FBI Launches Trauma Notification Training

An updated, mobile-friendly training seeks to ensure trauma notifications are delivered with professionalism, dignity, and compassion

Image of woman at FAC from VSD Trauma Notification Training

The FBI's Trauma Notification Training describes a four-step process for delivering notifications to victims' next of kin.

On April 22, during National Crime Victims' Rights Week, Director Christopher Wray announced the launch of an updated Trauma Notification Training tool for law enforcement, first responders, victim specialists, and allied professionals.

"Victims are at the heart of the FBI's mission, and the Trauma Notification Training offers resources, support, and hope to anyone who needs it," said Wray. "We are proud to announce the launch of this training during National Crime Victims' Rights Week and its expanded availability—a call to action for everyone to help crime victims."

The FBI’s Trauma Notification Training is a free online course that demonstrates a four-step, evidence-informed approach to providing trauma or death notifications to the next of kin. The course highlights various challenges as well as best practices for making notifications through a culturally inclusive lens.

"I appreciate that this training starts with such a serious challenge," said Wray. "Directly asking, 'Are you ready to deliver a trauma notification?' And by the end of the training, anyone taking it should feel more confident in answering 'yes' to that question."

"The way a trauma notification is provided can have a lasting impact on family members."

Dr. Staci Beers, FBI Victim Services Division  

The Trauma Notification Training was created by Dr. Staci Beers, a victim services coordinator with the FBI’s Victim Services Division. Early in her career, she found there was no standard training available for law enforcement on how to deliver notifications to victims' families.

"Families want and deserve the truth about their loved one's trauma and/or death," said Beers. "This is often the first time law enforcement is meeting the family and thus the first opportunity to build rapport. The way a trauma notification is provided can have a lasting impact on family members and significantly affect how they cooperate with an investigation."

The FBI developed an initial version of the training—titled "We Regret to Inform You"—through a partnership with Penn State University. That course, which launched during National Crime Victims' Rights Week in 2015 and was housed on PSU's website, focused primarily on delivering death notifications and outlined a four-step model of planning, preparation, delivery, and follow-up. Over nine years, more than 40,000 individuals took the training.

In addition to positive feedback, Beers received numerous questions about other scenarios the training could used for, such as delivering notifications about arrests, child abductions, or other criminal violations. She began expanding the course to include all trauma notifications, not just deaths.

The updated Trauma Notification Training still teaches the four-step model, with the addition of eight new videos that illustrate best practices for delivering notifications in a variety of scenarios. Beers emphasizes the importance of being trauma-informed before delivering a notification, which includes ensuring victims feel safe and empowered, being honest when responding to questions, and recognizing cultural needs.

"Trauma notifications can significantly impact a loved one’s grieving process, as well as their mental, physical, and emotional health. It's important to address victims in a trauma-informed manner, as you only get one chance at it," said Beers.

"Every time I go out and do a notification, I'm anxious knowing I'm going to change that person's life forever. While delivering a trauma notification can be extremely stressful for all individuals involved, there are methods to ensure the notification is provided to family members with professionalism, dignity, and compassion."

The FBI’s Victim Services Division (VSD) has victim specialists in all 56 field offices who work to assist victims of crimes and ensure they are given the opportunity to receive the support and services they are entitled to under the law. Since its creation in 2001, VSD has provided services like crisis intervention, emergency travel assistance, referrals for counseling, and housing to more than 2 million victims.

"How the FBI treats victims is a direct reflection of our core values, and we ensure that victims are supported with all resources available to them," said VSD Acting Assistant Director Ashley Johnson. "Our Trauma Notification Training helps law enforcement and victim services providers deliver death and trauma notifications to family members following a crime without further traumatization."

A new mobile app to accompany the Trauma Notification Training is available at fbi.gov/apps.

Beers has traveled to more than 30 of the FBI’s field offices to deliver the Trauma Notification Training in person to approximately 800 special agents, task force officers, victim specialists, linguists, and employee assistance personnel. Those offices now have specially designated teams available upon request to assist with death and other traumatic notifications after a crisis or mass casualty event.

For Beers, it was important to launch both iterations of this training during National Crime Victims' Rights Week. The 2024 theme, in particular—How Would You Help? Options, Services, and Hope for Crime Survivors—speaks to the reason she developed the course in the first place.

"I think it's always important to honor victims and survivors during National Crime Victims Rights Week. I think it's really important this year because the theme is 'How Would You Help?' For folks in law enforcement and victim services, how can we get better at serving victims? Let's get better by educating ourselves and training ourselves on a tool that can help victims in the future."

"We are proud to announce the launch of this training during National Crime Victims' Rights Week—a call to action for everyone to help crime victims."

FBI Director Christopher Wray