Coordination and Communication

Coordination After An Incident

When victims/survivors are allowed to return to the scene of an incident by law enforcement, it is essential that there are support personnel, usually victim advocates, present to accompany the victims. Usually there are specific days and time scheduled for this to occur. It is important to remember that delays in retrieving personal items such as medication, medical devises, vehicles, wallets may have a huge impact on the victims being able to return to daily life. Victim advocates should work with victims in obtaining resources for those items that may not be able to be released to them in a prompt manner. 

Family members of the deceased may not want to return to the incident site to retrieve their loved one's personal items so arrangements must be made to collect those items and return them to the victim's family members. 

Family Assistance Centers are designed to provide services and information to the family members of those killed an injured, as well as those people otherwise impacted by the incident.  Family Unification Centers may be set up after the utilization of a Reunification Center, which is set up immediately after an incident. For the purposes of this toolkit, a Reunification Center is the term being used as the designated place used to reunify victims and their family members immediately after an incident or for family members of victims who were killed or injured to seek information and services. Family Assistance Center is the term being used in this toolkit as the place for victims and family members to get information and services once the reunification center is no longer being utilized. For more information on Family Assistance Centers please download the Family Assistance Center document (pdf, 91.5 KB).


Keeping people informed about what is happening during and after an incident, in a timely manner, is a key component of an effective community response to a crisis. If there are a large number of victims in the case, establishing a method for timely and accurate information is important. A full overview of communication tips is provided in the Communication Opportunities document (pdf, 199 KB). 

Communicating vital, relevant, and accurate information is paramount for an effective response to an incident. The news media plays a vital role in providing information following a mass tragedy. However, victims may be actively pursued by the news media for interviews, pictures, and other pieces of information. It is important to continue to talk with victims/survivors about the decision of whether or not they want to talk to the media. It is suggested that each victim is provided a knowledgeable person to coordinate media requires so that the media is not contacting victims/survivors directly. 

One effective way to work with news media is to ask them to publish information about what mental health resources are available throughout the state. The reason to ask them to promote resources across the state is because large scale incidents can trigger other mental health issues in seemingly unconnected areas. 

Another option is to ask media outlets to ask qualified crisis counselors to talk about trauma symptoms and treatment. Some television stations may be willing to have counselors on-site so that members of the public can call in and speak directly to a qualified counselor to discuss their specific issues.

Social media, and the world wide web more generally, has become a go to source of information for many individuals. In the event of an incident or a tragedy, the world wide web or people's social media feeds are now sometimes the first place people will check to get an up-date on what's going on. This makes platforms such as social media a useful tool for communication after a mass tragedy. However, the same things that make this tool valuable - near instantaneous updates, two-way communication, and anonymity - of information transmission can also create their own sets of problems. For instance, after a traumatic event, victims might be re-traumatized by some of the things people post on social media. Furthermore, because of the rapidity of information put out through social media, it can  be difficult to find the most relevant, and accurate information about what has happened during an incident. Here are a few things to consider about social media when responding to an incident:
  1. Victims should be told how utilizing social media could potentially jeopardize any criminal investigation or prosecution of an incident.
  2. Not all things posted online are accurate or provide the whole picture of a situation.
  3. Threats can be made to victims and their families through social media sites.
  4. Social media and other online public forums can be used therapeutically to foster sympathy, empathy, or compassion for victims. Conversely, these same forums may also be places where others post thoughts to solicit sympathy, empathy, or compassion towards the person(s) who committed the crime which resulted in someone else's victimization.
  5. On people's personal computing devices (e.g. smart phones, laptops, desktops, tablets) certain settings within the devices, if not switched-off, can divulge a person's location which can jeopardize the safety of the victims. 

Related Links

  • Propagating the fear and grief caused by acts of violence has the potential to satisfy those who commit them. more >> 
  •  Social media and risk communication during times of crisis. more >>

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Effective partnerships among community members is a vital part of an effective community response to a disaster. Learn more about community partnerships by visiting the partnerships web page.