As many of you follow us through our Facebook page and receive our notifications from our email blast system, you know we have been busy serving our fire service family. Many of you see what we do, preparing and assisting agencies in honoring their firefighters. The funeral honors is the “icing on the cake”. But, what I feel is most important about our roll in serving agencies are the things you do not see, the “cake”. We spend a lot of time with the families of our fallen. When a firefighter dies in the line of duty, our assistance to families remains for many years. Yes….years.
The application for benefits is a tedious process, both on the State and Federal level. They could not be more polar opposite in application and requirements if they tried. Staying informed of the current legislation and legal decisions that impact family benefits is vitally important. We want to have the most up to date information and knowledge of how to best help the families we serve. Many of you have taken our Preparing Your Agency for the Unthinkable course. In that course, we try to outline to you the most up to date information regarding firefighter autopsy, understanding the State and Federal benefits processes and the importance of implementing a funeral protocol within your organization. If you have taken this course in the past, please remember that this information is dynamic, and can change without notice. With the implementation of the Federal legislation titled the Dale Long Act, changes in the hierarchy of payment for Federal benefits also changed. We believe it is our job to stay on top of this and other changes, so we can best serve our families. This continued education and building of knowledge is the “cake” our families benefit from.
If your agency suffers a loss, we encourage you to reach out to us. Share with us the story of your firefighter and the circumstances in which the death occurred. We recently had a department call asking to use gloves for a funeral. After discussion with the department, we are now applying for benefits on behalf of the family. Had the request for gloves not been made, this public safety officer’s family may have never known there was a potential for benefits based on the death of the officer within 24 hours of a duty stressor event, even when the death occurred at home.
In closing, I would like to thank all of the organizations that help sustain us. We operate solely on donations that fund our 5 response trailers. A special thank you to the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri Auxiliary for their recent donation of proceeds from their quilt raffle as part of their ongoing support to us. We would not be able to offer the services we do without the generous support of many wonderful groups, organizations, and people. Thank you for the honor of serving.