to coordinate an FAC and/or reunification operations. The EOC has access to the same procedure and would activate NAME OF AGENCY the same way.

  1. Suggested Site Specifications

General Information:

  1. An FAC should be close to the incident site but is preferred to not be in view of the incident when possible. Family/friends should not have to pass the incident site on their way to/from the FAC.

  2. One large FAC is preferred over several smaller ones.

  3. Ideally the FAC could be established (identified and set up) within 12 hours of an incident.

  4. Sites should be community-neutral. Ideally faith-based organizations are not preferred for an FAC site based on complexity of religious beliefs.

Suggested Building Specifications (but not limited to):

Private counseling rooms for behavioral health

  • Recommended ratio of 1:15 private rooms to families

Ante Mortem Interview Rooms

  • Recommended ratio of 1:15 private rooms to families

Childcare Area

  • Preferably have separate space with one entrance and exit

  • If possible, separate into age-appropriate areas

  • Remove all potential hazards (sharp corners/objects, objects with a potential to fall, open sockets and wires, etc.)

  • Recommended ratios of:

  • 1:4 for infants (maximum size of 8)

  • 1:7 for toddlers (maximum size of 14)

  • 1:10 for preschoolers (maximum size of 20)

  • 1:15 for school-age children (maximum size of 30)


Preferably the facility could be locked down to monitor security and control ingress/egress

Loading Docks (if possible)


  • 10 stalls per 300 users


  • Public Transportation

  • Proximity in the community

  • Distance to nearest public transportation should be no more than ¼ mile

  • Visitors should not pass the disaster site to arrive at the FAC, if possible

  • Visitors should not be able to see the disaster site while at the FAC, if possible

  • FAC site should have accessible road or transportation to area hospitals



  • Should have no known disruption to communications services

  • WiFi preferred

  • Charging stations

  • See the Equipment and Supplies document in the Attachments section.

  1. Initial Setup

An FAC 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 service

  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.

  1. Security Assessment

A security assessment of the FAC site must be made prior to starting operations. Law Enforcement is responsible for this assessment, unless they have delegated the task to another qualified entity. The following list is a general outline of the basic security assessment that should be performed:

  1. Inside the Site

  1. Ensure safety and security of the facility.

  2. Walk through the entire facility to ensure the facility is safe.

  3. Secure all doors.

  4. Limit points of entry to the facility.

  5. Designate one entrance and a separate exit.

  6. Post security personnel at entrance, exit and other vital locations.

  1. Outside the Site

  1. Secure perimeter and parking facilities.

  2. Ensure media and the general public are kept away from the entrance and exit. Develop awareness where media will be permitted by law on public spaces such as sidewalks or park land.

  3. Appraise incident command or the branch director of any issues related to securing the site and ensuring safe passage for family members.

  1. Security Guidelines

  1. Security personnel at each location will be clearly identified (such as wearing a law enforcement uniform) and visibly positioned in strategic locations in the facility.

  2. Security will maintain a presence at the FAC daily from open to close for the duration of the FAC operation.

  3. Security will secure the facility at the end of each day.

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