In May 2019, based on recommendations from the interdisciplinary working group on death and serious injury, the Executive Leadership Team approved a recommendation to establish the Casualty Assistance Program. CAP is an evolution of the hard work and dedication of USDA Forest Service employees across the nation who are grounded in the belief that, in the wake of tragedy, "you will not stand alone." CAP reflects our agency commitment to assist and support employees, their families and agency liaisons —such as family liaisons, hospital liaison, and peer supporters— assisting others in their greatest time of need.
The program will (1) train and educate employees and agency liaisons, (2) assure coordination among Forest Service units, (3) implement strategies for external collaboration and support, and (4) provide administrative support to an affected unit during and after a critical incident involving a serious injury or loss of human life.
The recent publication of FS 1309.19, Forest Service Casualty Assistance Handbook, provides guidance for managing response to serious injury and loss of human life involving full- and part-time employees, volunteers, interns, Job Corps students and non-Forest Service personnel. The Casualty Assistance Handbook is the policy guiding the Casualty Assistance Program and agency procedures related to CAP policy, CAP procedures and CAP coordinators.
A CAP toolkit has been designed to guide managers, supervisors and employees in identifying important functions a s well as providing procedures, checklists, templates and supplemental guidance for support structures. The dedicated CAP Webpage provides information on policies, procedures, training and key contacts.
CAP coordinators have been identified across the Forest Service to serve as the initial points of contact for line officers in the event of a serious injury or loss of human life. These coordinators serve as liaisons to disseminate information and resources, work with local personnel to build capacity and coordinate training for agency liaisons and peer supporters.
In the Forest Service, employee safety and well-being is our highest priority. We are working to maximize the safety, health and vitality of all employees by acting in accordance with our Code and Commitments. It is our core belief that every individual is entitled to physical, psychological and social safety. Our values demonstrate how we want to show up and support one another –so that every person is respected, included, and thrives in delivering our mission.
Editor’s note: This message is a continuation of our article on Dealing with loss in the Forest Service released following the helicopter crash back in March. The Casualty Assistance Program is the culmination of work the agency has been building/evolving for many years.