Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Updated: Monday, August 3, 2020
With the many layers of travel restrictions in place now to support public safety efforts, CANA is taking you where no cremation professional has ever gone before – to a completely virtual convention!
But what does that mean? And what can you expect from this virtual experience? Fortunately, we’ve been able to re-create many of your favorite parts of the Convention in this new meeting space.
Here's a downloadable and printable Quick Reference Guide. If you're already registered, keep an eye out for an email with your convention
credentials from CANA's 102nd Cremation Innovation Convention <firstname.lastname@example.org> to make sure you're in the right place at the right time. If you're not already registered, what are you waiting for?!
Now, let’s take a look:
Enter the Lobby
Just like you get your bearings at the registration desk at a CANA Convention, the Lobby is the place where you’ll start when you log in. You’ll have some pop-ups here with recommendations on how to make the most of your experience: using Google
Chrome as your internet browser, connecting on a laptop or desktop, enabling notifications from the platform, connecting your microphone and camera. Say yes without any fear that this will follow you around – no one but CANA will send a notification
and they’ll all be event-related. If your window looks a bit strange, try zooming your browser out in your settings.
And you’re in! A video will welcome you and a public chat will show you who else is in the lobby so you can re-connect with your colleagues from far away. A posted schedule will keep you on track (remember, all times default to US Central Time so translate
as appropriate), with announcements reminding you where to go next.
To the left, like rooms branching off, you’ll see a list of destinations for your trip:
You’ll find public chat rooms like the one on the right in all areas of the platform. Just like you never know who you’ll bump into on the Convention floor, you’ll be able to talk to anyone visiting the room, booth, and session you’re in. Don’t be afraid
to introduce yourself and let people know who you are – only other people registered for the event can see what you say here.
Make sure that your profile is accurate by reviewing your Account. Include your photo so people recognize you (we recommend a 200x200 jpg, square dimensions work best).
Catch the Speaker Presentations
Sessions is your doorway to all of the great content CANA has planned. Add the sessions to your schedule to be sure you get reminders when it’s starting – remember all times default to US Central Time (that's where CANA's HQ is) so you may need
to translate. Locate the upcoming presentation from the list of sessions and start the Zoom event from your window (you may have to answer a CAPTCHA, so don’t miss any of those stoplights or you might miss out on some great ideas!).
Our speakers were chosen for their talent and expertise at delivering fantastic ideas in an online format. Like striking up a conversation with your neighbor, there’s a public chat here, too, to share ideas with your colleagues and ask questions of the
Your seat is the best one in the house, but you won’t be glued to it – CANA knows that staring at a computer screen too long is draining, so we’ve built in breaks and activities along the way to keep you energized and engaged.
Log Your CE
Once you’ve been watching the presentation for a little bit, a pop-up will ask you if you need continuing education credits for your license. And yes, it will do it every time. Be sure to say yes if you do, and we’ll automatically email you your transcript
of all of the presentations that you attended for your records. Watch the video below for to see how to record your attendance.
Attending with Colleagues
These events are more fun with friends. If your whole team registered, you can re-create some of that in-person feeling by attending together. The easiest way to do that is to watch the presentations together, submitting your group's questions and comments
from one user. But remember, if you and your colleagues need CEUs or want a chance to win in the Scavenger Hunt, everyone needs to log in individually, from their own computers so they don't miss those important pop-ups. Plus, you don't want to miss
those one-on-one connections with your colleagues from across the nation.
Visit the Trade Show
The Exhibit Hall is where innovations meet solutions. Like you, suppliers of goods and services have been stuck at home, finding new ways to do things we never had to think about doing before. If you have a challenge, chances are one of these companies
can meet it. Visit the booths, read the descriptions, and watch their videos to learn more about the company.
Look for that public chat on the right side – it’s a great kind of users group to learn more about the challenges and solutions that businesses like yours can use. Plus, many booths have open group video chats to see demos, chat with the staff and other
users, and more at the link in their public chat.
Two things a virtual convention couldn’t re-create? The miles you walk in your less-than-comfortable professional shoes and the confusing labyrinth of booth maps. Now, the worst you’ll get is a finger tired of scrolling through the more than 60 registered
booths – alphabetized so you can find exactly the supplier you want with a click of a mouse. Zip right to that business and connect! When you enter a booth, scroll to the bottom and you’ll see a list of people staffing it, simply click a name and
start a private chat with them.
The video below was made so that our exhibitors have their booths ready and waiting for attendees, but we'll let you take a look so you know what to expect in the exhibit hall.
Rack Up Points
As you explore the CANA Convention and Trade Show, you’ll have opportunities to earn points in our Scavenger Hunt. Network with our Secret Code Bearers, listen closely to the presentations, but mostly visit exhibitor booths and collect codes that track
your activities. Simply enter these codes in the
Gamification pop-up, and watch your rank increase (check out the video below for a walkthrough on our platform). Be one of the highest scoring participants and you have a chance to win a prize delivered to your door!
Network with Colleagues
CANA’s 102nd Convention and Trade Show is shaping up to be our biggest yet! That means that the Networking section is filled to bursting with friends, colleagues, strangers, future bosses, former employees, etc.
This is the spot for connecting one-on-one. Scroll through the list of registrants, and find those people you want to connect with – check out the video below for a quick peek! NOTE: no, we can’t tell if they’re logged in, or if they’re already in
a conversation, but you can always leave them a note by clicking Start a Chat. They’ll be notified about it when they’re available.
If you’ve been chatting with someone one-on-one, you can take it to the next level and start a video chat. Simply tap “Start a Video Chat” and enable your camera and microphone. Your chat partner will be notified you picked up your end of the call and
can join you with a quick click. Check out the video below for a quick walkthrough.
Do It All!
Think you’re ready for the big time?
Much like you yourself can only be in one place at a time, when you visit a new room, booth, or start a new conversation in the Virtual Convention, you leave where you were. However, power users can copy and paste the Virtual Event URL to a second (or third, or fourth…) tab or window of their browser to visit booths and network, or hold public and private chats, or anything you can dream of!
Get Technical Support
This is new to everyone, but CANA Staff are standing by to help ease your way. If you get stuck, you can find a chat widget in CANA-gold in the lower left corner – type in your question and someone will answer. Or find a Staff member in the Networking
section, any one of us can help you out. Or maybe you just want to talk it through, in which case, CANA’s phone lines are open and waiting: 312-245-1077.
We can’t wait to welcome you with a handshake and a hug in Seattle next year. But until then, we’re excited to connect with you at a safe social distance with CE you need, ideas to inspire, and connection you crave.
CANA is meeting cremation, cemetery, and funeral professionals where they are – serving their communities safely through online platforms. Exhibits, networking, education, and fun packed into two days at CANA’s Virtual Convention and Trade Show.
See what you’re missing by not registering at goCANA.org/CANA20
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Updated: Monday, July 13, 2020
“Offer all of the options, to every family, every time.” – Dave Daly
No matter a family’s religion or cultural background, there will be times when it is appropriate for a family to see the disposition to completion, wherever it may be. When I served my first Hindu family during my internship, I was struck by the reverence,
the beauty and meaning imbued in the ritual of the sendoff at the crematory. Perhaps the West Coast is unique in that many of the families we served in that region were already familiar with witness cremation, even if they did not have a religious
requirement to do so. It was not until I moved back to the Midwest that I learned that so many funeral directors and consumers found the concept of going to the crematory shocking.
Families’ imagination is often far worse than the reality of cremation. Many may envision a stark, cold, clinical environment that smells like a hospital. They may imagine a chamber full of flames, and that the entire process is short, lonely, and perfunctory.
This is why families are less likely to ask, When will we be able to watch the cremation? as they would be to ask, When will we be able to watch the lowering of the casket into the grave? Typically, this is an offer that the
funeral director poses to the family who may need time to decide if that is something they can handle.
From the late 1890s until the 1930s, the profession had invited the family to attend the cremation, as many marble-walled crematoria began to be built in Europe and North America (Jupp, 2005).
Early cremationists treated the cremation ceremony in a manner virtually identical to committals. However, postwar funeral reform in the U.S. began to
treat cremation as a threat to the industry, with several professional associations focusing on how to deal with the “problem of cremation.” Too many American funeral professionals determined that cremation was ugly and even our contemporary books
on cremation describe witnessing ceremonies in a negative tone:
“As late as 1932, the Forest Home Chapel and Crematory in Milwaukee was encouraging family members to witness the placing of the corpse in the cremation furnace” (Prothero, 2002).
Putting the Service Back in Cremation
Is the consumer to blame for direct cremations? Or, as a profession, have we urged families away from ceremonial cremation in the hope that families who desire
more time and a chance to say goodbye will opt for casketed burial instead? It is my belief that we are doing a disservice to families who select cremation if we do not offer them an opportunity to witness their loved one being laid to rest. Most
funeral directors will invite the surviving family to be present at the graveside service. Witnessing the remains being placed into the chamber is like watching a casket be lowered into the grave, but for cremation. Similarly, this event creates a
lasting memorial and final farewell for the family.
Offering ceremonial witness cremations to families allows a unique, hands-on experience that creates an additional opportunity for the family to gain closure in a meaningful way. When we set up a graveside service, we plan for ceremonial comforts: a tent,
chairs, perhaps an ice bucket filled with bottled water and, more often than not, someone to officiate the ceremony whether this is a clergy member, celebrant, family member or the funeral director. There is a prescribed and widely accepted order
to the event. To appropriately create this memory of physical separation from a loved one’s remains for our families who select cremation, we need to ask ourselves some questions and shift our own perspectives.
A Standard of Excellence
When was the last time you had a client family ask for a three-day viewing in a Promethean bronze casket with limos for everyone and a plot in the highest spot in the cemetery that overlooks the lake? The fact is that we will continue to serve a growing
number of cremation families in the future. Why not create a standard of excellence in your market for cremation ceremonies imbued with meaning and ritual.
Regardless of the type of disposition, families want to ensure that the remains they are entrusting into your care are that of their loved one. Witness cremation ceremonies offer both an opportunity to gather in remembrance of the departed as well as
rapport-building transparency with positive identification of the deceased. Families will consider your firm as more credible if you have nothing to hide, and many will want to participate in the hands-on experience of saying goodbye. Seeing their
loved one right before the cremation—and potentially participating by initiating the cremation process—will help create a peace of mind, dispel fears about the process, and create greater goodwill and trust. It will allow the families you serve to
recognize the permanence of death (Wolfelt, 2016).
Witness Best Practices
As the public becomes more familiar with “do-it-yourself” and hands-on experiences, while self-educating about cremation, it makes sense to offer private crematory experiences as part of our standard services just as we include visitations and graveside
Let’s consider the optics of practicing witness cremation ceremonies. When my mother passes, I plan on being present at the crematory to see my mother one last time. Will I be comfortable with her being cremated in a cardboard alternative container? I
consider myself a pragmatist, but it would be much harder for me to select a minimum cardboard container over an alternative cremation option that comes with a pillow and is the same color as all her furniture. Even though I know, rationally, that
it will be consumed during the cremation, the likelihood of upgrading my mother to a ceremonial cremation container is 100%.
Even if not embalmed, setting a decedent’s features and performing a minimum preparation of remains should be planned for regardless of whether the
family has expressed a desire to view the remains at the crematory. The majority of crematory operators I have worked with in the past have told me that if a family is willing to travel to the crematory, then there is a greater chance that they may
wish to view the remains at the time of the cremation even if they were previously undecided about viewing.
As with planning any other type of service, it is important to allot enough time and set expectations and constraints to the family, the funeral home, and the crematory. This will require clear communication between all parties involved to schedule a
well-organized event. Families want a memorable and favorable experience; they do not want to feel rushed.
As the families we serve become increasingly participative, including them in the planning and tone of this event lends them a greater sense of control. Survivors may opt to place special photos, letters, or trinkets into the cremation container; they
may wish to have a significant song played while their loved one is being placed into the chamber. The benefits outweigh the additional time and effort spent planning the service.
Communicating with Families
Fear comes from a loss of control. Not having a realistic picture of what the crematory looks like, feels like, smells like, or sounds like will cause undue stress. It is important for practitioners to help their client families understand what to expect
so they will know what the outcome of the event will be and rest at ease knowing that nothing terrible will happen, like their imagination suggests.
There are several opportunities to convey the value and experience of witness cremation ceremonies: wherever you explain what services you offer. This service should appear on your General Price List, under the Services tab of your website, and be addressed
during the arrangement conference with every family who selects cremation. Several funeral homes have the witness cremation option built in to their cremation authorization form, where the authorizing agent will initial “Yes, we want to witness the
cremation and here are the names of the people who will be present”, or “No, we would like to opt out of that ceremony.” If appropriate, a gallery of photos or YouTube video can give a
sense of the crematory, so you do not have to schedule a pre-cremation tour of the space (although an open-door policy is a recommended best practice).
When making funeral arrangements, a consumer may not have enough background information to understand what you are asking if you say, “Do you want to witness the cremation?” Without context, this sounds more like a threat, rather than an invitation. Over
time, a funeral arranger can become more familiar with how to present witness cremation experiences by explaining the ceremony and inviting the family to be present for the event. Here’s a sample script:
“The cremation will be held at our crematory, which is located at our funeral home and cemetery on the northside. There, your mother will be held until the day and time that the cremation will occur. Our crematory allows for immediate family to be present
to watch the cremation container be placed into the cremator. We welcome you to be present for one last goodbye in your mother’s send-off, which is completely optional. If you are interested in this, please initial here on the cremation authorization
where it says, ‘Yes, family present.’ I will contact the crematory operator to schedule a time. I will be there with you by your side and if you wish to start the cremation process, you have the option of pushing the button.”
Whether your crematory space is “industrial,” or built specifically to host families for witness ceremonies, managing that expectation is key. Would heavy rain deter you from attending the graveside of your spouse or parent? If not, then a “no-frills”
functional crematory space should not be a deterrent for a family, but having a weather forecast and knowing ahead of time to bring rain boots is always appreciated.
In an ideal world, every family who selects cremation would be present to see their loved one. If that were the case, the chances of an erroneous cremation would be nearly impossible. Realistically, the percent of families who choose to be present at
the graveside to see the casket lowered is likely what you can expect of families to witness cremations.
As with a burial or any ceremony in funeral service, there must be an order of events to ensure a smooth cremation. Funeral directors must partner with crematory operators and schedule times for witnesses at the crematory’s discretion (e.g., “The crematory
operator says that we can plan the witness ceremony on Tuesday at 1:00 pm. Does that work for your family?”).
If you have a distrusting family who does not want to “receive someone else’s ashes”, crematory experiences are the solution. You can collaborate with the crematory operator to allow the family to be present for the transfer of their loved one’s cremated
remains to the urn, giving the family a greater sense of trust and peace of mind. It is critical to coordinate the scheduling with the crematory. It may make sense to hold the witness cremation as the last one of the day and schedule the pickup of
the urn for first thing in the morning; this gives the crematory operator ample time for overnight cooling and an additional opportunity for the family to watch the identification process post-cremation.
Many funeral service providers may be reluctant to offer witness cremation ceremonies because it is more work. But you would be surprised by the number of “direct cremation” families who are ready and willing to see their loved one, they just did not
know it was an option. We don’t know what we don’t know. It doesn’t hurt or cost anything to ask those you serve if they want to press a button, place the cremation casket into the chamber, insert a letter or drawing from a child in the cremation
container, or order flowers when they see a photo of an all-concrete crematory space.
Giving the consumer a say in the cremation service helps add value to the experience. It offers another opportunity to mourn and be together in a difficult time. Plenty of funeral homes routinely ask the family if they want to see the lowering of the
casket during a graveside service. Why not start with witness cremation ceremonies?
Heather Braatz takes a deep dive into "Witness Cremation Ceremonies" at CANA's Virtual Cremation Convention on August 5. The session will focus on differentiating your cremation business
by providing witness cremation choices to families and practical guidance on how to add value through ceremony.
Heather Braatz is a learning experience designer at Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Wheeling, Illinois. She is a licensed funeral director in Washington State and has worked for low-cost cremation providers,
family-owned funeral homes, and combo location corporations. She has arranged several hundred witness cremations with family present.
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Updated: Monday, June 15, 2020
Lately, we’ve all had to reassess the way we do things. Talking to people in your community is different now that most of it isn’t done face-to-face. Fortunately, you can still make meaningful connections, just a in a new way. We must now lean more heavily than ever on technology to connect with our communities.
During social distancing, the ways you used to engage and connect with your families don’t always work, but you know grieving families need your support now more than ever. Grief just can’t wait, and families need you as a guide. As a funeral director, you’re already a problem solver, so think about lending support to those grieving in a way you never have before. Think differently, and think digitally.
Here are five strategies to engage your community virtually during social distancing so you can continue to serve your families in an effective and valuable way.
1. Host virtual events
If events were part of your marketing outreach before the pandemic, make them part of your efforts now, too. Just make them digital. When you plan digital events, thinking outside the box goes a long way. We’ve seen a number of firms use digital events to engage with their community and keep their outreach going. For instance, you can use inexpensive apps to engage your community online. You can learn more about how Guam Windward Memorial did just that in this interview using digital scavenger hunts coupled with community bingo sessions.
These fun-focused events engage your community and highlight your brand rather than directly marketing preneed or at-need services. When creating virtual events focused on engagement, spend a little time brainstorming things your community likes to do and how you can create a digital space to come together around those things. It could be a sport, a community landmark, or a recurring community event like a parade.
If you are ready to dive back into preneed events, hosting digital ones provides an opportunity to personalize your education more than you did in the past. When you host an in-person preneed event, most firms need to reach a broad audience for better attendance since in-person events take more resources (cost, set up, time, etc.) than digital ones. However, when hosting a virtual preneed event using a video conference call, like Zoom, less prep is required so you can hyper-focus your event. Consider promoting events specifically catering to the needs of a target audience: veterans, religious groups, recent widows or widowers, or any other specific group in your community.
Personalization like this has been proven more effective because people feel you are speaking directly to them and meeting their specific need. Thus, hosting smaller, highly targeted video events increases your chance of winning these individuals over.
2. New ways for people to connect:
Online donation options and digital grief classes
People need each other when they are grieving. Social distancing doesn’t have to stop the connection your community members make with each other after a loved one passes. Think about creating new opportunities for grieving families to receive support using virtual options. For instance, if you’re seeing fewer flower sales since the pandemic, consider adding other donation options. Several companies offer a donation tool that allows people to donate toward gifts or services (we are one of them) and community members love being able to contribute in a new way.
Donations can be made to help the family defray funeral costs, for a meal at home from a favorite local restaurant, for groceries, toward an at-home cleaning service, or for keepsakes or memorials. Having multiple options allows your community to choose what resonates with them, and you are the perfect facilitator to connect a grieving family with this act of kindness from the community.
Many funeral homes offer grief support as part of their aftercare program. Some offer grief support groups. If you’re used to facilitating in-person grief support, take these groups online during times of social distancing. Experiencing a loss during a time when families already feel isolated can make the pain feel worse. Talking about their grief with others will give people the chance to connect around shared experiences. Video services like Zoom or UberConference can be used for these virtual meetings.
3. What works on social media during a pandemic
Your voice on social media is powerful and important. Your families need your reassurance and guiding words to remind them that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and that you’ll be there every step of the way with them. Your typical educational content-based strategy still works, but think about adjusting the perspective in a few ways.
You want to remain thoughtful, positive, and informative with the content you share online. Make sure you are up-to-date on facts you post and always double-check your sources.
Beyond being educational, you can use your social media to inspire and spread hope. A few topics we’ve seen perform well with people during a crisis are inspirational or religious quotes, stress relief tips, coping mechanisms, and helpful resources around mental health and grieving. You can, and should, post details about your pandemic safety practices, changes to your services, hours, etc. on social media, too. However, that should not be the only thing you post.
4. Incorporate email to deepen the conversation
Although social media is a great place to initiate conversation with your families and stay in touch with them, not every message fits the same media channel. As you make connections through social media and other marketing campaigns and build up your contacts, you need to know when to move that conversation to a more private channel.
Your community is happy to see your inspirational posts on Facebook, and these posts are an important part of a solid top-of-mind strategy or conversation starter. Next, you want to deepen the conversation and build a stronger relationship. To do that, you need to move things to a private channel. Enter: a stronger email marketing plan.
Email marketing can help bridge the gap between connections on social media and an in-person or phone meeting. Using email to draw people in with a more meaningful message allows you to create a more personal conversation. Plus, people feel more comfortable sharing details about themselves or asking questions via email than on a Facebook post.
Ideally, you’re already sending a newsletter to your email list. In addition, segment your audience into different categories so you can send additional emails targeted at their specific interests. Some categories might be: Christians, recently widowed, veterans, losing a parent, losing a loved one to addiction or overdose, etc. Creating segmented email campaigns build connections, because the message resonates with their specific experience.
Pro tip: Include links on other topics in each email and see what people click on. This will give you even more information on what people in your community want to learn about.
5. Offer virtual services and teach people how to attend them
In navigating this strange new world together, we all have to adapt. Putting on a digital funeral service may be new for you; it’s probably new to your community, too. They need guidance on how to participate in digital services. Just as in-person funeral services help your families realize the finality of their loved one and really begin the grieving process, it’s important to share that digital services offer similar value.
Teach your community the importance of digital services. Also offer them tips on how to attend and participate, such as:
Create a video tutorial showing people how to use Zoom or whatever video or conferencing platform you are using to stream services.
Encourage people to share tributes online under their loved one’s obituary before the service starts.
Provide an opportunity for people to share a pre-recorded video tribute to the family if they can’t attend.
Encourage community members to reach out to the family in attendance with a quick text or phone call beforehand to express condolences; these before-service points of contact are crucial for support.
Encourage people to reach out to the family after the service, too.
Explain how friends and family can send flowers, donations, or keepsakes to support those closest to lost loved one.
Remind friends and family how valuable and appreciated stories and memories of the loved one are. Sharing these can help the grieving heal.
And of course, give digital attendees clear information about when the digital service will begin, and invite them to join 5 minutes before the ceremony starts to get acquainted with the streaming service. Does your stream offer comments? This would be a great place to lead families who want to show their regards for the family during the service. It’s an easy and unobtrusive way to participate while the digital service is taking place.
Technology and change
You have the power to take control of the shift we face and challenges ahead. By using technology to virtually reach your families, you will stand out in your community and connect with new people. The next few months will surely bring new challenges and rapid changes, but keeping an eye on technology solutions – and being willing to adopt and implement them quickly – will help you keep serving your community no matter what happens next.
Last week, CANA hosted a webinar with customer service expert Lacy Robinson You Got This! Practical Ways to Serve Families During COVID-19. You can watch a recording for free, and other recorded webinars, on CANA's website.
Heather McWilliams Mierzejewski brings marketing and additional writing expertise to the Funeral Innovations team. She previously covered breaking news, politics, and religion for print, digital and radio news outlets before slipping journalism’s tentacles and diving into the digital marketing world. She spent the past 3+ years at a digital advertising agency working on marketing and content solutions for adidas, Reebok, and Chipotle among other brands.
When not on the prowl for killer marketing stories, Heather spends time with her active kids and rides her bike on the Colorado byways. She’s always looking for new riding buddies.
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Updated: Friday, July 31, 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
more than 220,000 people will die from COVID-19 in the US by November. 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 rest of 2020 will be difficult depending on our response, and likely to continue until there is a readily available and adopted vaccine.
With state and local governments setting the current restrictions and guidance, current and accurate information is important to track. 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:
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.
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
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 the 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 the size of groups to ten or fewer, but also consider bringing the urn and paperwork to the client waiting in the 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 through December 31, 2020, 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 or availability.
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.
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.
Death Care Services are deemed as a low risk sector, and typically exempt from reporting to OSHA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), or state agency incidents of illness, 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 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. Check your state's department of labor for any specific requirements.
And don’t forget that you also host community events and services with their own considerations. The CDC has special, updated guidelines for “Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events”
to help you plan and host safe services. Primarily, they recommend having posters and signs in addition to supplies on hand to keep everyone healthy, namely hand sanitizer, soap, tissues, and face coverings. Keep surfaces like door handles and light switches clean,
and remember to talk to your community volunteers about being safe, too. The CDC even has a toolkit with posters and language you can use to
communicate safe practices to your attendees.
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. For ideas on making your communications meaningful, watch a
free, on-demand webinar from Lacy Robinson with "Practical Ways to Serve Families During COVID-19."
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.
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.
PPE and other safety materials have been difficult to source, 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 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.
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.
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.
For the next few months, CANA Members are invited to join us for monthly 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.
Posted By Barbara Kemmis,
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
The pace of change driven by consumers is the greatest challenge facing funeral service. No option has fallen off the menu, and yet more options pop up each year. How is it possible to create or reposition a business to fulfill these diverse requests? The 70 practitioners, suppliers and explorers who convened in Albuquerque in October 2019 for the First Ever Green Funeral Conference were up for the challenge. Their interactive and engaging experience is challenging to reproduce in a blog post, but there is too much great content not to share.
Passages International was the obvious sponsor for this Conference. However, some potential speakers and participants and social media commenters—and even members of the media—weren’t so sure why CANA was hosting. Cremation is widely considered to be more environmentally friendly than traditional burial, but where does it fit on the continuum of green funeral practices? That is the kind of conversation I like to start. CANA doesn't shy away from hard questions, or from asking those questions of itself. We're proud to provide the space to have these frank discussions and attract the right voices to contribute.
Set the Stage
Since this was the first conference of its kind created for funeral directors and cemeterians, it was important to establish context and the intention to be inclusive in our definition of green practices. I will attempt to follow the flow of the conference in this post. Glenda Stansbury served as our emcee and she set the stage from the beginning, establishing that this conference was an exploration of green practices along a continuum. In that spirit, I invite you, dear reader, to identify where you are on that continuum. Are you a light spring green with plenty of traditional burial and cremation offerings? Or maybe you offer eco-friendly products, but want to promote more family participation and natural burial? Are you a deep forest green and all in? This post is an opportunity to learn more about the Conference content and how it may apply to your business and community.
Ed Bixby, owner of Steelmantown Green Burial Preserve and President of the Green Burial Council, kicked off the Conference with a presentation describing the wide range of green burial practices he employs in his cemeteries and has seen around the world. He challenged the audience to recognize that the spectrum includes traditional burial as well as established businesses seeking greener practices—including cremation. Yes, the attraction of green burial is related to environmental concerns, but it also appeals because it is simpler, involves less fanfare, and facilitates enhanced participation from mourners. Ed said, “Participation changes everything. You have the right to care for the dead the way you feel they should be cared for.” He challenged us—and I extend the challenge to you—to shift the mindset. You can work within regulations and laws, but you can reconceive the services you offer to families. In CANA language, "find a way to get to yes for your families."
During Ed's presentation, the topic of embalming came up. Why are embalmed bodies excluded from green cemeteries? Is this based on science or policy? Embalmers in the room shared why embalming remains an important tool for some families, but others expressed the belief that preserved bodies had no place in a green cemetery. While no consensus was reached, it was refreshing to hear so many opinions and suggestions respectfully discussed. However, many questions remained unresolved:
People are buried with medicines in their systems and implants in place—so why is embalming prohibited?
Should formaldehyde-free fluids influence policies?
If embalming is required in order to transport a deceased person from the place of death to the natural burial cemetery, what happens then?
If green practices aren’t defined by law, but rather by policies and preferences, where do you land?
Next, Darren Crouch and Kilian Rempen of Passages International joined the conversation by discussing green products and marketing tactics to help businesses remain relevant and profitable. In the 20 years since Darren founded Passages International, he has learned many lessons. His customers are serving families that value green, but also unique and beautiful options. Darren asserted that the challenge of incorporating green options into businesses should feel familiar. It is similar to the challenge of embracing cremation 30 years ago. It was once controversial to add cremation to the sign in front of your funeral home and commonplace for funeral directors to send the rare cremation customer down the street to the cremation society. Ignoring cremation didn’t turn out well for funeral service, so Darren challenges funeral practitioners to not repeat past mistakes.
Darren offered practical advice, such as offering scatter-friendly urns for the 50% of your cremation customers who intend to scatter. He argues that scattering does not equal low-end, but rather that an urn that contains cremated remains for a time can be used as art or to hold keepsakes after scattering. Darren echoed Ed’s message of changing your mindset to envision new offerings.
Put It Into Practice
Once attendees considered the various aspects of green funeral practices and started to plot their positions along the continuum, they heard from cemeterians and a funeral director who have added them to their operations.
Jody Herrington described her success in converting funeral home selection rooms to include green merchandise. She acknowledged how overwhelming it seems to offer yet more options in an already crowded space. Jody shared that her success was directly linked to the communities she has served and their green values. Incorporating local artists along with eco-friendly products and more familiar caskets can be appealing, but every community is unique. You know the communities you serve and should reflect that knowledge.
Jody posed a challenging question for me to hear – Is cremation a fall back? At this point some of you are probably nodding your heads in recognition, but I didn’t get it at first. Jody asserted that when faced with traditional burial caskets and merchandise, some consumers know they don’t want that so they fall back to cremation. Her experience showed that offering more eco-friendly merchandise and caskets resulted in more personalization and more sales to a satisfied customer. This leads me to wonder if green burial will slow the cremation rate increases we have seen. Only time will tell.
Our practitioner panel featured Donal Key and Linda Canyon of La Puerta Natural Burial Ground, Gracie Griffin of Bellefontaine Cemetery, Salvador Perches of Grupo Perches and Recinto de la Oracion, Ed Bixby, and Jody Herrington—continuing the conversation around green burial practices and tips for creating and offering green options in existing cemeteries. It is impossible to summarize the rich content generated by the discussion between panelists as well as with participants. Each panelist shared specific examples of practices they employ to promote participation and innovate new traditions. The questions from participants did touch on business models, pricing, training and incenting employees to dig graves and assist families to dress their loved ones. The key takeaway is that you can get to yes with families. It may take more time and creativity, but you can and should do it.
Next up was Tanya Marsh, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Law, who examined the legal trends surrounding green burials and green cemeteries. Tanya presented a framework for understanding green funeral trends. She started by sharing the macro trend of consumers looking for more control and input while also seeking authenticity and a meaningful experience. This is a trend influencing all aspects of our lives. And it poses a challenge for funeral directors and cemeterians who are typically risk-adverse.
Tanya outlined considerations to take into account when considering something new – i.e., natural burial or a new disposition.
Does the law prohibit it? The dead have rights, so that must always be considered, but there is very little cemetery law on the books.
Are you in a gray area where there is no particular law prohibiting or allowing? If the law doesn’t say you can’t, then you can, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for moving ahead without permission from the funeral or cemetery board or coverage from a court order.
The example she gave was natural organic reduction, commonly referred to as human composting. Washington state law explicitly stated that burial, cremation and removal from the state were the legal forms of disposition. This meant they needed to change the law in order to pave the way for a new form of disposition. In states that don’t affirmatively identify the forms of disposition, a court order or opinion from the board or attorney general may pave the way.
Tanya led a free-wheeling Q&A session that touched on grave reusage, family participation, disinterments, indigent cremations, and what happens when cemeteries are abandoned.
The last sessions focused on consumers’ experiences and insights. Gail Rubin shared her perspective on consumer views of death and mourning and emphasized the ongoing theme of promoting participation and education.
I moderated two manufacturer panels—Luis Llorens of US Cremation Equipment and Paul Seyler of Matthews Environmental discussed the environmental impact of cremation and made presentations on the macro and micro impacts of cremation on the environment. This warrants its own blog post and one is in the works for publication in 2020. Stay tuned!
A second panel, with Sam Sieber of Bio-Response Solutions and Nicki Mikolai of Resomation America, discussed the science and practical application of alkaline hydrolysis. There was significant interest in alkaline hydrolysis among the participants, with some current and future practitioners represented. The questions from participants ranged from inquiries about the fundamental science, presence of radiation and mercury, to viewings and zoning challenges.
Legally, alkaline hydrolysis is considered to be cremation, but the process that occurs in the machine is completely different than flame-based cremation. Does that make it greener? That depends on the formula that is used. Is there a lower carbon footprint? Yes—or probably. Fewer fossil fuels are used to heat the water or dry the remains, but water and chemicals are used—so how does one account for that in the green calculation?
While more questions were raised than answered on the overall environmental impact of all dispositions, Sam did point participants to an important a recent study conducted in the Netherlands by Elisabeth Keijzer, who attempted to calculate the true costs of different types of disposition. Sam presents a useful framework for understanding the various environmental impacts and “shadow costs” discussed in the study.
Consumers are significantly ahead of funeral directors and cemeterians in seeking, performing and creating greener end-of-life options, so this conference represented an opportunity to engage in facilitated conversation, query panel presenters, and learn from leading experts. All walked away with practical ideas to implement now, and probably some ideas they considered but discarded for their own businesses. Here are three of my takeaways.
Takeaway #1: Definitions Matter
Language matters and it was important from the beginning to tackle some tough topics in order to facilitate open conversation and advance our collective understanding. We named this meeting the Green Funeral Conference to encompass a variety of green practices, and people came with many different ideas and opinions on what “green” truly means. However, everyone left seeing the full continuum of green funeral practices.
So, what shade of green are you or do you aspire to be? Have this conversation with your staff and seek to understand what your community wants or will respond positively to. And then have this conversation with your vendors to educate yourself on more eco-friendly options. Figure out your carbon footprint and how you can offset or reduce it.
Are your own policies and procedures standing in the way?
Takeaway #2: Everything Old is New Again
For cremation, it took a few evangelists (and 100 years) to make cremation a tradition. Green funerals are completely different. For some, the practice is cultural tradition and anything else is desecration. For others, it's an attempt to mitigate their carbon footprint on the world by removing external interference (letting nature take its course). So, whether it's to save money, to save the planet, or to honor tradition, it means every option, every time. And providing that is hard work.
You know your communities and have served them for the length of your career or possibly generations of your family. Incorporating green funeral practices does not mean starting over from scratch, but it does mean shifting mindsets. You may consider following the path you took to embrace cremation.
Takeaway #3: Start now!
It took nearly 150 years, but cremation in the West evolved from a European fad to the dominant form of disposition in the US with the help from multiple types of leaders. First came the evangelists—those spreading the good news of the hygienic and aesthetic virtues of cremation. Then came the practitioners who formed CANA as a forum to share best practices and promote the practice of cremation. Those practitioners innovated products, technology and services to support cremation practice. Many of these practitioners ultimately formed companies that supplied practitioners nationwide. As those companies matured and merged and competitors formed, cremation products and services further developed to support the industry.
Will green funeral practices follow a similar pattern? Probably. Likely following a significantly shorter timeline, but it certainly will happen, thanks to a similar mix of contributors. Yet again, consumers are leading the way by demanding greener funeral practices. The participants and speakers in the Green Funeral Conference represented a mix of champions of funeral practices along the continuum, both current and future practitioners.
This conference was a true meeting of minds and collaboration in exploring green funeral practices. I'm proud of the conversations that happened at this meeting and have attempted to capture some of the content and the spirit of the event.
Consumers will continue to require and expect a wide range of options from you and your businesses. These expectations will evolve and advance as the media reports the unfolding story. CANA and Passages are planning the second Green Funeral Conference to provide an ongoing forum for practitioners to explore their responses to consumer demands. In the meantime, you can access the Green Funeral Conference content online. Most importantly, you can share this post with your employees and hold your own conversations about how you can incorporate green funeral practices in your business.
Want to learn more from the presenters and participants in the Green Funeral Conference? This is the shameless plug to buy the recordings and join in the conversation from the comfort of your office. Learn more: goCANA.org/GFC2019
Recent CANA research shows that cremation customers are less interested in body-centric products and services, and instead seeking experiences to honor a life lived. The presenters hadn’t seen this research at the time of the Conference, but their experiences and advice supported these findings. If the consumer wants to focus on the person and not the body, are you prepared to support with your services and merchandise? This research on "The Cremation Experience" took the cover story of the most recent issue of The Cremationist and will be featured in issues and blog posts throughout 2020. Join CANA to read the magazine, consistently voted the most popular benefit of membership, or follow The Cremation Logs blog to get the reports as they come out!
Barbara Kemmis is Executive Director of the Cremation Association of North America.
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