Casualty notification

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Casualty notification is the process of notifying relatives of people who have been killed or seriously injured unexpectedly (for example, in a car crash). The notification may be done over the phone or in person, but is normally done by a police officer in person when possible, at least for the next of kin.[1]

In the case of the United States armed forces, the notification is done by a specialist known as a casualty notification officer (CNO), normally within four hours of learning of the casualty (but only from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. local time)[2] or, for the Navy, by a casualty assistance calls officer (CACO).[3]

Denny Hayes, who spent fifteen years as a chaplain for the FBI’s critical response team, says:

  • Always deliver bad news in person.
  • Always bring a partner (“95 percent of them defer to me to do the actual speaking of the words—nobody wants to experience sad”).
  • Skip the euphemisms—they comfort no one except the person speaking them.
  • Never abandon anyone until they have someone else to hold on to.[4]

"You can’t make it better," said Dr. Nancy Davis, former chief of counseling services for the FBI. "But you can definitely make it worse."[4]

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