The Alaska Victim Assistance Partnership (AVAP) is a multidisciplinary working group operating around the state to solve many of the same challenges you are facing. Before you get started, please reach out to our AVAP Planning Team Leaders for support, ideas, and.....a round of applause!
Planning is key when preparing for a Mass Violence Incident (MVI). It requires strategy, assessment of your community’s resources and determination of how to best use community’s support systems. Developing and maintaining partnerships is essential for any victim assistance response.
Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Toolkit Partnerships & Planning:
Response Through Recovery: Activities at a Glance:
Partnership and Planning Checklist:
OVC – First Response to Victims of Crime:
A victim assistance plan should include information for responding to the needs of individuals impacted by a MVI. This includes support to victims and survivors before, during, and after interviews with law enforcement officials as well as addressing medical needs, providing information about loved ones, mental health services, temporary shelters, financial resources, and other services. Adherence to ADA compliance, even in a crisis, must be provided.
This is the hub of all activity during a MVI. It provides a unified command center in a multi-responder emergency in which all agencies, including victim advocates, has a jurisdictional responsibility for the crisis response.
The primary law enforcement agency will provide the overall leadership in response to a MVI, but it is helpful to identify who will take the lead in responding to the needs of the victims and survivors immediately after a MVI as well as in the long-term. It is imperative that the victim advocate(s) coordinate with the emergency management group prior to a MVI occurring to ensure that there is a victim service response in the emergency management plan.
Identify who will be responding as victim advocates when a MVI occurs. Develop how these responders will be called out and ensure that they are trained on what their role will be and what is expected of them. It is essential that victim advocates have identifying information when they respond to a MVI. This may be an identification card that is readily visible when they respond.
The Role of Victim Assistance Professionals in Preparing for Mass Violence Incidents:
It is helpful to do an assessment of what the community can provide, what resources are currently available (including both people and money resources) and where they will need assistance from other communities. It is important to coordinate with governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, colleges, foundations, and others in your community. Once gaps have been identified, they can be addressed.
Here is a helpful fillable Word document to send to your community partners to begin assessing capabilities.
Develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among agencies: Having MOUs among agencies helps to institutionalized roles and responsibilities and provides for clear expectations and sustainability over time.
Communications: Developing a communication plan and protocols to implement the plan are essential. Typically, the lead law enforcement agency will be responsible for informing the public of information it wants to release. However, a plan should be made to help victims and survivors receive information before it is released to the public and to help them deal with the media attention they may receive.
Public Information Officer (PIO) Lessons Learned from a Major Event:
Go boxes can be used to have forms, technology support, identification items, etc. readily available so that victim advocates can leave at a moment’s notice.
NMVVRC Responding to a MVI: Victim Assistance Agency/Organization “Go Kit”
NMVVRC: Responding to a MVI: Developing a Personal “Go Kit”
Identification and Notification Center: Identify temporary locations in the community where people can gather with loved ones or for those family members who want to report someone missing. The space should be able to house a significant number of people and have tables, chairs, separate rooms, food and beverages. These can range from arenas to schools, libraries, etc.
Identify places where a Family Assistance Center could be located in the community. (Please see Family Assistance Center under the post-incident section)
Identifying a multidisciplinary team ahead of time allows relationships to be established prior to a MVI and will ensure a coordinated response to a MVI. It is also critical for people on this multidisciplinary team to have collaborative training in crisis intervention, incident command, and protocols that are specific to your community.
In building a team, consider who needs to be on the team and their commitment to plan for a MVI. Community partners usually include:
It is important that everyone understands the role of the victim assistance professionals.
This team can determine when a victim assistance team will be activated and what MVI definition the community is going to use to activate a response.
OVC Toolkit: Partnership’s Guiding Principles
NMVVRC: About Mass Violence
Identify an agency that can accept donations and ensure that there are clear guidelines for how those donations will be disbursed. Once the agency is identified, plan for the number to be advertise and identify the website where people can donate.
Questions that should be asked include:
Click the link below to review the guidance offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):
The days and weeks following a MVI are very chaotic, but we must remember to share information with our law enforcement partners. Click below to learn more about partnering and how to avoid communication potholes as the next layer of support kicks in to play.