The Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation (FAERF) has been at the forefront of the evolution of emergency management, combining the head-heart approach for a fully integrated response to survivors of traumatic loss. Practicing consciousness in the workplace involves caring for people first, without exception.

Learning and Evolving… the Only Thing We Humans Can Do When Surviving Traumatic Loss


Written by: Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D.


August 2023


It is the growth of consciousness which we must thank for the existence of problems; they are dubious gifts of civilization.”

-Carl Jung


   The third webinar in the summer series featured highlights from the fifth course in FAERF’s International-Humanitarian Assistance Response Program™ (I-HARP) Certificate. The title of the fifth course is “The Business Side of Traumatic Loss in the Workplace.” Like all of the I-HARP courses, the program is designed to educate those who enroll in the course on the various perspectives of traumatic loss. Along with the testimony of many survivors, this program includes an insurance broker, an insurance consultant who advises companies on best practices in advance of a crisis at work, and two attorneys.


The purpose of the fifth course is to raise awareness as to the most difficult parts in the aftermath of a workplace tragedy where people are injured and killed. In the July article of Consciousness@work, comments made by the aviation insurance broker were presented in the context of quotes from survivors who are featured in the program. This month’s article summarizes discussion points that were made by two attorneys who are featured in Course V, both of whom have given countless hours of time to educate company employee responders.


  “The Delta Air Lines employees made a point of introducing themselves to me and just touching base… It was clear they were caring people who had given of themselves and were not just punching a company clock.”

-Jim Hammond, family survivor, Swissair Flight 111


Jim Hammond’s mother and step-father died in the crash of Swissair 111, on September 2, 1998, when the MD-11 crashed into the ocean, just off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. All 229 passengers and crew on board the flight perished. Since fifty-three of the passengers and one flight attendant were booked by Delta Air Lines in their codeshare agreement with Swissair, Delta’s emergency leadership and Care Teams played a key role in the response,


Jim’s parents were traveling to visit family members in Switzerland and France. Jim worked in private practice before taking a position in the legal department with the government. His background in the legal field provided him with a perspective that most family survivors do not have. 


Jim did not go to Halifax, and first met airline employees at the memorial service, where they sought him out and introduced themselves. Jim was surprised that they took the risk of approaching him, as they had no way of knowing how he might react. This was his first exposure to the airline employees, and their proactive response deeply affected the way he viewed the airline in a positive light going forward.



   “The Swissair employees hand-delivered my parents’ luggage, instead of shipping it in the mail.”

-Jim Hammond


Later Swissair employees who were located in an office near his home in Seattle, WA, hand-delivered his parents’ baggage. He was impressed that they provided him with options as to how he wanted to receive their belongings, as opposed to simply shipping them in the mail. As with the Delta Air Lines employees, the compassionate response by the Swissair employees helped Jim view the airline differently than he might have.  Jim’s complete story is featured in my book Handbook for Human Services Response, 2004.


“We are raising consciousness. Each crash has helped make incremental improvements in the system for future survivors.”

– Plaintiff’s Attorney Mitch Baumeister


Mitch Baumeister has been a long-term supporter of our work at FAERF. The above quote was taken from an extensive interview with Mitch that appears in the Handbook for Human Services Response.


A few years ago, while presenting training to airline employees, I was followed by the company’s lead defense attorney. My presentation included videos of survivors saying how important it was for the employees to show compassion and express sincere sorrow for what the survivors were experiencing. The defense attorney disagreed with my training and advised the class against saying “sorry” to a survivor following a crisis in the workplace.


I challenged the attorney and he pushed back, explaining that an apology would cause additional liability for the company.  Rather than arguing with him in the presence of the employees, I chose to contact plaintiff attorneys who I knew would help me educate others in the future.  Fortunately, Mitch was available for a videotaped interview, which would be ready for me to present the next time I visited that airline. Following was Mitch’s response:


“In 40 years, I have never had a situation where an employee has said anything to a family member that has in any way impacted on the airline’s ultimate liability exposure. Indeed, the reverse is true. I’ve had airline employees that have treated family members with lack of dignity, lack of compassion, lack of understanding… and set up a hostile environment from the get-go.”

Mitch went on to explain that a front-line employee does not have the positional power to bind a corporation with any statement that shows empathy and concern. Like attorney, family survivor Jim Hammond, Mitch explains why some defense attorneys would give advice that is contrary to the intuitive acts of compassion that most humans feel toward those who experience such devastating losses.


“Lawyers are control freaks… they hate the prospect that someone might say something, someday, that may somehow impact liability…”


Mitch goes on to use an example of where the Chief Executive Officer of an airline once made a statement where he accepted responsibility for over 100 deaths in a crash – and even then, this was recounted when he amended his statement to include the Federal Government as sharing responsibility for the deaths. He goes on to reiterate that the CEO is hardly a frontline employee showing compassion in their expressions to survivors they are assisting.


FAERF’s International-Humanitarian Assistance Response Program™ is designed to educate employees who respond for the business or company experiencing a crisis in their workplace. The quotes here are representative of the quality of the education and relevance of the courses to a subject matter that so often is misunderstood.


The Introductory Course is available and members can contact to learn more about this and the other courses.


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