Skip to content

Role of police, casualty bureau and district councils in major incidents

After any major incident you may want to make enquiries about someone that you believe might have been involved. There are ways you can do this, including using a police casualty bureau or helpline. Police family liaison officers may also have a role after an incident.

Role of a police casualty bureau

Often, during major incidents the police will set up a casualty bureau to specifically deal with missing persons, survivors, evacuees and witnesses involved, or believed to have been involved, in the incident. It is not a general information bureau and is designed to gather and register information and details about an incident.

The police will provide a number of telephone lines, but depending on the volume of calls, you may experience a delay in getting through. Make a note of the reference number given and quote this when speaking to staff at the casualty bureau.

Casualty identification

When casualties or survivors are identified, the enquirer is told as soon as practicable following their call, but bear in mind that this can take a while.

If you have contacted the casualty bureau number to report a missing person and then subsequently locate them yourself, make sure that you call the casualty bureau back to let them know. This will allow the police and other organisations to focus on finding those who are still missing.

The casualty bureau telephone number will be different for every incident. If one has been established the number will appear on the homepage of this website; it will also be broadcast on news bulletins.

Survivor Reception Centre

In some instances the police may set up one or more Survivor Reception Centres (SRCs). Survivors who were not physically injured may be interviewed here by the police - to help identify those involved and to find out what survivors saw and heard.

Family and Friends Reception Centre

Sometimes a Family and Friends Reception Centre (FFRC) will be established by the police with the local authority to help reunite family and friends with survivors.

This may also be used to register, interview and provide shelter for family and friends.

Police Family Liaison Officer's role

Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) are police officers that are deployed to bereaved families during the investigation process. They are the primary police contact for the family, facilitating a two-way exchange of information between the family and the senior police investigator.

Once appointed, they will normally be the primary point of contact with the family in the immediate aftermath of an emergency.

In the early aftermath of an incident the FLO may also assist in signposting the family to the support that is available from other organisations, including both statutory and voluntary.

Helplines available following a major incident

Helplines are likely to be set up in response to an incident, even if a casualty bureau has been established.

They will not provide the same function for registering missing people as the casualty bureau, but will offer general information about the incident and details of support that will be available.

Responsibility for setting up a helpline will vary depending on the incident. If a helpline has been established it will appear on the homepage of this site and will be broadcast on news bulletins.

The British Red Cross has been involved in setting up helplines for a number of major incidents in both the UK and overseas.

Role of district councils

Depending on the nature and location of the incident, the relevant local council is likely to be involved in a response.

In some instances, they may set up a dedicated facility such as a Humanitarian Assistance Centre, which would be a focal point for information and assistance for families, survivors and others directly affected.

If a centre has been established it is likely that details will be available on the relevant district council website.

More useful links