Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020
On top of our individual concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inundated with good and bad information, helpful tips, fake news, political sniping and unfounded scary rumors. We are staying home and doing what the CDC and health officials recommend. And we are afraid.
We crave “leadership of frankness and vigor,” and yet that attribute may seem in short supply today, although there are occasional glimpses. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt expressed that phrase in his first inaugural speech in March 1933 in the depth of the Great Depression:
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
We expect leaders to lead. We will follow leaders who are frank and through vigorous action show that they care about us. We will support those leaders and we will do the right things. We need leaders who communicate reassurance and offer light in an ever-darkening world. As we face unthinkable conditions, that may seem difficult right now. However, it is imperative that leaders speak realistically and frankly, while remembering to be positive and appropriately hopeful.
Whether you are the leader of a family, a community organization, a corporation, a nonprofit or a government, your job is to convey leadership through actions and the words you choose. You need to make hard decisions, be honest in your communications, and all the while “be careful not to scare the hell out of people,” as Dinesh Paliwal, President and CEO of Harman International, told Wall Street Journal.
This is particularly important in the funeral and cremation professions. In a recent webinar coordinated by webCemeteries.com, industry leaders reminded participants about the pivotal societal role that funeral professionals play in serving families. They note that in times of war, terrorist attacks, economic depressions and recessions, and now global pandemic, funeral advisors are called upon to comfort families in what is already an extremely stressful time.
At this time of crisis, funeral profession leaders say it is imperative to adhere to the values and principles of service to families that have always driven the funeral profession. Address your fears and the fears of families. Establish rapport and build the trust that families need at the time of a loved one’s death. Reassure families you will be with them and then live up to that promise, even if you must rely on videoconferencing instead of face-to-face meetings, and photographs and virtual tours of your properties, instead of in-person visits.
Adapt, and demonstrate caring responsibility in the worst of times, they say.
Frank, Vigorous Leaders in History
History’s strongest leaders have led us honestly and communicated their commitment eloquently in times of crisis.
President Abraham Lincoln, who saw seven Southern states secede between November 6, 1860, the day he was elected, and his inauguration March 4, 1861, appealed to Americans’ “better angels,” as he worked to prevent our nation from tearing further apart. Lincoln ended his inaugural address by saying:
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
President Ronald Reagan spoke directly about the importance of honesty and openness on January 28, 1986, the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded before the eyes of millions worldwide who watched it on TV. He reminded our nation and the world of an undaunted commitment to science. He spoke of hope.
I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute.
We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.
South African President Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid revolutionary and political prisoner who became the first democratically elected president of South Africa and its first black president, spoke directly of fear.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Leaders in the funeral and cremation professions can address their own fears, then help fill the emotional tanks of colleagues, families and friends, offering a beacon of hope.
Words that Echo Eerily Today
Perhaps the leadership and words of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, provide the most apt instruction for today’s COVID-19 pandemic. During the Crimean War, between 1853 to 1856, more soldiers were dying from infections than from battle injuries. Nightingale and her team of nurses reduced the death count by two thirds by improving the unsanitary conditions at a British hospital.
“Wise and humane management of the patient is the best safeguard against infection,” Nightingale said.
Even more illuminating today are these words from this “Lady with the Lamp” who said,
“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”
Communications with frankness and vigor, indeed.
Be safe. Help others to move past the fear. Be that inspirational leader.
This post is excerpted from Kathy Schaeffer Consulting, LLC blog post of the same name. You can read the original and more post and leadership, professional development, and public relations on their publicly available blog: http://www.ksapr.com/ksa-blog.
Current circumstances impel us to design creative solutions and offer new options. There is no playbook—only your ongoing commitment to promote connection and healthy grief for the families you serve. Thank you for making the extra effort and please stay safe and healthy.
Some leadership resources to grow your skills:
Kathy Schaeffer, principal of Kathy Schaeffer Consulting, LLC (KSC), has run her own public relations firm for 25 years, helping clients win in the “court of public opinion.” Kathy helps nonprofit, association and corporate clients build public awareness, generate public support, mend reputations and navigate crises. She advises leaders on messaging and communicating in the public arena – whether the environment is positive or fraught with crisis, opposition or political sensitivity. Kathy’s services include strategic communications counsel, messaging, community support-building, writing, and media and presentation training. A lifelong Chicagoan, Kathy founded her firm in downtown Chicago in 1994, advising clients in an array of areas, including health care, economic development, tax policy, education and philanthropy. She and her team earned numerous accolades and awards, including the prestigious Platinum Award from the Publicity Club of Chicago. Kathy now splits her time between Michigan and Illinois..
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Updated: Thursday, March 26, 2020
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I am reaching out to you because you have been a resource and guide for families.
Times are so very strange and challenging and fearful right now and we know that everyone is scrambling to figure out how we honor our dead and support our bereaved from a distance. This is our daily struggle. I know you are dealing with so many questions and unknowns and facing families on their worst day with very few answers to give them. I also know that many churches and clergy are not available to conduct funerals for anyone—even their own church members. Local governments across the world are already telling families they cannot attend funerals. Now we are faced with a world-wide experience that no one could prepare for. We are here, to care for the dead and speak for the bereaved. You are a hero every day, and especially today.
Now is our time to shine. Whether you are a licensed funeral director, a Celebrant, clergy, officiant, chaplain—or one of those myriads of other roles who serve families—we have a bunch of talented and creative people here. Let's think about how to create services that capture the moment and invite people to feel close even when they can't be there.
What I want to offer to each of you is this—if you have families who would like to have a small service now, reach out to a Celebrant in your area, or use my free resource to inspire you, and find a way to connect families at this difficult time. Arrange to meet with them by phone or Facetime or Zoom and gather the stories and put together a service that you can give them now by webcast, or just by print.
Some of you may find yourself needing to do more family meetings by phone, Facetime or Skype. If you are not familiar with how to do those, ask a teenager—they are out of school with nothing to do right now so they can be your tech support.
Phone family meetings are challenging and you will need to work a little harder to connect with the family and to get them to open up. There's just nothing like face-to-face meetings, but that may not be possible right now.
Some of you may find yourself doing services via webcasting or video or for family only. These situations can also be challenging, but just keep focusing on meeting the needs of the family and the best way to tell the unique story of their loved one, no matter who is sitting in front of you. Or not, as the case may be.
For example—virtual candle lighting ceremonies—invite everyone who is watching to go find a candle/flashlight/something that can light up. Play some quiet background music to give people a moment to do that. Then have everyone light their lights at the same time. Even if you are not on a virtual platform where people can see each other, we can talk about the power of thoughts and presence being represented by our lights.
That's just one that popped into my head.
My thought is two-fold—the fear is, if they walk away now they’ll never come back. If they have a service already prepared and ready, they might be more willing to come back and actually have a chapel service. Or, at the least, they will just have the words to read that will hopefully provide some comfort and guidance for them in this very dark and lonely time and they will be grateful to the funeral home for providing this.
Grief does not wait and demands that we embrace it. We all are grieving our losses right now--loss of movement, loss of income, loss of friends and family, loss of security, loss of trust. A death just magnifies those feelings and the sense of isolation. As the people who are trained for this work, we can help families walk this path and give words of solace and comfort and ways to put the stories in a place that will help.
Every life deserves to be celebrated. Even when we are together from afar.
These are difficult times, for the families, for the funeral directors, for the Celebrants, for everyone. So, let's support each other, be kind, be generous, be vigilant—and wash your hands!
Let me know how we can stand with you in this uncertain time. We are all partners in serving families, even on the hardest days.
Take care and be well!!
- Glenda Stansbury and Doug Manning
Celebrant Trainers: Kathy Burns, Matt Bailey, Cathy Nichols, Sara Brown
Suggestions for conducting services
The first thing to consider is how the services will be presented.
Some firms already offer webcasting and are comfortable and positioned for this situation. Others will be figuring out very rapidly how to procure the equipment and software and skills.
There are professional companies that offer streaming services on a per service or a monthly fee. You have probably already been contacted by some of these companies in the past few days.
There are public platforms such as Zoom, Facebook Live, Go to Meeting, WebX, etc. Consult with others who have used any of these platforms or services for advice or tips on what works or pitfalls to avoid. For example, Gordon Welch, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Funeral Directors Association informed us that Facebook routinely mutes music streamed on Facebook Live. Apparently, Facebook’s agreements with song producers require Facebook to mute music broadcast over the platform. Unfortunately, BMI, ASCAP and SESAC are not parties to these agreements so there is no way to solve the muting problems with Facebook. Therefore platforms like Zoom, Vimeo or Skype who are not parties to the same type of music copyright infringements agreements work better but still require a webcasting license.
Live Stream with family present with no participants visible on the screen.
- Give the family a moment to wave and express their thanks to the people who are joining them.
- Ask the participants to type in their wishes or condolences in the chat function and take a few minutes to read some of them during the service.
- Have a video tribute or pictures of the deceased visible on the screen next to the officiant.
- Be sure that flowers or mementos or service folders are shown for everyone to see.
- Have a favorite or familiar song played and put the words on the screen so everyone can sing along.
- Put the words to readings or scripture or prayers on the screen so viewers can read along.
Live Stream with or without family present and participants are visible on the screen
- Ask the participants to write a note that can be held up to the camera for the family to see.
- Have a ceremony (a few are included in this resource book) that everyone can do together.
- Have a video tribute or pictures of the deceased visible on the screen next to the officiant.
- Be sure that flowers or mementos or service folders are shown for everyone to see.
- Have a favorite or familiar song played and put the words on the screen so everyone can sing along.
- Put the words to readings or scripture or prayers on the screen so viewers can read/recite along.
Taping for later broadcast
- This provides a little more opportunity for editing and smoother transitions to video tribute, music, flowers, service folders, etc.
- The opportunity for real time participation and family involvement is sacrificed.
- Have a “drive-in” funeral service with everyone staying in their cars. If you have not yet invested in portable microphone/speakers set up, now would be a good time.
- Borrow a drive-in theater in your community and broadcast the service on the screen
- Drive past the home of the family with the coach.
- Encourage people to drive by the home of the family at a set time, so they can acknowledge their “presence” and wishes.
- Gravesides with family standing by their cars. Again, a strong outdoor microphone/speaker system is very important.
Download the free Ceremonies to Celebrate Together From Afar Resource for Challenging Times as a MS Word doc here.
With everyone seeking information on COVID-19 right now, CANA plans to host a weekly conference call for our members to convene and ask questions of one another, talk best practices, and learn together about COVID-19. Check your inbox for instructions to join, or contact Membership Manager Brie Bingham for more information.
CANA continues to frequently update a blog entry related to COVID-19 as new information becomes available. Be sure to bookmark the blog post and revisit as needed: GoCANA.org/covid19.
Glenda Stansbury is the Marketing and Development Director, InSight Books, and Dean and Training Coordinator for In-Sight Institute. She holds a BS in Special Education from Central State University, as well as a BS in Funeral Service and a MA in Administrative Leadership from the University of Oklahoma. Before joining In-Sight Books, Glenda worked for 12 years for the Oklahoma Education Association as a trainer/facilitator. She has worked as Marketing and Development Director for In-Sight Books for 24 years and has been Dean of the In-Sight Institute for 20 years, co-training over 4000 Funeral Celebrants across North America with Doug Manning. She is a Certified Funeral Celebrant; Licensed Funeral Director/ Embalmer, Oklahoma; Certified Funeral Service Professional; Thanexus, New Jersey Board of Director; and Full Time Instructor- Department of Funeral Service, University of Central Oklahoma..
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Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 17, 2020
CANA was proud to welcome the Millennial Directors, Zach Carnley and Matthew Morian, to the CANA stage at the 2019 Cremation Symposium. With Glenda Stansbury representing the Baby Boomers, this panel talked about our changing workforce and generations working together. They discussed navigating culture clashes, learning new ways of communicating (both language and mode), and the kinds of experiences one should have to earn their spot on the team.
After leaving Las Vegas, the Millennial Directors weren’t done. In the past few years, they’ve spoken about their experience on many associations’ stages. We asked them to write a definitive millennials-in-the-workplace post, putting the topic to bed. After all, they're here, they're in their thirties, —and what are employers’ other options, really? As we examine the millennial experience in the workplace—their search for a suitable work environment and their growth and leadership goals—we hope this post can both inform older generations of readers, and also encourage the younger generations to keep working to find their place in funeral service.
I have been fortunate enough in my career as a funeral professional to be involved in many different wonderful organizations. Credit goes to each of my employers who gave me the opportunity to have a voice and to speak on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. We all know that millennials are the bulk of our profession and steadily becoming the bulk of the families we serve. With that said, I have spoken in front of a few organizations on the best way to work together and blend generations to make the business more productive. During many of these presentations, I have asked for audience participation—and participate they did!
Most everyone—millennials included—has quite a few thoughts on how they should work and the tasks they are given. I have heard everything from, “Millennials are extremely lazy, spending all day on their phone,” to “They are the most goal-oriented, outside-of-the-box thinking and solution-solving generation out there.” Most people I talked to would rather have a dedicated, creative millennial than a traditionalist because, for the most part, they are thinking of ways to better themselves and your business. True, some are there to put in only the bare minimum of what is requested, but you will find that all across the board.
In my presentations, I focus on the expectations millennials have of their employers: a fair schedule, decent pay, typical perks such as insurance and retirement, and room to introduce new ideas. I also speak on how we must focus our efforts as leaders to hone in on what they bring to the table and simply not make them “pay their dues.”
As I said, I have been given almost carte blanche with most of my employers to focus on finding ways to better serve families. That is the attitude leaders need to have towards their millennial employees. Obviously, it’s the leader’s job to make sure these ideas are carried out efficiently with respect to the business. I have always considered it a blessing to get to travel around and be involved in numerous organizations and to socialize and learn from people who have been out there doing it. I hope to keep this up, because I always want to be up to speed on the latest our profession has to offer, both for the business I serve and, of course, the families I serve.
I wish many more employers would jump on board with this thought process. You must give your employees the opportunity to spread their wings and attend conventions, conferences, and educational seminars. They will learn so much more from other funeral professionals, things that they can bring back and put directly into action. The reality of it is there are so many scholarships out there that most people can attend these events at little cost. It’s is our job as leaders to send our people to these events and help them grow as professionals, which in turn will help you to grow your business.
- Zach Carnley
If you are wondering how to attract millennials to your business, then you have to ask yourself, “What do they really want?” I believe what millennials yearn for most in our profession is a healthy work environment. They desire a workplace that has strong leadership, a flexible schedule, and a solid company culture.
Company culture should be a top priority for any funeral home. Whether you are a family owned firm or part of a large corporation, it is important for your coworkers to know why you do what you do. A company’s culture is often made up of three key components: their values, their mission, and their vision.
A company’s vision is essentially their long term goal as a business. It will not typically change overtime as it should be something you continuously strive to achieve. Your mission is what you do every day to help attain your company vision. It is what defines your enterprise to the world. Your values are then an outline of the intended character of your coworkers. If an employee lives by the values you set forth then they are carrying out your mission and will ultimately fulfill your vision. A funeral home with a solid company culture is one with a future in which millennials can see themselves being an integral part of.
Having a flexible schedule is another trait of a healthy work environment. A flexible schedule in our industry is a difficult task to tackle. To attempt to detail it would require an additional blog post. Simply stated: a flexible schedule allows for a work-life balance that decreases the likelihood of employee burnout over time.
For millennials, it may mean the ability to go their child’s tee-ball game or to go to a concert during their normal shift. Without tipping the scales too far for any one person, a leader should do their best to accommodate their colleagues instead of making it more difficult for them to find that balance. The results will be better morale and a willingness to go the extra mile for the company because the company went the extra mile for them.
In order to maintain a flexible schedule and support a company culture, you have to have strong leaders. Leaders do not have to be managers or supervisors. Those titles can be bestowed and stripped away without any discernible change occurring. A leader is one who cares for and supports those around them. They help others succeed and become the best they can be for the sake of the company, not for themselves.
Luckily, leadership can be learned! It is a skill that can be honed with practice. If you have the heart to serve (you’d hope so, working at a funeral home) then you have what it takes to lead. Set a good example with your actions. Set an even better example through your interactions with your coworkers. Stay positive and motivate others to do the same and you’ll see a healthy work environment begin to flourish.
With that, you’ll have an inbox full of resumes from millennials in no time.
- Matthew Morian
You can listen to the full panel in "Professor B and the Y-Men: Mentoring the Next Generation of Heroes" with Glenda Stansbury & Zach Carnley, and Matt Morian from CANA's 2019 Cremation Symposium, and our other presenters, for just $100. Visit goCANA.org/CANAheroes to learn more.
Zach Carnley graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. While attending SFA he worked part-time in a funeral home and discovered his passion for working with families at one of their toughest times. He decided to pursue this passion and graduated as valedictorian from the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service in 2009. Zach is a board member of the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice, a board member of the Texas Funeral Service Association and North Texas Funeral Director Association. He is a member of the Burleson Rotary Club and the Burleson Lions Club and serves as an ambassador with the Burleson Chamber of Commerce. Zach has been honored as both the North Texas Funeral Director Association’s and Texas Funeral Director Association’s Young Funeral Professional of the Year..
Matthew Morian is a first-generation funeral director & embalmer. He is the managing funeral director of Lucas Funeral Homes in Keller and Grapevine, Texas. Matt has been in the funeral profession since 2010 and is a graduate of the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service. He is a member of the Pi Sigma Eta funeral director’s fraternity and helped charter the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service’s Lions Club. Matt has served as President of the Dallas Institute’s Lions Club and the Keller Lions Club and as a Zone-Chairperson for Lions Club District 2-E2. In 2017, he was awarded the Texas Funeral Director Association’s Young Funeral Professional of the Year and he currently serves on the board of the North Texas Funeral Director Association.
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, May 13, 2020
At the end of February, CANA hosted our annual Cremation Symposium in Las Vegas. That’s right, we encouraged people to travel to meet up with more than one hundred people and network in a popular tourist destination — it was a different time. Unsurprisingly, the topic of discussion on the floor was the coronavirus pandemic, or the spread of COVID-19.
Fortunately, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released guidelines with information on handling infected, or potentially infected, cases at your funeral home, crematory, prep room, etc. These preventative measures align with current best practices in the prep room or crematory (i.e. wear universal PPE, limit exposure to the disease, and clean all surfaces carefully) that protect you from everything from the common cold to tuberculosis.
Current estimates suggest that between 100,000 to 150,000 people will die from COVID-19 in the US. But your cases are not the only potential source of infection in your businesses. Of those that contract COVID-19, 80% are estimated to be mild which means they are more likely to transmit the disease. Experts are warning that the next two months, in particular, will be difficult depending on our response. Consider designating one staff member in your office as point person to monitor reports and updates from the CDC and your local jurisdictions, at least daily, to make sure your business is operating with the best information. As this post is updated, newest content will appear in gold to highlight latest information.
So what do you need to know to prepare your business when an outbreak hits?
Make a Business Plan
Since "workers performing mortuary services, including funeral homes, crematoriums, and cemetery workers" have been officially listed as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers, it is even more important to make sure your business is prepared for this challenge. Inform, educate, and train your staff of the CDC recommendations.
Now that this post is getting so long, we've added a Table of Contents linking to information below:
- Caring for the Deceased
- Operating the Crematory
- Business Support
- Serving the Living
- Managing Staff
- Directing the Funeral
As a reminder, if there are federal and local orders/laws in conflict, follow the most restrictive to ensure that you comply with both, and ask for additional guidance and support as needed. Some resources to consider are: your state governor, local mayor, local health agency, as well as the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams (D-MORT), Emergency Management Agencies (EMA) or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) plus the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). Be sure to check with health and government authorities any time you have questions to ensure safety and compliance for you, your staff, and your business. If you are designated an essential worker in an area under an enforced lockdown, consider carrying staff identification, state professional license, or some other information that demonstrates your status for ease of movement.
Caring for the Deceased
For any staff who handle the dead, the National Association of Funeral Directors (NFDA) and the Funeral Service Association of Canada (FSAC/ASFC) have useful resources for embalming, prep room, and removal staff in accordance with CDC guidelines (including specific guidelines for funeral homes) which clearly state recommendations for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), transporting the deceased, and cleaning surfaces. Many authorities believe that cases and deaths are under-reported, so anyone coming in contact with the deceased should operate assuming that the case is positive. In the case of embalming, funeral homes are encouraged to follow families wishes assuming that the firm and embalmer have access to PPE and the time to embalm safely. Remember, as important as it is to wear PPE when handling the deceased, it is also important to follow the recommended sequence for putting on and removing the equipment.
Cremation is a sure way to destroy any contagion on a deceased body which is why it's preferred for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and Ebola, but the WHO has stated that "people who have died from COVID-19 can be buried or cremated. Confirm national and local requirements that may dictate the handling and disposition of the remains." The CDC has not released definitive information on how long the coronavirus lives in a deceased body, but they do say that "there is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19." As always, families should do what's right for them. They can have funerals and burials as long as they follow their state and local mandates regarding the number of people and social distancing guidelines.
Operating the Crematory
Most guidelines that have been released do not specifically mention the crematory or operator. The following assumes that the crematory operator does not come into direct contact with the deceased, rather handles the container. If the operator in your business handles the deceased, see above.
CANA recommends the following:
- accept only cases in leak-proof, sturdy cremation containers per CANA Crematory Operations best practices
- the use of Standard Precautions should ensure safest possible work conditions. This includes PPE, as mentioned above, which is in short supply so follow optimize your use per CDC guidelines.
- clean all shared tools, equipment, and surfaces frequently - e.g. the cremation container, door or loader, refrigerator, door handles and light switches
- maintain social distancing between co-workers and other people who may enter the crematory
- Limit witnessed cremations to ten or fewer people total, including the funeral director and operator or other staff present.
Generally, viruses are killed above 200 degrees Fahrenheit, so the cremation process kills coronavirus. There is no concern about virus exiting the building via emissions through the stack or remaining in cremated remains, however the operator should wear PPE to ensure transmission from operator to urn does not occur.
When releasing cremated remains to the family, limit size of groups to ten or fewer, but also consider bringing the urn and paperwork to the client in his or her car.
Try to minimize physical paperwork with electronic documents and signatures, or providing gloves, to cut back on touching paper. Similarly, keeping clearly marked sanitized and used pens to take and return for cleaning will cut back on multiple use.
In this pandemic situation, some crematories are concerned about regulations which limit the cremations a business can perform. CANA is supporting state associations who are working with these regulators to address these permits in the hardest hit areas.
With the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed March 18 and effective April 1, businesses have new requirements for managing staff. All employers with 500 or fewer employees must provide paid Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave and paid sick leave – this is new for those who manage companies with fewer than 50 employees who were previously exempt from such requirements. The Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division has required posters and useful information to communicate with your staff.
As an employer who was previously exempt, this could be overwhelming, so it’s important to open lines of communication with your staff and establish a clear chain of command to address rapidly developing information. Don’t assume that all staff will immediately take advantage of these benefits and leave the business in a time of crises. Provide guidance and support in addition to addressing their concerns about what to do if they or a family member get sick. Don’t be afraid of questions or to admit that you don’t know. Importantly, communicate often to make sure staff are okay and keep lines of communication open.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed March 27 and retroactively effective to February 15, 2020, offers financial assistance to small businesses and large corporations alike. The US Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship has provided the Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act resource. If your business is having financial difficulty, you can apply for relief through the Payment Protection Program (PPP) with the US Small Business Administration (SBA) and your current bank. Alternately, you can seek support from the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), however a business cannot receive both the PPP and the ERC.
To better understand how both resources effect your business, CANA recommends contacting services who manage and administer your payroll, business insurance, health insurance, preneed providers, and bank. These are groups carefully monitoring how these regulations and opportunities impact your work in your area, and know your business best.
For those in need of extra staff support, state associations in hard-hit areas and the NFDA have organized volunteer programs to help. Reach out to these associations with your need and availability.
Serving the Living
But don’t forget that the living are actually your primary audience, and the ones your staff come in to contact with every day. The CDC has more resources than just postmortem handling, and have special recommendations for the workplace in “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond.”
Many of the roles at a funeral home, like funeral directors, embalmers, crematory operators, don’t do the kind of jobs that let you work from home. We cannot access the prep room from our living room, or arrange with families from our beds. So encouraging proactive measures to keep employees well, then being flexible when people are ill is key to keeping your staff and the community safe in any outbreak.
By now, everyone knows the top four guidelines on personal safety:
- Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds.
Are you sick of singing the A, B, C’s while washing your hands? The good news is some other popular songs have 20-second choruses, including Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, Raspberry Beret by Prince, Jolene by Dolly Parton, Fever by Peggy Lee, Africa by Toto, Mr. Brightside by The Killers, and Truth Hurts by Lizzo. Mix it up and keep scrubbing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
- Cough and sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard it.
- Maintain at least six-feet (2-metres) around others, particularly sick persons.
When making arrangements or directing a funeral, these measures are important. The CDC now recommends "covering your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others." Of course, the most vulnerable populations are typically older generations and those with pre-existing conditions (including smokers). If a staff member is concerned that they have been exposed, the CDC has issued guidelines for Safety Practices for Critical Workers which include frequent temperature readings, mask wearing, and frequent disinfecting of work spaces. Shared work spaces include break rooms, vehicles, and any shared equipment.
And don't forget your four-legged staff. Some animals have tested positive for coronavirus, though it's unclear whether the virus can spread from pets to humans. To protect your pets and your community, the CDC recommends limiting their interactions as well.
In the event that someone does get sick, encourage them to stay home. This is a difficult argument to make with the existing workforce shortage on top of a potentially growing caseload, because these jobs rely on you being in person to serve your families. But with the COVID-19 pandemics, you cannot serve your community while being sick yourself. Sick employees need to stay home to recuperate and be well, but also to prevent the spread of disease in the community. As the disease continues to spread, you may encounter employee shortages from illness, school closures, and caring for loved ones. Your business must have a plan for what you will do if you have too few staff.
Unless asked in writing to do so by OSHA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), or a state agency operating under the authority of OSHA or the BLS, Death Care Services are deemed as a low risk sector, however CANA Member Regulatory Support Services recommends making a record of all work-related illnesses and injuries and placing that record in the affected employee’s medical file. For confirmed cases of COVID-19 or an employee that shows symptoms of COVID-19, this would include the employer’s directive to an ill employee that he or she does not return to work until cleared to do so by health care professional.
The challenge with COVID-19, or any infectious disease for that matter, is knowing with absolute certainty that an illness is a result of exposure in the workplace. Especially with the high communicability of the coronavirus, sources of exposure outside the workplace must be considered when assessing whether to report any fatality or hospitalization of an employee as a result of contracting COVID-19. However, some states are presuming that any essential worker who contracts the disease to have become infected at work thus making them eligible for worker compensation.
Directing the Funeral
And don’t forget that you also host community events with their own considerations. The CDC has special guidelines for “Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events” to help you plan and host safe services. Primarily, they recommend having supplies on hand to keep everyone healthy, namely hand sanitizer, soap, and tissues. Keep surfaces like door handles and light switches clean, and remember to talk to your community volunteers about being safe, too.
With increasing emphasis on mitigating the spread of COVID-19, in areas with active outbreaks, the CDC recommends community-based interventions including "event cancellations, social distancing, and creating employee plans to work remotely," careful planning and communications with your families is important. Social distancing, in particular, runs counter to the spirit of the funeral by discouraging gatherings of more than 10 people, encouraging vulnerable populations to stay away, and avoiding direct contact with others. Fortunately, you are professionals trained in talking to families with compassion and understanding.
Now that federal guidelines from the White House have sunset, state governors' and state and local health authorities are determining how businesses and communities can operate — you can find this list of resources above. In some areas, any visitation or service has been prohibited. White House guidelines to reopen businesses and services is recommended in multiple phases to keep employees healthy, prevent spread, and moderate hospital cases and is helping states set their own reopening procedures. These recommendations will require your business to develop plans and policies to accommodate your families' preference for service while maintaining the health of your community. New guidance from the CDC for consumers is written to help you educate your families on ways to hold services safely and the importance of taking social distance guidelines safely. Ceremony expert Glenda Stansbury provided a free resource to help you and your families find creative solutions, such as livestreamed services, to protect your business and the communities you serve. Grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt shared his suggestions on holding some form of ceremony at the Center for Loss blog.
Develop a plan with recommendations from the CDC including how to communicate with relevant parties. Mostly, be in touch with state and community partners to help respond to changing needs of your community. Working together facilitates communications, response planning, and organizing when the need arises. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) has a list of who to contact at the state-level and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) is a good resource for local-level needs. These are great new additions to your connections with first responders, hospices, and other community leaders.
Keep Supplies Stocked
Social media is flooded with images of empty store shelves, so it’s a good idea to take stock of the goods you use frequently and make sure you have supplies. For those that are concerned about PPE supplies, the CDC has recommendations for Optimizing the Supply of PPE and information about Healthcare Supply of Personal Protective Equipment and OSHA has issued interim guidance which brings their enforcement more in line with CDC recommendations. The CDC has also provided a PPE Burn Rate Calculator to help facilities to plan and optimize the use of PPE. Also, reach out to suppliers, even those outside of mortuary supply, if your need is severe. As a final resort, reach out to your local health authority, coroner, or medical examiner to explain your need and ask for recommendations. One CANA Member suggested ordering smaller quantities to prevent large orders being flagged and redirected.
CANA Member Bass-Mollett shared their hard work finding the answer on how to request N95 masks as it was explained to John Flowers, CEO of Bass-Mollett:
- All N95s in existing stock and those being manufactured now are sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA allocates supplies to each state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) based on need
Each EOC manages requests from entities within its respective state — including death care professionals
To place a request for N95s, you’ll need to contact your state’s EOC.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued recommended Guidance for Extended Use and Limited Reuse of N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators which suggests that equipment be alternated and discarded when damaged or dirtied. Some recommendations suggest to avoid wearing cosmetics, which could dirty the mask and reduce its effectiveness faster.
Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands
Situations like this, in times of increased caseloads and illness, require flexibility, patience and planning which is why you need to have these discussions and plans now. Like the radiation case study in 2019, we want to help you plan, be safe, and prevent panic and misinformation. As information continues to change rapidly, the best resource for the most current information on your business operations is your local government and health authority.
Predictions say that "prolonged or intermittent social distancing may be necessary into 2022." Preparing now for the virus's resurgence in the Fall and Winter means you can protect yourself and your business with proactive plans and preventative measures.
Situations like this also require extra care for yourself and your colleagues. "Stress prevention and management is critical for responders to stay well and to continue to help in the situation." Use the support resources from the CDC available by both call and text, and work together to stay healthy. Jason Troyer, PhD., specializes in helping death care professionals serve their families better. He wrote a post for us about taking care of yourself in these ever-changing times. Additional resources unique to death care are available in his Finding Resilience program.
Thank you for the work you do.
For the next few weeks, CANA Members are invited to join us for weekly Open Forums to discuss how they're handling their response to COVID-19 and supporting their community. Check your inbox for instructions to join, or contact Membership Manager Brie Bingham for more information.
US Center for Disease Control (CDC)
US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Barbara Kemmis is Executive Director of the Cremation Association of North America.
processes and procedures
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Updated: Friday, February 14, 2020
More than 200 years ago, Benjamin Franklin said, "It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it."
A version of that is still true in today's digital marketing world. It can take many online mentions and a buildup of goodwill to develop a strong reputation. And while a single slip — or even a single negative review — won't bring the metaphorical walls of your deathcare firm down around you, online reputations can be fragile things.
One way cremation providers and other deathcare businesses can safeguard their online reputations is via proactive review management. That means actively encouraging clientele to leave reviews online while also interacting with those reviews in positive ways.
Why Are Online Reviews So Important?
It's no longer an option for any business to ignore the presence of online reviews. Local service providers in any industry are especially beholden to reviews. That's because almost all people (97 percent) read reviews as part of their research when choosing a local company.
Here are some other stats that drive home the message that reviews are must-haves for successful online marketing:
- According to BrightLocal, consumers consider review ratings when choosing a link from local search results.
- Review signals help you rank in Google local pack results, increasing your exposure in search results (aka SERPs).
- More than 90 percent of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions.
The Role of Online Reviews in Reputation Management
Simply getting seen online isn't always enough. Plenty of celebrities have had their careers derailed by scandals that pushed them into the limelight more than any of their positive achievements did.
You obviously don't want to be the deathcare firm that goes viral because your online reviews are terrible to the point of hilarity. But you also don't want to get fewer calls because a few online reviews make you appear less caring than your competitors.
The first scenario is unlikely; the second is very likely if you're not proactively managing online reviews. Here's why:
- More than 85 percent of consumers say negative reviews impact their buying decisions.
- Reviews are critically important as your target audience moves from Boomer and Gen X to younger generations; people age 18 to 34 trust online reviews as if they were personal recommendations from friends.
- Close to 90 percent of consumers look for and read a business's responses to reviews.
- Consumers want to engage with firms that have a 3.3-star rating or higher.
Improving the Quality and Quantity of Your Online Reviews
The takeaway here is that the overall quality of your reviews matters. And because it's unethical (and also banned by Google) to put measures in place to stop people from leaving negative reviews, cremation service providers and other deathcare firms must take additional actions to protect their online reputations.
The first step is to provide stellar service to all families. I'm sure you're already doing that, so I'll cover the other two steps for proactively managing your online reputation via reviews:
1. Try to get more reviews.
It's a numbers game based on the law of averages. If you need a 3.3-star rating or higher to help ensure people feel comfortable contacting your crematory, a handful of reviews can be dangerous. But if you have a large number of 3-star to 5-star reviews, you can weather several 1-star reviews without your average rating suffering.
A regular stream of reviews also demonstrates that your firm is active and serving plenty of clientele. Around 40 percent of consumers only pay attention to reviews from the last few weeks for exactly this reason.
Other reasons to chase more reviews include:
Most consumers want to read at least 10 reviews before making a final decision about a business
- Having more reviews will help your SEO
- Someone is almost 300 percent more likely to purchase services from you if you have just five reviews, as opposed to no reviews
How do you get these reviews? Simple: You ask for them. BrightLocal notes that close to 70 percent of people will leave reviews if they are asked nicely to do so. And you don't have to ask everyone; hedge your bets by requesting reviews from families that seem satisfied with your services.
2. Interact with your reviews
Leaving the review machine to its own devices isn't an option even after you've achieved a significant number of reviews. People expect to see businesses responding to reviews. Engaging with negative reviews in an effort to correct an issue actually helps increase your brand reputation in many eyes.
Plus, not all reviews are fair or true, and you can take action to report fake reviews or address untrue statements so other consumers are aware of your side of the story.
The conclusion is this: Crematories and other deathcare firms can't be passive about online reviews. They've become a critical part of online reputation, and how consumers view you through the lens of their internet search often determines whether or not they reach out to you for preplanning or at times of need.
Welton Hong, is the founder of Ring Ring Marketing® and a leading expert in creating case generation from online to the phone line. He is the author of Making Your Phone Ring for Funeral Homes, 2019 Edition.