WFF Family Outreach Recovery Programs

The tough part of being acquainted with the Wildland Firefighters Foundation is that you are probably here because of a loss. For that we are so very sorry.  We wish that were

not the case but if it is, please know that you are surrounded with friends, please feel safe and feel assured that we genuinely do care about you. We are dedicated to you and will be here for you when you need us.

It’s important that you know and feel confident, that you are not alone.

Within our Family Outreach Programs, we teach a variety of recovery tools and we hope that you might find them useful. The first tool that we teach and encourage that you make a habit is the tool of focus. We want focusing to be a natural part of who you are. I would like to suggest that you make a conscious and concentrated effort to practice making focus a part key part of your world starting today. It has proven to be one of the most valuable new habits that you can master.

At this juncture, I often hear one of two responses to this suggestion and they are: 1) I am focused; or 2) I can’t focus and it’s too much to ask me to right now. The second response is the more authentic reality. If you feel certain that you are in focus, I am happy for you and that is good but I would like to suggest that you continue reading and practice working on the ‘tool of focus’, anyway.

  • Choose a trigger word that feels somewhat like a reprimand to you. Mine is bogus which reminds me that it is bogus to practice negative behavior.
  • Make a promise to yourself to pay careful attention to what people are saying to you. Listen so carefully, that you could repeat the conversation accurately.
  • Drive with your attention completely on how your hands feel on the wheel, know that your mirrors are in perfect alignment, know where you are, how fast you are going and details around you. In fact, drive somewhat like you did when you were first learning how; exaggerate paying attention.
  • Read with such focused attention that you don’t need to go back and re-read what your eyes just scanned over.
  • Watch television; a sitcom or a movie with such focused attention that it does not take the realization that the credits are rolling before you are aware that you missed the entire program.
  • Do not find yourself regretting having not heard what a child was saying to you or the shared thoughts of a special friend who needed your listening heart.
  • When you catch yourself daydreaming, slap your hands together sharply and firmly say your focus word. The hand clap will sting a little, the noise of your hands clapping provide audio as well as your voice saying your trigger word giving you a clear reminder that you had checked out. Practice doing this now. The action will bring you back into focus quickly.
  • This exercise is effective but it takes work and dedication to make living in focus, your new habit.

Please… take a focus walk everyday. It will do so many things for you. First, a focus walk has a specific protocol with a specific purpose. Anything more that happens and makes you feel better, only enhances it. However, it’s important to follow the rules, when you take your focus walk. Wear comfortable walking shoes, comfortable clothes and appropriate to the weather conditions. A focus walk should be taken at least once every day and preferably two or three times each day. The suggested distance that you should walk is easily determined by you. Walk as long or as little suits you. The more you practice, the easier it is to establish the habit yet it’s up to you. Once you step out of the door, be very aware of what you hear, see, smell and feel. What you see, what do you hear what do you smell and what do you feel? Feel the temperature of the air on your cheeks. Is it cool? Is it warm? Is it nippy? Do you feel heat from the warmth of the sunshine? Is there a breeze and do you feel it in your hair or around your face? Listen to the sounds of your own footsteps, actually see the neighbors smiles, smell the soft fragrance of the season, touch the bushes you walk by. Enjoy the unlimited opportunities to hear, see, smell, feel and know. Be able to recall what you saw, felt, smelled and heard on your walk when you get home from each one of them. If you tell me that you don’t need to do this, and that you are already focused, I will smile and tell you how glad I am for you. If you tell me that you might work on the focus tool, I will support you and encourage you to work on it with all due diligence. It’s so important and it helps in a plethora of ways. The first thing you will notice as you start to practice learning how to focus, is that it’s not as easy as it initially sounds. The second thing you will notice is just how out of focus you have been.

If there is anything that we can do please contact us. You can view our resources to find more information.

PDF Resources

This information is suggested only to help you get started. Please call for further details.

The information contained in this Tool Kit is to help those of you who have been designated to help with a fatality and/or line of duty death. It will help you with the initial needs of the families as they begin to deal with the loss they have just experienced. This information was compiled from a number of sources, including our own survivor family members. Please keep in mind this is a work in progress. We appreciate all input and encourage you to help us keep this information current, pertinent, and most of all helpful.

Non-Line of Duty Death Information: Recently we have had a number of accidental and other deaths of firefighters and lots of questions on how to handle these very tragic incidents. As information comes to us, we will post suggestions from family members, co-workers, and professionals. Here are thoughts from some of our families:

1) Ask the family what can be done for them. Follow up a few days later, until the shock wears off, they won’t even remember who they talked to.
2) Have someone keep in touch with the family for years to come. A phone call or card once in a while to let them know their loved one is not forgotten means more than anything else you could do long-term.

The Line of Duty Death (LODD) information posted here is intended to supplement information contained in agency LODD handbooks and to serve you in the first 24-48 hours after you are asked to assist a family after an LODD.  This information is gathered from a variety of sources including the USDA USFS, DOI, NPS, and the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation handbooks.  If you are an agency employee, as soon as you possibly can, get a copy of the appropriate agency LODD handbook. Due to the differences in policies and legislation, use extreme care when using a different agency’s handbook.

Important Points to Consider

  • A family’s religious preferences can be an area requiring extreme sensitivity. If the family or the deceased are Native American, contact the tribe ASAP and ask for assistance.  Be aware there may be restrictions on talking about the person, the incident, or even speaking the person’s name.
  • Keep in mind that an autopsy is REQUIRED by the Department of Justice for payment of any PSOB benefits.  Additionally, many localities require an autopsy for any deaths that may be considered unnatural.
  • Consider contacting the local city or community fire department and see if they have a chaplain that would be available to assist you until you are able to make sure the family has their own support in place.
  • The local agency/company human resource office may have very limited experience in dealing with an LODD and they may also be grieving the loss of the individual.  Agency employee: If things aren’t coming together like you believe they should, request assistance from a Regional or WASO HR office.
  • The individuals’ personal effects will need to be gathered and returned to the family.  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES allow them to be returned in a trash bag.  If at all possible we would suggest they be placed in a red bag for delivery to the family.  They need to be delivered by someone from the agency and not mailed unless the family specifically requests them to be.
  • Be aware that not all families get along well and this type of incident may cause even more dissension.  Try and determine if there is good communication among the family and make sure that everyone is being kept in the loop. You may need to ask for additional help in some cases.
  • Work with the family regarding media contacts.  If they are willing to speak to the media, it is best if they appoint one person as “spokesperson”.  If there is a local agency Public Information Officer or company designate, they can assist the family in preparing to speak if the family desires that.  The agency/company never should speak for the family.  If the family does not want to talk to the media that is their decision. Back the family up and ask the media to respect their decision.