The military color guard was changing watch at my father’s visitation when one of the members collapsed from a heart attack. The funeral home was packed, and there were people everywhere. Amid the mass panic and confusion that erupted, a funeral home staff member and my nephew (a trained paramedic) immediately jumped to the rescue and began performing CPR. Another staff member ran to the restaurant next door to get an automated external defibrillator (AED).
In the meantime, the funeral home director called emergency responders and began to calmly move the crowd back. He directed parents to lead children to another room and he appointed volunteers from the family to help with doors and other tasks. Paramedics from the fire department arrived within minutes, the man was taken to the hospital, and he lived to perform at many other ceremonies.
After the drama had subsided, the funeral home director was asked how he had remained so calm yet worked so fast. He said, “You’d be surprised how often this and other emergencies have occurred during funerals.”
Heart attacks are more likely to happen right after a loss
According to Health.com, the shock and stress of bereavement may trigger a heart attack. In fact, they said a study of nearly 2,000 heart-attack survivors found they had their attack soon after a family member or close friend died. What’s even more important for funeral home employees is that the risk of having an attack is 21 times higher in the 24-hours following a death than it is one to six months later. That’s just about the time most families are beginning to come together at funeral homes for visitation and ceremonies.
Obviously, the funeral director at my father’s ceremony had created an emergency plan and ensured workers were trained and ready to render first aid. How prepared is your team to recognize and handle emergencies that could include stroke, heart attack, seizures, choking or allergic reactions?
Bereavement is also a time when people experience physical exhaustion, sleep disturbances, appetite problems, and disorientation. Each of these physical issues can leave mourners vulnerable to accidents, including falls that can result in breaks, cuts and other injuries. Can your team administer first aid while they await professional medical help?
It’s smart to prepare your staff
The American Red Cross, and the American Heart Association, are just two of the national organizations offering CPR and First Aid training. Local health care organizations in your area may also provide information and training for you and your staff.
So, in order to be prepared for any emergency that may occur at your funeral home, it is a good idea to train and plan with your team. Practice drills, write instructions, create phone lists and get proper training so that you are ready to deal with any and all emergencies.