Initial Response

First Response to a Crisis

When a crisis situation occurs, law enforcement advocates are mobilized quickly to provide crisis intervention services to the victims. The following information will help organize a response for your agency.  Victim Advocates around Colorado are available to assist other agencies. Remember to use this important resource which can be accessed through local partners or the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance.

Elements of an Effective Initial Response

The responsibility of organizing a Victim Assistance Response team will fall to the lead agency and the Victim Assistance Coordinator responding to an incident. A team approach with multiple role players is the best response option. Learn more by downloading the Deployment of Law Enforcement document (pdf, 36.3 KB).  

Identifying and reunifying victims with family and friends can be difficult. Developing a plan to facilitate connecting victims with an advocate who can help with reunification is necessary. Learn more by downloading the Identification and Reunification document (pdf, 31.4 KB).

Crime Victim Compensation is something that victims will want information about following an incident. To learn more about how victims can apply for Crime Victims Compensation, download the Crime Victim Compensation document (pdf, 53.6 KB).

Death notification may be the most important message a family receives from officials. It is essential to work closely with the local Coroner to understand the roles and responsibilities in your jurisdiction.  Learn more by downloading the Coroner and Death Notification document (pdf, 111 KB).

During the initial response to an incident, there are several special needs considerations that need to be factored into a response. Learn more by downloading the Special Needs and Safety Issues document (pdf, 48.2 KB).

Communication

After an incident, effective communication is necessary to keep people informed and safe. A communication gatekeeper who is responsible for overseeing the communication team and working with the victim/family law enforcement advocate and public information officer (PIO) is vital for effective communication. The "gatekeeper" will:
  • Communicate with IT;
  • Establish or determine what social networking tools should be used to disseminate information;
  • Have the ability to obtain authorization for implementing information releases.
Managing the media is usually the role of law enforcement. The media area is established by law enforcement and command staff. At the designated media location the law enforcement advocate may assist with:
  • It may be helpful to assign a Public Information Officer (PIO) to each victim or family;
  • Accessing other agencies for PIO assistance may be needed;
  • Notifying family advocates and family Public Information Officers of information to be covered in press conferences;
  • Assist with families on scene prior to and following the release of information.

Privacy and Confidentiality Considerations

Many responding agencies will have varying confidentiality requirements based on their professions and roles. It is essential to understand and communicate how those roles will interact in a crisis situation. 
  • Advocates should be sure to take victim's name and contact information and their relationship to the event to pass on for follow up by the host agency and the District Attorney's Office, Crime Victim Compensation, and other staff. It could take weeks before a witness list is finalized by an investigator.
  • All information taken by advocates for the District Attorney's office is not privileged and should be limited in scope. Most information will be gathered by investigators. 

Honoring the privacy of victims is an important responsibility. At times, dignitaries or celebrities may want to help victims directly. It is inappropriate to release information directly to these secondary contacts without victim consent. However, that does not mean there should not be some way for government officials (president or local representatives) to arrange a visit and be guided by local authorities. Additionally, many people, including celebrities will want to send gifts. Agencies that receive these items will need to screen them and forwarded to victims and families by way of confidential system personnel, as the contact information of victims may not be releasable.

Hospital Response to Victims

When advocates respond to a hospital, the following issues should be taken into consideration:
  • Supplies to bring such as clip boards, pens/pencils, blank victim contact log, brochures with other hospital contact information, advocate business cards;
  • How many advocates should be sent and roughly how many victims per advocate;
  • Where is the best location for advocates to set up;
  • Instructions as to how to handle families and friends arriving at the hospital;
  • Have a team lead check in at the front/security desk to see how to help or where to set up a reception center;
  • Make sure advocates have team lead contact information;
  • Be sure that the advocate records the name of every person they contacted; 
  • Make sure certain crucial pieces of information are made available, i.e. victim compensation information, local resources, victim rights brochures.

Other Resources