Topic Number2.3.30Effective DateAugust 21, 2018
Procedure Consumer Death:  Alert and Response System
PurposeTo document protocols for responding to the death of a WWRC consumer, including roles and responsibilities for various response stages, expectations for communications, and the use of a formal incident debrief format to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of actions taken
Accountability Indicators
  • There is evidence of an orderly, effective, and caring response in the event of the death of a WWRC consumer, as documented through an After Action Incident Debrief and as reported by family members, VR counselors, other WWRC consumers, and staff.
  • There is evidence that staff followed established protocols for notification of appropriate personnel, family notification, campus community notification, and management of external communication with the media, as indicated.
Policy Reference
Detailed Governance ReferenceN/A
Executive Staff Contact Russ Neyman, Deputy Director, WWRC



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Governance Statement


WWRC has a duty of care for all its enrolled consumers, aligned with its vision.  When the death of a consumer occurs, it is WWRC's responsibility to respond in a sensitive, effective and caring manner, recognizing that individuals react in different ways to different circumstances surrounding death.  Further WWRC recognizes that the death of a WWRC consumer affects the entire community as well as family and friends of the deceased. 


Considering the sensitive and unpredictable nature of a death, this governance sets forth guidance to support effective teamwork and communications, clarify roles and responsibilities, and to facilitate a community response that is characterized by empathy, sensitivity, and support for the bereaved and the need to preserve evidence, as indicated.  While every student death is different and will require a unique response, this governance describes basic processes to be followed, regardless of the circumstances.


Response and Action Plan


Written protocols in this governance apply and describe the Response and Action Plan for a situation involving a consumer death occurring on campus.  Please note that if an enrolled WWRC consumer dies off campus, while on an approved campus activity or internship/ETO experience or while on leave, these protocols will be adjusted, based on circumstances, with the WWRC Director or Deputy Director to be notified immediately.   Under these conditions, the WWRC Director or Deputy Director will determine the resulting Action Plan and convene appropriate personnel to implement.


The discovery of a WWRC consumer death on campus triggers a series of responses across multiple stages, with each defined by their intended purpose, designated primary point of contact(s), actions to be taken and expected outcomes.  Stages are described below and are summarized in Table 1.  Stages are sequential in nature, but may be concurrent in actual delivery, dependent on circumstances and complexity of issues that may arise resulting from the death.  


  • Immediate Response and Action Plan

    It is the responsibility of the most senior staff person or student(s) witnessing the death or discovering the body to inform the WWRC Police Department (PD) and Student Health immediately via radio or calling 9-1-1, providing details regarding the situation and location, following AGM 2.2.11:  Medical Emergencies.  The PD shall be in charge of the immediate situation and shall control internal and external factors to preserve and process the scene.  If possible, a staff person should stay with the deceased or secure the area until the PD or Emergency Services arrive, ensuring that nothing is touched or moved.   Remember – Unless rendering first aid, never disturb a death scene. 


Campus Police shall investigate any death of a WWRC consumer to preserve and process the scene and to determine if there are any signs of possible foul play.  The area where the deceased is found will be treated as a crime scene and no one will be permitted in the area until cleared by Campus Police.  Typically, no one should directly engage the Campus Police or rescue services except for the designated on-campus Incident Commander.  However, if there are witnesses to the event, they should be encouraged to reach out to the Campus Police if the Incident Commander is not immediately available.   The WWRC Deputy Director is the designated Incident Commander when on campus.   If not otherwise available, the designated Administrator In-Charge shall assume the role.  Note that the Incident Commander does not have authority over law enforcement or rescue actions. 


Confirmation of death and related details are determined through consultation between Campus Police, EMS personnel, and the Coroner's Office, with the WWRC PD accountable for Death Notice issuance. The WWRC PD shall make initial contact with the family or next of kin to inform them of what occurred and to answer any questions they may have about the cause of or circumstances around the death.   No one, not even the WWRC Director, shall contact the deceased's family or next of kin until a formal, written Death Notice is issued and initial contact has been made by the PD. 


The Incident Commander shall review the situation with the PD and EMS after the Death Notice is issued and assess preliminary factors that may impact a systemic response and action plan.  The Incident Commander should also direct any witness(es) to document what happened in writing, to include all related items or events, and marking the document as DRAFT CONFIDENTIAL.  Based on information gathered, the Incident Commander should convene a meeting, as soon as possible, with identified team members to develop an Action and Response Plan.  Core team members should include the PD, Dean of Students and WWRC Director, with other department representatives as indicated. 


The deceased's friends or room-mate(s) may be aware of the situation and be understandably distressed.   A designated staff member should accompany them to a quiet area where they can wait to be interviewed or dismissed by the Police Officer in-charge.  Ask all other students to vacate the area and remain away until further notice.   Take care to ensure that affected students or witnesses do not inform any third party until it is confirmed that the family of the deceased has been notified. 


  • Community Postvention


Postvention is defined as "the provision of systematic crisis intervention, support, and assistance for anyone affected by a crisis. Postvention strategies are designed to minimize significant traumatic reactions and to provide appropriate emotional support and information to those affected by a crisis".   The WWRC Dean of Students, or Associate Dean of Students if the Dean is unavailable, is accountable as the Primary Point of Contact for this stage of WWRC's Response and Action Plan relative to a student death on campus.  Student issues/concerns should be directed to the WWRC Dean of Students who shall be available for consultation and support.  The Dean of Students may consult directly with Residential staff to identify any room-mate issues/concerns that may warrant special attention.


The Dean of Students shall manage and coordinate the delivery of student wrap-around support services through WWRC's Behavioral Health Services and Rehabilitation Counseling Division. Support services may be provided by Behavior Specialists, Mental Health Clinicians, Rehabilitation Counselors, and/or through the Chaplaincy Program.  Other internal and external resources may be accessed, as needed, to be determined on a case-by-case basis.   As an example, Grief Counselors that may be available through DHRM or community providers, if applicable.


No later than two (2) weeks following the death of a WWRC consumer, the Dean of Students shall facilitate updated AWARE documentation and arrange the return of the deceased's personal belongings with the family or next of kin through the Rehabilitation Counseling Division.   


  • Administrative Logistics


The Incident Commander shall notify WWRC Housekeeping staff when the WWRC PD releases the death scene for deep cleaning and for preparation of the area to resume operations.  Per OSHA policy and Virginia Code, the Incident Commander shall also notify the WWRC Safety/Risk Management Office to alert OSHA of the consumer death on campus. 


If the deceased consumer was fully enrolled in a Vocational Training Program, the Incident Commander shall notify the Admissions Student Financial Representative to determine if the consumer was receiving PELL grant funding or assistance through the Veterans Education and Training Program.  The Student Financial Representation will notify the appropriate parties, through standard operating procedures, if applicable. 


Direct any family/next of kin inquiries regarding access to a deceased consumer's medical and/or vocational records to the Records Management Services Director.   The Records Management Services Director will respond to Disclosure and Release of Records inquiries for a deceased consumer, in accordance with applicable federal and state policy and regulatory guidance.


  • Family, Campus Community, Partner, and Media Communications


    The WWRC Director, Marketing Director, and Incident Commander shall share accountability for family, campus community, partner, and media communications.   


    The WWRC Director shall manage all external communications with the family/next of kin, DARS Agency, and the media.  Under no circumstances should staff make any comment or statement about the cause of death.  Refer all requests for information from news media or other external stakeholders to the WWRC Director's Office, in accordance with AGM 2.1.4 and AGM 2.4.11.  The WWRC Director shall also arrange representation at the funeral or memorial service and coordinate any follow-up communications with the family/next of kin. 


    The WWRC Marketing Director, in consultation with the WWRC Director, shall monitor and report any social media related to the consumer's death. 


The Incident Commander is responsible for staff notifications, including, but not limited to:  initial contact with the WWRC Executive Team for notification of employees directly involved with the deceased; selected distribution of SARA messages; and ##WWRC emails from the WWRC's Director's Office.  The Incident Commander is also responsible for management of any identified staff issues or concerns related to the consumer's death.   Staff issues/concerns should be directed to the Incident Commander for processing and response.



  • After Action Incident Debrief


The After Action Incident Debrief serves as a structured review and analysis of the incident to document what happened, why, and future actions that might prevent, mitigate, or improve business processes and response actions.    The Incident Commander is accountable to convene this team debrief within one week of the event, with appropriate membership based on the response teams accessed during the event.  A summary of the debrief, including successful strategies, lessons learned, and recommendations for process improvement, shall be documented on a WWRC Incident-Accident Investigation Report Form (located on the WWRC Internal Document Repository Site under Risk Management) and serve as the official record on file in the Safety/Risk Management Office.    


Table I:  Response and Action Plan Summary

StagePurpose/GoalPrimary POC(s)ActionsExpected Outcomes
  • Campus Police Officer in Charge
  • Incident Commander  (Deputy Director or designee)
  • First responder and law enforcement responses per defined protocols
  • Death Notice issued once details verified
  • Staff member(s) who discovered the body and/or called 9-1-1 to document details of the event in writing as DRAFT/CONFIDENTIAL 
  • Incident Commander, PD, and EMS review immediate situation
  • Preliminary Team Action & Response Plan developed
  • First responder actions
  • Secured scene
  • Witness documentation
  • Death Notice
  • Preliminary Team Action & Response Plan developed

Community Postvention
  • Provision of systematic student crisis intervention, emotional support, and assistance
  • Information flow within the campus community
Dean of Students
  • Manage & coordinate the delivery of student support services through Behavioral Health & Counseling (using outside supports, as needed)
  • Manage logistics relative to room-mate & student belongings
  • Primary POC for all student issues/concerns
  • After Event:  Facilitate updated AWARE documentation and arrange return of personal belongings with family through Rehab Counselor
  • Stabilized community through targeted interventions and supports
  • Onsite logistics and data management


Administrative Logistics

Coordination, as relevant, with the following::

  • Housekeeping
  • Safety/RM Office
  • Admissions
  • Medical Records
Incident Commander
  • Notify Housekeeping Supervisor for deep clean of location/area 
  • OSHA notification
  • Federal Student Financial Aid notification, if applicable
  • Response to Disclosure/Release of Records inquiries
  • Affected area cleaned and ready for use
  • Regulatory requirements met
Family, Campus Community, Partner and Media Communications

Management of internal and external communications


Team:  WWRC Director; Marketing Director; Incident Commander
  • Manage external communications with family, Agency, and media (Director)
  • Monitor and report social media (Marketing Director)
  • Staff Notifications & Management of Staff Issues/Concerns (Incident Commander)
  • Arrange WWRC representation at funeral and/or memorial service & follow-up communications with family (Director)

Timely and responsive communications with internal and external stakeholders


After Action Debrief
  • Structured review & analysis of the incident
  • Identification of successful strategies and pitfalls to avoid (lessons learned & recommendations for improvement)
Incident Commander
  • Coordinate debrief with Response Team and other critical stakeholders, as indicated, using structured, facilitated process within one week of event
  • Document debrief summary on the WWRC Incident Report Form to be maintained in the Safety/RM Office per defined protocols



  • Documented analysis of what happened, why, and future actions that might prevent, mitigate, or improve business processes and response actions
  • Performance assessment, including level of satisfaction with community response and internal/external communications