Office for Victims of Crime - Justice for Victims. Justice for All
Justice for Victims. Justice for All
Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources
August 2015   •   NCJ 248647
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About the Toolkit

Purpose of the Toolkit

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC)—in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Office for Victim Assistance and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism—developed this toolkit to help communities prepare for and respond to victims of mass violence and terrorism in the most timely, effective, and compassionate manner possible.

Lessons learned from past incidents indicate that through advanced planning (which includes the establishment of victim assistance protocols), and by developing and maintaining multidisciplinary partnerships, communities are better prepared to engage a holistic approach to victim assistance to ensure that each victim’s needs are met. However, this toolkit also contains materials that will aid communities’ responses to victims even if they have not planned for an incident.

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Who Should Use the Toolkit?

We developed this toolkit primarily for the following professionals, but it can be used by any individual or organization responsible for planning and responding to incidents of mass violence and terrorism.

  • State Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) administrators: compensation and assistance.
  • Emergency planning managers.
  • Law enforcement officials.
  • Prosecutors’ offices.
  • Victim service providers.
  • Health care providers (including mental health).

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How To Use the Toolkit

Use this toolkit to—

  • Develop a comprehensive victim assistance plan for responding to incidents of mass violence and terrorism. The toolkit also may apply to natural disasters, human-caused disasters, emergency crises, and high-profile criminal incidents.
  • Bring key partners together to review existing emergency plans and to initiate or continue the development of a victim assistance plan for your community.
  • Establish victim assistance protocols, which can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your response and recovery efforts. The Partnerships & Planning Checklist can assist you and your community partners in developing victim assistance protocols in advance of an incident.
  • Follow the victim assistance protocols you developed during the partnerships and planning stage. Use the Response and Recovery Checklists in your immediate and long-term response to victims.

The checklists provided in this toolkit can be tailored to fit the needs of your community.

Victim Assistance Protocols

Protocol* Response Phase Recovery Phase
Contact List Protocol    
Committee Meeting Protocol
Practice Drills and Exercises Protocol    
Incident Command System Protocol  
Communications Protocol  
Family Assistance Center Protocol  
Victim Identification Protocol  
Notification Protocol  
Planning and Preparedness Grants and Emergency Funding Assistance Protocol  
Volunteer Management Protocol
Donation Management Protocol (Funds, Goods, and Services)
Criminal Justice System: Victim Support Protocol  
Community Resiliency Protocol  

*For descriptions of these protocols, see “Develop Victim Assistance Protocols” in the Planning section of this toolkit. To find out how they are used, see the Response and the Recovery sections.

The toolkit includes the following sections:

  • About the Toolkit, which briefly describes the toolkit’s purpose, audience, and uses.
  • Partnerships & Planning, which reviews the steps involved in creating and maintaining partnerships, addressing resource gaps, and developing victim assistance protocols.
  • Response and Recovery, which review how first responders and victim service providers can use the victim assistance protocols in the aftermath of an incident of mass violence or terrorism.
  • Tools, which links to detailed checklists that lay out the steps involved in the partnerships and planning and the response and recovery stages. This section also includes a glossary and a compendium of resources.

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Individuals from many organizations contributed to the development of Helping Victims of Mass Violence and Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources. Their knowledge and wisdom enhanced the overall product and allowed us to incorporate many diverse thoughts, experiences, and opinions into the toolkit.

We are very grateful for the support of OVC’s Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) staff, particularly Jennifer Shewmake and Diane Alexander, for oversight and management of the project. OVC TTAC consultants Krista Flannigan and Herman Millholland were the lead interviewers and drafters of this toolkit, and we thank them for their expertise as well as their ability to incorporate many voices into a unified product. OVC’s Mass Violence and Terrorism Program Manager, Eugenia Pedley, worked diligently alongside OVC TTAC staff and consultants during the development and review process, and she has our thanks as well. We would also like to express our appreciation to Ellen McLaughlin for editing this toolkit.

Special thanks go to the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism for their substantial contributions to this toolkit. We also wish to acknowledge the valuable input from the state Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) assistance and state VOCA compensation programs for their unique insights and candid suggestions.

This toolkit would not be as comprehensive without the generous contributions from individuals in the following organizations, who provided valuable input toward its development:

  • American Red Cross
  • Arizona Criminal Justice Commission—Crime Victim Compensation Fund
  • Arizona Department of Public Safety
  • Aurora (CO) Police Department
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Care Management Associates
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response
  • City of Oak Creek, WI
  • Colorado Office for Victims Programs
  • Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance
  • Connecticut Judicial Branch—Office of Victim Services
  • CrisisCommons
  • Denver District Attorney’s Office
  • Federal Emergency Management Association
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • International Association of Emergency Managers
  • Jefferson County (CO) District Attorney’s Office (Columbine)
  • Massachusetts General Hospital—Boston
  • Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance
  • Medical University of South Carolina—Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Mental Health America of Illinois
  • Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security
  • National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators
  • National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards
  • National Association of Police Chiefs
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
  • National Crime Victim Law Institute
  • National Emergency Management Association
  • National Governor’s Association
  • Nationals Sheriffs’ Association
  • National Transportation Safety Board
  • New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
  • New York City Office of Emergency Management
  • New York Disaster Interfaith Services
  • New York Office of Victim Services
  • Newtown Congregational Church—Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association
  • Newtown (CT) School District
  • Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate
  • Pima County Attorney’s Office
  • Safe Horizon
  • Salvation Army
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—Community Epidemiology Working Group
  • Texas Office of the Attorney General—Crime Victim Services Division
  • Town of Newtown, CT
  • Unified Solutions
  • United Way—Boston
  • University of Southern California
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Oklahoma
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Conference of Mayors
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—Office for Preparedness and Response
  • U.S. Department of Justice—Community Relations Service
  • Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board
  • Voices of September 11th
  • Washoe County (NV) Health District
  • Wisconsin Office for Crime Victim Services
  • 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Colorado

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