Mass Violence and Terrorism
- Training and Technical
- OVC's Helping Victims of Mass
Violence & Terrorism Toolkit
Welcome to the Mass Violence and Terrorism Resource page. This web page provides a range of resources to assist with developing a comprehensive plan to respond to the immediate and short- and long-term needs of victims of mass violence incidents.
- Request no-cost, customized training and technical assistance.
- Learn about the OVC Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources Toolkit.
- View a webinar training series that highlights elements of the OVC Mass Violence Toolkit.
- Access a variety of resources to assist in planning for and responding to victims of mass violence incidents.
Through the OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC), OVC can deploy consultants and trainers to assist communities with efforts to create a comprehensive and overarching plan to include victims in preparation for a mass violence or terrorism incident. OVC encourages you to request no-cost, customized training and technical assistance (TTA) to help you develop a comprehensive victim assistance plan before a mass violence or terrorism event occurs.
The OVC Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources Toolkit was created for communities to prepare for and respond to victims of mass violence and terrorism in the most timely, effective, and compassionate manner possible. Through developing a comprehensive victim assistance plan, the community can respond to mass violence, terrorism, natural disasters, human-caused disasters, emergency crises, and high-profile criminal incidents promptly and more effectively.
Partnerships & Planning
Helping Victims of Mass Violence and Terrorism: Partnerships & Planning
Sandy Phillips, Victim Advocate: Unfortunately, our ranks of victims and survivors are growing every day. My daughter, Jessie, she was just in a theater watching a movie. Those Sandy Hook kids were just in their kindergarten and first-grade classes. Sikh Temple-they just went to church. Tucson-they just went to the store. Yeah. This can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone.
Krista Flannigan, Adjunct Professor, College of Criminal Justice, Florida State University: An incident of mass violence impacts the whole community. But what we have learned is probably one of the most essential components to a response is being able to plan and prepare.
Robin Finegan, Regional Volunteer Services Officer, American Red Cross: Planning is an art.
Kent Burbank, Former Director, Victim Services Division, Pima County Attorney’s Office: Every community needs to look at its existing resources, figure out ways in which they can increase their collaborations, and, particularly across jurisdictions, make sure that there are plans in place to be able to respond.
Robin Finegan: And that includes people that are nontraditional responders-clergy, and school systems, and teachers, and counselors, and nonprofit agencies, and bilingual support systems. That’s the key to the success.
Herman Millholland, Former Director, Crime Victim Services Division, Texas Office of the Attorney General: Tucson, Arizona, had a wonderful emergency management plan that incorporated a victim assistance plan, so, therefore, the response to that shooting was very, very effective.
Michelle Ziemba, Former Director, Trauma and Emergency Services, University of Arizona Medical Center: The University of Arizona Medical Center created relationships and friendships with agencies and people with agencies to know the importance of preparedness and drilling and training and learning from others.
Rosanna Cortez, Victim Advocate, Pima County Attorney’s Office: We didn’t have to establish who we were, our credibility, the quality of our services. That was already built into the equation because of the partnership that we have.
Vanessa Helms, Victim Advocate, Pima County Attorney’s Office: There was really no confusion or question about who are you and what are you doing here. Because of that we were able to get advocates working with families right away.
Kent Burbank: Relationship building is a long-term process. We’ve had the advantage of doing this in Tucson for over 40 years. That means we’ve had time to build relationships over literally generations.
Captain Jesus Lopez, Criminal Investigations, Pima County Sheriff’s Office: One of the efforts that we’re doing is that we’re collaborating with the County Attorney’s Office, the mental health services out there, and we work as a team.
Rosanna Cortez: Law enforcement may decide that they want to deliver the news to a family, their loved one has died, and they want us there for emotional support, to pick up the emotional pieces.
Kent Burbank: Having those working relationships so that every law enforcement agency already knows who we are, already has worked with our advocates on scene. They know and trust that we’re going to be able to respond appropriately on scene, that we’re not going to overstep our bounds. Those trusted relationships are really a big piece of what makes this work.
Herman Millholland: Something that often happens in communities is spontaneous volunteers-people who want to help, who want to give of themselves. And it’s important that those roles and responsibilities are clearly laid out early on in the process.
Kent Burbank: I think it’s one of our areas of expertise, is how to train community members from all walks of life and all ages to become proficient in crisis intervention skills.
Rosanna Cortez: When a volunteer signs up, there’s an understanding that they’re available for whatever comes in, and we want to make sure that volunteers have the emotional capacity to assist those in their most desperate and tragic time.
Mary Vail Ware, Director, Programs and Outreach, Virginia Attorney General’s Office: It is important to understand that mass tragedies, while they’re unique in their community, the aftermath follows a fairly predictable pattern.
Kent Burbank: There was a lot of work in pulling the community together around a victim fund that was seen by the victims and by the community as being open, honest, and direct. So what it meant for the victims was a clear source of where to go when there were needs, clear transparency, because they knew very quickly there were established parameters that were sent out about how the funds would be used and would be distributed.
Mary Vail Ware: It’s really important to think about the future needs of the community if a flood of funding is coming into your community, because there will be future needs. There’ll be future mental health needs. There’ll be future recovery needs. So it’s great if you can plan in advance how funding would be managed.
Herman Millholland: And in most instances the donations are not just financial. When you start to receive thousands and thousands of toys, teddy bears, bicycles, how do you manage that? This, again, requires having those nontraditional partnerships, ensuring that you are meeting the needs of the community-at-large.
Lawrence Hincker, Associate Vice President, Virginia Tech University: We learned so much about what happens to the human psyche when you’re a victim of a violent crime. And, of course, the power of symbolism and public grieving.
Deborah Day, Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations, Virginia Tech University: We plan the April 16th memorial service. We call it "A Day of Remembrance." We do some things for the families, we bring them back, we have a lunch with university administrators, and they’re part of the university-wide commemoration.
Lawrence Hincker: That’s an important action of leadership is that not only do you deal with the crisis at hand, but you also get the organization back on track for the future. Our university really has taken emergency planning seriously. That is now part of our culture. We were one of the first to use emergency alert systems. These emergency notification systems that we now see that are rather commonplace were not commonplace in 2007.
Deborah Day: One of the important points for us is that every single student who was injured graduated from Virginia Tech. The president realized that we needed to have an office to help with some of these needs. An assistant director in the Office of Recovery and Support every month hosted a dinner in their home for all of the injured students and the staff. It continued on until the last student graduated.
Lawrence Hincker: You will now find universities around the country like my university, that has really bolstered its emergency planning organization, because you just never know when it’s going to happen. Anything might happen.
Kent Burbank: Victims’ advocates have no margin for error. We have to make sure that they are providing absolutely the best services possible to those victims, and that they’re able to do it in ways that they are adapting to the individual needs of that victim, their background, their experiences, as well as the type of crime and the situation that they’re facing. And I think it’s important that we make sure, as victim service providers, that we’re at the table, that we’re continually raising those issues, and that we’re doing our work to make sure that we’re ready.
Helping Victims of Mass Violence and Terrorism: Response
Krista Flannigan, Adjunct Professor, College of Criminal Justice, Florida State University:A good response has to be well organized. It has to be practiced, has to include victim services, and it has to be respectful of the fact that people have very defined roles.
Herman Millholland, Former Director, Crime Victim Services Division, Texas Office of the Attorney General:It is a multi-layered process. It involves federal, state, local government, non-profit organizations, all serving a role and serving as partners in that response.
Nancy Feldman, Retired Office for Victims Programs Manager, Colorado Department of Public Safety:Colorado-we’ve had, unfortunately, numerous situations here.
Robin Finegan, Regional Volunteer Services Officer, American Red Cross:We have learned a great deal because of incidents like Columbine. You can’t establish relationships on site. You have to know who these folks are before you arrive on scene.
Steve Siegel, Director of Program Development, Denver District Attorney’s Office:On July 20th, when the Aurora theater shootings occurred, the word got out pretty quickly that there was a need to come together.
Robin Finegan:The community did a really good job of pulling together the professionals that had subject matter experts in large-scale disasters.
Nancy Feldman:Aurora put out a call to other victim advocates and had them meet the following day, and they probably had about a hundred victim advocates that showed up.
Steve Siegel:One of the early successes was the superintendent of schools of Aurora knew that there needed to be a physical, central command location from which to launch a supportive response. They were committed to building this resiliency center, and they were able to make a call out to the public and say, "If you were impacted, then here’s a place where you can come and gain more information." First responders-the police departments, the fire departments, the EMTs-they knew that they were going to face a tough recovery battle of their own in having seen that kind of pain, and so each of those departments have internal capacity to provide support services. And the same is true of victim advocates.
Herman Millholland:A response needs to be timely, comprehensive. It also needs to be victim-centered.
Nancy Feldman:Having a victim assistance unit within the law enforcement agency is really key, and was key in Aurora, because you have that direct communication with the investigators.
Sandy Phillips, Victim Advocate:With a mass shooting there’s so much confusion, and you’re trying to figure out, "Is this real?" Victims are often so shocked by what’s happened to them that they don’t know where to turn. So when someone does reach out to them and say, "We’re here for you," that is incredibly helpful.
Krista Flannigan:In Aurora, they did something quite unique. The public information officer from Aurora Police Department came in, and she said, "What would you think about having a public information officer assigned to every family?"
Nancy Feldman:So the media had to go through the Public Information Office to have access to the victims.
Man:We need help!
Herman Millholland:The response to the Boston bombing, that is a perfect example of the wonderful partnerships that were created well in advance, through their planning effort and their preparedness.
Richard Serino, Former Deputy Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency:You bring together the hospitals, you bring together the public safety, you bring together public health, you bring together the private sector, from the businesses to the faith-based communities. Bringing the whole community together is very important.
Kathleen Hall, Retired Victim Program Specialist, Office for Victim Assistance, Federal Bureau of Investigation:The number of victims kept getting larger by the minute. The people who are traumatized by what they saw, what they heard, what they witnessed-it put a lot of pressure on us to make sure that victim list was kept updated.
Liam Lowney, Executive Director, Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance:We were very aware that we needed to be smart and broad in defining who needed to be served.
Richard Serino:The first responders-the police officers, firefighters, paramedics, the public health folks, the nurses and the physicians in the hospitals and the emergency rooms-were very impacted by this event as well.
Krista Flannigan:They’ve responded to crisis incidents in the past. But with an incident of mass violence it’s exponentially much more significant, and it can be just as impactful on the responders as it is to the victims.
Kathryn Turman, Assistant Director, Office for Victim Assistance, Federal Bureau of Investigation:Our goal was to try to assess what was going on, what resources were available. We started reaching out to counterparts, U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Massachusetts Organization of Victim Assistance, just to let them know we were here.
Kathleen Griffin, Victim-Witness Specialist, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts:Early on, particularly when people have been traumatized and they’re in a crisis, it’s important for the victims to know who those people are in the agencies and what the agencies can do for them.
Liam Lowney:We immediately developed a Family Assistance Center where family members could go and access a multitude of services.
Kathleen Griffin:The Family Victim Assistance Center gave us the opportunity to learn what the other agencies were doing, what the other agencies had available, and to really start prepping ourselves for being advocates for the victims once the case was charged.
Liam Lowney:As time passed after the marathon, we ended up calling together a group of anyone who was interacting with bombing survivors. We called it a Continuum of Care Working Group. We created a Victim Navigator position to help survivors understand their uniqueness and their needs. And out of that came the Massachusetts Resiliency Center, a one-stop multidisciplinary program where survivors of this event could go to access navigation assistance, behavioral health assistance, but also community. Our work in particular is very reactionary by nature. We serve those who’ve been impacted by crime. And as we have built our response to the Boston Marathon bombing, we’ve kept an eye towards building infrastructure that would exist for next time.
Helping Victims of Mass Violence and Terrorism: Recovery
Mary Vail Ware, Director, Programs and Outreach, Virginia Attorney General’s Office: After a mass casualty crime incident, it’s really important to think about the population that you have, what their needs might be. Everybody progresses through recovery or towards resilience at their own pace.
Herman Millholland, Former Director, Crime Victim Services Division, Texas Office of the Attorney General: Recovery really is about the longer-term needs over time. But the emotional and the psychological aspect of it, that takes far longer to heal. And in some cases, some people never heal.
Krista Flannigan, Adjunct Professor, College of Criminal Justice, Florida State University: These incidents are life-altering. People will never be what they were prior to the tragedy. They have to redefine themselves-a new normal.
Harpreet Singh Saini, Victim of Mass Violence: As you all know, on Sunday, August 5, 2012, a white supremacist fueled by hatred walked into our local gurdwara with a loaded gun. He killed my mother while she prayed. He shot and killed five more men. All of them were fathers, and all of them had a turban like me.
Jasjit Singh, Executive Director, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund: August 5, 2012, was the greatest attack on a place of worship in America in 50 years at that time.
Pardeep Kaleka, Founder and Director, Serve2Unite: Most people that go through this are never really healed. It’s always there. Their life is never the same again.
Puni Kalra, Clinical Psychologist, Founder, Sikh Healing Collective: Our community doesn’t respond to traditional forms of mental health or to therapy. We had to take healing into our own hands. The Sikh Healing Collective was truly a collective effort. Mental health professionals came together. They were south Asians, they were non-south Asians, they were Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus. They spoke the language, they understood the culture. They became integrated into the community here in Oak Creek, and people no longer saw them as strangers.
Pardeep Kaleka: It’s tough to heal on your own. It’s possible, sure. But when you heal as a community, it’s a lot more effective, and it’s lasting and it’s genuine, and that’s exactly what happened after August 5th.
Puni Kalra: On Sunday nights, I would check in with the mental health folks that were here on site-"What are you hearing as you’re speaking one-on-one with the community members; what are they telling you? Are they experiencing intrusive thoughts, PTSD, insomnia, survivor guilt?" We created the psycho-educational materials according to the community’s needs week to week. About 300 copies would be made, so you’d have a single document, English on one side, Punjabi on the other side, ready for disbursement on the following Sunday. So it was a way to introduce mental health in a softer, kinder way without the stigma attached to it.
Pardeep Kaleka: We saw the importance of being able to give people a voice and have them share their stories of survival.
Rajdeep Singh Jolly, Pro Bono Counsel, The Sikh Coalition: One of the orphans of Oak Creek, Harpreet Singh Saini, who lost his mother in the massacre, testified before the Senate and asked that his mother be given the dignity of being a statistic. And it was absolutely powerful, poignant, compelling testimony.
Harpreet Singh Saini: I’m here because my mother was murdered in an act of hate 45 days ago. I’m here on behalf of all the children who lost parents or grandparents during the massacre in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. This was not supposed to be our American story, this was not my mother’s dream.
Rajdeep Singh Jolly: As a result, the Hate Crimes Statistics Program includes recognition of anti-Sikh hate crimes. This is going to lead to more awareness and less ignorance about the Sikh American community.
Puni Kalra: Ultimately that’s what people want is they want to be seen, they want to be heard, they want to feel that they do matter.
Herman Millholland: Newtown, it’s a small town-28,000 people. That entire community was affected in very, very profound ways.
Patricia Llodra, First Selectwoman, Town of Newtown: This happened, of course, in December just before Christmas. 20 young, beautiful first-graders-the extraordinary depth of grief over that-I mean, it almost makes it impossible even now for me to talk about it.
Deborah Delvecchio-Scully, Clinical Recovery Leader/Trauma Specialist, Newtown Recovery & Resiliency Team: The ability to just function is deeply impaired when a trauma is as deeply wounding as ours was. Trauma memories don’t get stored in the brain in the same way that any of our other memories are. That memory is almost behind a wall and can’t be retrieved by just trying to force yourself to retrieve it. On any scale, trauma does not heal itself.
Patricia Llodra: It’s important to understand that not one approach will work. So, the Recovery and Resiliency Team is the big umbrella. They provide intake, assessment, referral.
Catherine: Newtown Recovery and Resiliency Team. This is Catherine. Can I help you?
Patricia Llodra: They’re an absolutely key component to our recovery.
Melissa Glaser , Community Outreach Liaison, Newtown Recovery & Resiliency Team: Our care coordinators do match with every individual that is looking for some kind of support. The support may be in the form of matching to a behavioral health provider. It might mean looking for reimbursement to help with their mental health or wellness. It may mean that they’re just looking for some short-term emotional support.
Patricia Llodra: We did some research about trauma and how other municipalities had responded and the lessons that other municipalities learned. We applied that to our circumstance here and then wrote a whole protocol around how that team would work and what they would do, and created a governance structure for them.
Melissa Glaser: Our team really encompassed community recovery on a large scale. And it is the place now where people know they can go if they’re looking for, where can I get support on the anniversary of the shooting? Or if my child needs a therapeutic summer camp, where can I go? So it’s long-term, several more years to come, before I think we can say the majority of impacted individuals are really in a more resilient place.
Patricia Llodra: We are inexorably changed because of this horrible thing. I think it will always be with us. I want it always to be with us, because I wouldn’t want any of those children or those educators to ever be forgotten. It’s critically important we carry it with us.
Herman Millholland: Healing means something very different to each individual. The key to healing is ensuring that when you’re working with victims, you ask them what it is that they need.
Patricia Llodra: I see more and more people reaching that point of comfort where they’re again confident in the future. They see that bright light on the horizon and that the world is a good and kind place.
Puni Kalra: Our resilience is what really speaks out in these tragedies. We persevere, we get through, we become stronger.
This web training series highlights the importance of communities, states, and regions planning a response to incidents of mass violence and terrorism using the OVC resource Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources Toolkit (OVC's Mass Violence Toolkit). Planning is a critical component that will allow the community to respond appropriately and effectively to a mass violence incident. We highly recommend viewing the webinars in the order listed below as each will build on and reinforce different areas of the Mass Violence Toolkit.
|June 28, 2016||1.5 hours||
View PowerPoint (PDF 2.85 MB)
This session provides an overview of how civic, government, and business sectors can use OVC's Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources Toolkit to develop a comprehensive victim assistance plan to respond to incidents of mass violence and terrorism. Lessons learned from past incidents indicate that with advanced planning (including establishing victim assistance protocols), and 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.
|September 13, 2018||1.5 hours||
View PowerPoint (PDF 5.4 MB)
The first session introduces tips for building and maintaining partnerships before a mass violence incident occurs, effective collaboration strategies to implement when planning for and responding to mass violence incidents, steps to execute a response plan, challenges with issuing death notifications, and factors to consider when setting up a Family Assistance Center.
|January 21, 2020||1.5 hours||
View PowerPoint (PDF 2.32 MB)
This session provides an indepth look at the Notification victim assistance protocol. While the delivery of death notifications in a single homicide or in mass violence incidents are similar, there are also some unique aspects of mass fatalities that should be considered. This session looks at the factors related to delivering mass violence death notifications, the dynamics of death notification teams, training needs and how to integrate a trauma-informed approach.
Death Notification is included in the Notification protocol, one of 13 victim assistance protocols in OVC's Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources Toolkit.
|September 14, 2016||1.5 hours||
View PowerPoint (PDF 1.96 MB)
This session provides an overview of the complex process of managing donations. The process includes organizing, storing, and disbursing the funds, goods, and services received in response to incidents of mass violence or terrorism. Lessons learned from previous incidents consistently underscore that response and recovery efforts are more effective when there is a planned and comprehensive donation management strategy in place that focuses on both the immediate and longer term needs of victims, survivors, and the affected community.
Donation Management is one of 13 victim assistance protocols in OVC's Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources Toolkit.
|October 19, 2018||1.5 hours||
View PowerPoint (PDF 3.98 MB)
The second session builds on the details that were discussed in "Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: The First 24 to 48 Hours – Part 1." This session provides an overview of the transition from short-term to long-term assistance; how to execute productive outreach plans; understanding immediate/acute, intermediate/transitional, and long-term needs of survivors; how to honor victims and survivors; and how to get involved in exercise planning.
|October 30, 2017||1.5 hours||
View PowerPoint (PDF 2.14 MB)
This session provides an overview of the importance of communication in responding to incidents of mass violence and terrorism. Communication itself is an intervention tool, so it is important to consider how you are sharing information. When information is shared effectively it decreases anxiety and can provide those who are affected with a sense of being supported. When victims and the public know where to get more information, they are likely to be less anxious. Timely, accurate, and thoughtful information decreases opportunities for speculation and rumor and can help victims understand what has and is occurring, allowing them to begin to process the event and start the recovery process. Lessons learned from previous incidents consistently underscore that all response and recovery efforts are more effective when there is a planned and comprehensive communications management strategy that focuses on communication among all responders, with victims and survivors, and with the community during the response and recovery phases.
Communications is one of 13 victim assistance protocols in OVC's Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources Toolkit.
Retrieve a variety of resources to assist communities and government agencies in planning for and responding to victims of mass violence and terrorism. Resources include access to webinars, e-toolkits, and training and technical assistance for community planning, response, and recovery.
|Partnerships & Planning||Resources|
|Partnerships and Planning is a critical first phase of preparing for an incident of mass violence or terrorism. Pre-planning requires strategic, deliberate consideration about how to establish and maintain relationships and apply a community's resources when responding to the needs of victims impacted by mass violence or terrorism. Phase 1 provides resources to plan and prepare a community to respond to victims' needs, recognizing that every community is unique with varying resources and organizational structures.||As you are developing your mass violence victim assistance plan, review these after action reports for lessons learned from these incidents.
Aurora Century 16 Theater Shooting, Aurora, Colorado – After Action Report [PDF 4.8MB]
Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Music Festival Shooting, Las Vegas, Nevada – After Action Report [PDF 6.6MB]
Platte Canyon High School Shooting, Bailey, Colorado – After Action Report [PDF 3.5MB]
Hawaii Crime Victim Compensation Commission - Mass Violence Victim Response Plan
This plan was developed in consultation with over 60 stakeholders comprised of government, non-profit, community, corporate and faith-based organizations. This included the Governor's Office and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. Please note that the language in the plan reflects some language preferences expressed by the group such as use of the phrase recovery center instead of resiliency center. Additionally, emergency management staff opted not to specifically direct what the incident commander should do, thus the language used is more flexible. [PDF 158KB]
|Phase 2 offers resources for the acute crisis response to an incident of mass violence or terrorism. This section includes information regarding how victim services can support and enhance the existing emergency response.||Sample PIO Lessons Learned, Aurora, Colorado [PDF 619KB]
Sample Victim Liaison Job Description [PDF 66KB]
Communication Opportunities – Keeping Victims/Survivors Updated, Toolkit for Response for Advocates in Colorado [PDF 205KB]
|There are many aspects to the recovery phase of an incident of mass violence or terrorism, including community trauma recovery, financial support, annual observances, permanent site memorials, and resiliency centers. Phase 3 provides tools to assist communities in their efforts to recover following an incident by providing resources to enhance their capacity to deliver services, to identify needs, and to build a long-term response for victims.||Archiving grief: Museums learn to preserve memorials left at mass shootings
The Resiliency Center by SafeHope, Newton and Hesston, Kansas
The STEM Center for Strength by AllHealth Network, Highlands Ranch, Colorado