Step 3: In-Person Delivery

Once you gather all of the information and prepare for the death notification, the third step is delivering the notification as soon as possible.

When you arrive at the NOK's location, the primary notifier knocks on the door and confirms the identity of the person answering the door to ensure the death notification is being given to the correct person(s). Once the NOK is identified and confirmed, the primary notifier introduces himself and the support person. Each person should present credentials or identifying information. 

Next, ask if you may come inside. If the NOK does not want you inside their location, do your best to find a place that can provide some level of privacy.​ Explain that you have some sensitive information to share and would like to do it in private. This may give victims predictability and control.

The support person should be scanning the location for small children or others who are in the area so they are not hearing the information or the NOK’s response.

Encourage the NOK to sit down. This is for their safety; it is not uncommon for the person receiving the news to collapse during the notification if they are not already seated. The trauma notification team should sit as well so everyone is at the same eye level.

Once everyone is seated, the primary notifier delivers the notification with a brief overview of the incident—a one-sentence delivery—then allows for reactions. Clearly understood words such as "died," "death," or "dead" should be used. Avoid saying "passed away," "lost," or "expired." 

Examples include:

  • "There has been an active shooter incident at the local theater and your daughter, Jess, died as a result of her injuries."

  • "We found John in Oak Park with a fatal gunshot wound. It appears self-inflicted."

It is imperative that you use the deceased person’s name and never say “the body” or “remains." Be prepared to repeat the information or say the word "dead" or "died" several times as the NOK may be in shock. 

There may be silence after the notification as the NOK is trying to grasp the information you just delivered.  Allow the NOK time to absorb the information. 

Once the NOK begins to speak, listen to them without interrupting. The support person is monitoring the reactions of the NOK during the notification.  ​

  • Knock on the door, confirm the identity of the person answering the door to ensure they are the person that you need to notify, and show your credentials​.

  • Ask to enter the location​.

  • Encourage all parties to sit down (i.e., trauma notification team & NOK)​.

  • Ask if anyone else is in the location (i.e., children, pets, etc.).