Dealing with a firefighter line-of-duty death is one of the toughest and most challenging experiences a fire department can face. Supporting the firefighter’s family through the ordeal does not always occur as it should. That is why the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), through a grant from the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, developed a unified response on a state-by-state basis to provide assistance to fire departments and the firefighter’s family immediately following a line-of-duty death.
The intent is not to circumvent any system that is already in place in a state but to provide resources for each of the state teams to help with issues related to the line-of-duty death incident, understanding that there may be different state or local protocols in various parts of the country. Under this program, the California state team is known as Cal-LAST, the California Local Assistance State Team (LAST).
Cal-LAST consists of a chief officer who has experienced a line-of-duty death (the Incident Commander), an honor guard commander, a fire service chaplain, a survivor, and an auxillary service member to tend to any additional needs. Also available to those fire departments that express the need are peer counseling services and expertise in the Department of Justice, Public Safety Officer’s Benefit application process. Upon request from the department, these teams will be deployed to assist the department with all aspects of a line-of-duty death—from helping with arrangements for a fire department funeral with full honors to providing emotional support for the family and department members.
Line of Duty Death Notification Chain of Command:
- Line of Duty Death notification is triaged from Cal-Ema to the California Fire Foundation
- California Fire Foundation contacts affected department liaison or fire chief and assesses need, if any, for Cal-LAST assistance
- If Cal-LAST assistance is needed, California Fire Foundation notifies Cal-LAST Incident Commander in respective region
- Cal-LAST Incident Commander sends email to all Cal-LAST members alerting them of the Line of Duty Death
- Cal-LAST Incident Commander is put in touch with affected department liaison or fire chief to discuss needs/details
- Cal-LAST Incident Commander and department liaison or fire chief work together to dispatch Cal-LAST team members to assist before, during and after the memorial service or funeral
Cal-LAST Teams are divided into two regions: Southern California and Northern California
Cal LAST Team Roles:
- Incident Commander: The Incident Commander shall act as lead Cal-LAST member, appointed liaison and lead organizer. One Incident Commander will exist per region.
- Honor Guard Commander: The Honor Guard Commander shall work with the Incident Commander to assist the host chief with funeral protocols and related processes and secure/organize an Honor Guard team when needed.
- Chaplain: The team Lead Chaplain shall respond primarily for the purpose of supporting the members of the host fire department. The team Chaplain shall liaison with the local fire Chaplain if one is connected with the host Fire Department.
- Command Team Member (auxiliary): Command team members shall assist in whatever way is needed.
- Survivor: It has been shown to be beneficial to have a fire service survivor (FSS) speak with and liaison to the family of an LODD. This person may not be needed immediately, however having a family member who has experienced the loss of a firefighter can be important for the family. All survivor-to-survivor contact will come through the Foundation, and will be with a survivor from within the state whenever possible.
- Peer Support Specialist: A peer support counselor will have primary duty with the members of the host Fire Department. Secondarily, the peer support counselor will also work to keep the team stable and on course. Peer support will be provided by the NFFF and will be screened as selected specialists that are licensed professionals.
- Cal-LAST Executive in Charge: The Executive in Charge shall be a representative of the California Fire Foundation and shall be a member of the fire service who has experienced or was heavily involved with a line-of-duty death. The Executive in Charge shall be proficient in the Department of Justice, Public Safety Officer’s Benefit application process. The Executive in Charge will be the initial point of contact with the department liaison or Fire Chief and tasked with assessing the need for Cal-LAST assistance before connecting them to the Incident Commander and providing line-of-duty-death information.