There have been many articles, papers, policies and procedures written regarding a LODD. The last thing a parent wants to get is a phone call at 2 AM from the hospital regarding one of their children having been involved in an auto crash. I know, I got one of those calls. Fortunately it was only injuries. The absolute last thing a Fire Chief wants is a call regarding one of his firefighters that answered their last alarm.
While a Fire Chief is in a leadership position every day and on a daily basis exercises that leadership, it is in a LODD that their leadership will be under the national spotlight, and under a microscope from his own department. This is a case where the firefighters look to their chief and ask, “Lead us through this – please”.
Any department today will more than likely have a LODD policy. If not, there is a ton of resources on-line. A top priority is to get that policy out and get it in motion. The chief will probably have someone who can actually implement the policy, leaving the chief to attend to other important matters. The most important thing a chief can do in the beginning is to be the one to inform the family of the firefighter involved. The chief also has to let the family know that the department is there to take care of anything they need during and after the funeral process.
As the plans come together, the chief should meet often with the family to keep them informed of the funeral process and to let them know that the department is preparing all of the necessary paperwork for death benefits.
Probably the most important speech a Fire Chief is asked to make is the eulogy for a fallen firefighter. In a large department, chances are the chief did not know the firefighter personally. A good source for suggestions is the department Chaplain. In a small department, the chief will probably know the firefighter and may even be a friend. This would make it harder for the chief but maybe a bit easier to write the eulogy. The important thing here is that the eulogy needs to be sincere and it needs to be directed to and for the family members. Not only will department members remember the speech, but the family will hold it dear to their hearts for a long time to come. So get this one right.
During this time, the chief needs to be visible, approachable, and genuinely affected by the event. All eyes are watching and they will remember.
Thanks and remember, Everyone Goes Home.
A good source for a LODD policy is from an Applied Research Project by Donnie P. West, Jr, Fire Chief for the Center Point Fire District in Alabama