How FBI Helps Victims of “Mass Casualty Events”


NPR profiles the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance. Staff members talk about how to pick volunteers for five elite teams of victim specialists they deploy in “mass casualty events” like a bombing, a massacre, or a terrorist attack. “It’s a very demanding process,” Dr. Steve Porter, a clinical neuropsychologist who formerly worked with special forces in the military, says of the victim-assistance rapid-deployment teams. “These people who volunteer to be on this have to be able to leave in a moment’s notice [ ] They have to be on call 24/7. They never know when they’re going to get called.”

In cases they know about in advance, such as raids on brothels where young women are trafficked, FBI social workers say they plan ahead: buying T-shirts, sweat pants, and flip-flops for women who might need them. “There are so many things we can’t do for them — we can’t alleviate their loss — but we do try to provide for those practical needs and a lot of that starts with information,” says Kathryn Turman, who created the victim-assistance office at the FBI 10 years ago.

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