Family support and victim identification in mass casualty terrorist attacks: An integrative approach

Roni Gagin, Miri Cohen, Maya Peled-Avram

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Terrorist bombing attacks in Israel between 2000 and 2004 caused mass casualties. After each attack in the north of Israel, Rambam Medical Center, the largest hospital in the region, absorbs the majority of injured, especially the more severely injured and unidentified victims. Immediately with the media reports of a terrorist attack, tens of relatives come to the hospital, looking for missing family members. This paper describes an assistance unit for families of unidentified victims. It is staffed by the hospital's social work department, and its tasks are to identify the unidentified victims, help relatives find and be united with them, and assist other relatives in the identification of bodies of deceased family members. The process involves gathering information from relatives and cross-checking it with data and pictures from the hospitals' emergency and operating rooms; and providing crisis intervention and psychological first aid to victims' relatives. The family assistance unit works with several other professional units in the hospital and in the community, and always adjusts its operations to the features of each event. Clearer guidelines for dynamic training of social workers and research-based interventions to prevent compassion fatigue among the workers must be further developed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-132
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Emergency Mental Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • Crisis intervention
  • Family support
  • Mass casualty event
  • Terrorist bombing attacks
  • Unidentified victims

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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