Whenever someone dies in the line of duty—whether it’s a soldier, police officer, or fire fighter—funeral planning becomes more important than ever before. That’s because the deceased is more than just a beloved son or daughter, mother or father. He or she is a hero, and that’s someone that entire communities want to band together to commemorate.
In almost all cases, there are protocols in place regarding funeral planning for a fallen hero. The International Association of Fire Fighters oversees the process of line-of-duty deaths for fire fighters, including how to plan a funeral in keeping with the honor due the deceased.
Contact with the IAFF
Most fire fighter funerals are planned with the combined input of the family and a liaison from the local union. Because all the decisions ultimately rest with the next of kin, it is the job of the liaison to help the grieving family know their rights and to make decisions during this difficult time. You will be asked to make traditional funeral choices such as:
- Location of the funeral
- Religious preferences
- Which funeral home/director/cemetery to choose
- Type of interment
You’ll also be asked during this time if you’d like a funeral with full department honors, or if a quieter, more private ceremony is preferred. Both of these options are acceptable, and you can choose some of the options of a full department funeral without opting for the whole ceremony, if that is your wish.
Full Department Honors
In a traditional fire fighter funeral with department honors, the deceased is buried in his or her uniform, and honor guards are selected to stand at the casket during viewing hours (they may also be stationed outside the church and lining the street for the procession). Pall bearers are often chosen from other members of the department, and it’s not uncommon for fire fighters from around the area to fly in for the ceremony (including the fire chief, union president, and international principal officers).
Depending on personal preference, this ceremony can continue at the grave site, although it is usually more restricted in terms of attendance. TAPS may be played by a bugler, or you can opt to include a bagpiper to play Amazing Grace.
One of the most touching traditions is the ringing of the bell and the Fire Fighter’s Prayer, which represent the deceased’s sacrifice to duty.
For More Information
The loss of life in the line of duty is a heartbreaking process. Countless fire fighters have given their lives in sacrifice to others, and although a ceremonial funeral can’t make up for such a devastating loss, it can help with the grieving process.
For more information on the International Association of Fire Fighters and their regulations regarding funerals, please visit them on the web at http://www.iaff.org/. Most funeral homes can also provide more information on planning a funeral with fire fighter honors, as they are accustomed to working with local professionals and professional organizations on coordinating ceremonies of this magnitude.