of the sailors killed were using drugs. Autopsies
revealed no trace of drugs in any of the sailors, and a
decision was made to release that information.
As the senior journalist, you must be an active
participant in the entire investigative process, from the
initial press release to the final release of the
investigative report. Building a solid working
relationship with legal officers and investigators before
a crisis means better planning, fewer surprises and
accurate information for the public.
NEXT OF KIN
Recognize the procedures for
dealing with next of kin during a disaster.
The Navy is just as interested in the welfare of the
families of Navy men and women as it is in the welfare
of Navy personnel. When a disaster occurs, the next of
kin suffer emotional anguish and pain almost equal to
the physical suffering of those in the disaster. These
people must be protected.
There are a number of ways the public affairs office
can help ease the suffering of the next of kin. One way
is to handle the release of news competently. This
includes the prompt release of information as it becomes
available, particularly the names of casualties, to ease
the anxiety of families whose loved ones were not
Many of the next of kin live near the base or the
home port of a ship involved in the disaster. When the
first news of the disaster reaches them, they converge
on the base to be near the source of information.
Provisions must be made for them. They should never
be left to their own resources or permitted to wait outside
the gate for second-hand information.
Guidelines for handling the next of kin should be
specified in the disaster plan.
Whenever possible, the PAO and senior journalist
should coordinate the release of information on injured
and killed Navy personnel with the casualty assistance
calls officer (CACO). The CACO works under the
direction of the Navy Casualty Assistance Calls
Program (CACP), NAVMILPERSCOMINST 1770
series. The broad purpose of the program is to assure the
next of kin of the following:
l The Navys interest in their well-being.
The Navys concern in the case of members
reported missing while the search for him/her is
The Navys sympathy in their loss in the case of
The Navys efforts to help the survivors adjust to
the new conditions the tragic circumstances have
imposed upon them.
As the senior journalist assisting the PAO, you can
do a great deal to support the CACO assigned to a
casualty that has drawn media attention. By establishing
a practical CACO/PAO relationship and incorporating
advance planning, media coverage can be handled in a
manner that preserves the dignity of the event.
Let us say, for example, that a BM2 is killed at sea
and is credited with saving the lives of several of his
shipmates. The sailors remains are scheduled to arrive
at the local civilian airport.
One of the first events that will require on-scene
support will be the arrival of the remains at the airport.
If media coverage is anticipated, family desires
regarding media interaction and presence as well as the
PAOs recommendations for media interaction should
be addressed early through the CACO.
Once family desires are known, planning should
begin immediately and the PAO should contact airport
public relations or associated officials. If standard
procedures are not in place, they should be discussed
well before an actual event. Learning about the
organization of the airport and developing contacts will
help when a high-media interest event is imminent.
Other items that should be discussed with the
CACO include, but are not limited to, the following:
Presence of a media coverage plan. Is there a
media coverage plan designed for the arrival of
the remains? If a family requests no media
presence, what procedures are followed? If a
coverage plan is not in place, what must be done
and who should be contacted to workout a plan?
Coverage location, timing and logistics. Where
and when should the media meet the Navy or
airport public affairs escorts? How will the
media get to the coverage site? Can the airport
provide transportation? Can an adjacent arrival
gate or cargo area be cleared during the arrival
and transfer of the remains?