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Strengthen the Evidence for Maternal and Child Health Programs


First Responders

This page contains information for first responders on handling sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). It includes a discussion of the roles of emergency medical technicians (EMTs)firefightersemergency-room personnel, and coroners/medical examiners who investigate and determine cause of death. It includes information applicable nationwide and sample documents from selected states.


Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Initiative. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A federal initiative to standardize and improve data collected at infant death scenes, promote consistent diagnosis and reporting of cause and manner of death for SUID cases, including SIDS, and prevent SUIDs by using improved data to monitor trends and identify those at risk.

Sudden, Unexpected Infant Death: Information for the Emergency Medical Technician. (2005). National Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Resource Center. Fact sheet for those first on the scene following the discovery of an infant who has died.

Responding to a Sudden, Unexpected Infant Death: The Professional's Role. (2004). National Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Resource Center. Fact sheet for consumers explaining the different roles of professionals responding to an infant's death.

Featured Resources

Emotional Impact on First Responders and Emergency Medical Personnel in a SIDS Incident. (n.d.). California Sudden Infant Death Program. Two-page handout.

Help for Families When an Infant or Young Child Dies. (n.d.) CJ Foundation for SIDS, Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Program. This brochure is designed for coroners or medical examiners to give to families of an infant or a young child who has died suddenly. It outlines the roles of the professionals that may be involved in investigating the death, gives time estimates for the investigation process, and lists national resources. It can be used for all manners of sudden pediatric deaths. It is designed to be customized by local jurisdictions.

State Spotlights. National MCH Center for Child Death Review. Information on state child death review programs, tools, reports, and data.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): State laws. (2010). National Conference of State Legislatures. State laws that include guidance for coroners and medical examiners; protocols for autopsies of SIDS victims; requirements for SIDS experts on child fatality review committees; provisions for SIDS advisory councils, education programs, counseling programs, data collection, and research; and special training for child care personnel, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and law-enforcement officials.

Overcoming Language Barriers: Solutions for Law Enforcement. (2007) Shah, S., Rahman, I. & Khashu, A. Vera Institute of Justice, in cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Practical suggestions to overcome language barriers, including how to determine language needs in a specific catchment area, the importance of language policies, and the importance of ensuring that language-assistance services and resources are easy to access.

Distinguishing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome from Child Abuse Fatalities. (2006). American Academy of Pediatrics free article.

A Practical Guide to the SIDS Home Visit (2005). California SIDS program. Guide for health professionals who conduct home visits following the sudden, unexpected death of an infant.

Bereavement Practice Guidelines for the Healthcare Professional in the Emergency Department: Best Practices in Supporting the Family and Staff when a Child Dies Suddenly. (1999) Lipton, H. & Coleman, M. National Association of Social Workers. Guidelines on preparing the emergency department to help families of a critically ill or injured child who dies, what to do when the child and family arrive, what to do when the child dies, follow-up steps after the death, and helping staff cope with child deaths in the emergency department.

Standards and Protocols

San Francisco Police Department General Order: Language Access Services for Limited English proficient (LEP) persons. (2007). Example of a language-access policy for a law-enforcement agency.

Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID) Reporting Form. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instructions on using the SUIDI reporting form, a form for both novice and veteran investigators of infant deaths designed to ensure that all information is collected in a consistent, sensitive manner. Contains instructions, the form, and supplemental forms.

Protocols.(2006). California Department of Health Services and California SIDS Program. Protocols for death scene investigations, autopsy, and contacts by public health nurses following a SIDS death, along with instruction forms.

Executive Order 13166, Limited English Proficiency Resource Document: Tips and Tools from the Field (2004).U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Tips on responding to the needs of people with limited English proficiency (LEP) as required by White House Executive Order 13166 of 2000, which addresses federal and federally funded programs. Provides tips for 911 call centers, police, courts, domestic violence specialists/service providers, and others.

The Unexpected Death of an Infant or Child: Standards for Services to Families. (2001, reprinted 2004). Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs. Twelve standards in providing high-quality bereavement support and risk-reduction services in a manner that is sensitive; culturally competent; linguistically appropriate; and consistent with the cultural beliefs, values, and practices of the families and communities served. Includes information on interpreting the standards, as well as an example of using some of the standards in a case study (Appendix B).

These standards specifically address first responders:

STANDARD 3: Hospital emergency department personnel will respond appropriately to the infant and child's final needs.

STANDARD 4: Hospital emergency department personnel will respond in a supportive manner to families.

STANDARD 5: Investigative personnel will gather information in a manner supportive to families as they assist authorities responsible for determining the cause of death.

STANDARD 6: Coroners or Medical Examiners will conduct the death investigation in a manner consistent with standard protocol, have knowledge about causes of unexpected infant and child death and demonstrate sensitivity to their role in addressing family needs.

STANDARD 12: Critical incident stress debriefing is a process that should be available to all individuals involved with or affected by the death of an infant or child, including mortality review participants.


Selected materials to support training for First Responders.

24-7 EMS: SIDS and EMS. Paramedic TV. online training video for First Responders (5:50 min.). Deborah Robinson, Infant Death Specialist from the Northwest Infant Survival & SIDS Alliance discusses the important role that EMS plays at the scene of a sudden unexpected infant death.

Sudden, Unexplained Infant Death Initiative (SUIDI): SUIDI Training Material. Updated 2012). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Curriculum guide, training manual, and guidelines for the death scene investigator.

Sudden Unexpected Infant and Child Death: A Guide for Emergency Department Personnel. (2007). Massachusetts Center for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Training Materials. (2007). California SIDS Program. Booklets, instructional manuals, curricula, and videos.

Emergency Medical Technician and First Responder Guidelines: SIDS and Other Unexpected Infant Deaths. (2006). Arizona Unexplained Infant Death Council. Facts about SIDS and other unexpected infant deaths, duties of first responders, and an infant-death-investigation checklist.

Updated June 2013

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U02MC31613, MCH Advanced Education Policy, $3.5 M. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.