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Should we use the words Family Reunification?

Elev8Technologies 0

We recently started our Tools for Heroes campaign to get our Family Reunification Service into the hands of the people that it would benefit most. In contacting healthcare organizations, universities, and county governments, we ran into a few organizations that strongly felt the words “Family Reunification” should not be used.

If you are unfamiliar with our service, we named it FRS (Family Reunification Service). We set out to revolutionize the process, and the name was chosen to help make it easy to understand what the service does.  It is a software-as-service that focuses on these core concepts: digital intake to collect information from a person reporting that they cannot locate or connect with a loved one or friend due to a disaster or mass casualty event. Secure, state-of-the-art tools for organizing, prioritizing, and searching the intake data to expedite locating a person, communicating with the family, and a vision for a process that leverages technology to change the process forever and for the better.

We were taken aback by the feedback that the words were inappropriate. Our service was designed from the ground up to improve the process, and the very last thing we considered was that those words could be construed as insensitive.

Below is an email reply we received:

Here in {County name removed for the blog post}, we do NOT use the word REUNIFICIATION. Because that word is false to those family members that have lost a loved one during a disaster. They are not reunifying with a family member.

A lot of agencies are not using that word anymore.

The replying organization is a County Emergency Management organization, an organization our service was designed to help. It is also a public relations manager whose job is communicating with the community. Needless to say, we were focused on that communication.

We named our product using those words to make it easy to understand what it does, but now faced with the question of whether to rename our product and change our message. The last thing we want to do is be insensitive, and organizations like this are the ones we want to help.

We researched what terminology other major organizations use. Below is a statement that they publish and a link to their website:

FEMA provides both pre-disaster and post-disaster reunification support, such as human and technological resources, to reconnect individuals as quickly as possible following a disaster. FEMA coordinates reunification efforts with the support of The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the American Red Cross, as well as State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Governments (SLTT), Non-governmental Organizations (NGO), and Other Federal Agency (OFA) partners

The American Red Cross is always at the forefront of a major disaster. Below is the headline and page on their website:

Reunification of Family in the US and US Territories

Both organizations assist in different ways than ours, but we are all trying to help with the same big problem: when a reporting person cannot locate or connect with a loved one or friend who became separated from them during a disaster or mass casualty event.

The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has a dedicated page to U.S. Family Reunification. It, however, focuses on refugees. Here is a quick excerpt from the site.

The United States has several different ways in which refugees and asylees can be reunited with their family members.

As an organization, we want to revolutionize the process. We don’t want to let terminology prevent us from helping the organizations and families we have set out to help.  If your organization has chosen not to use the word Family Reunification, we would welcome your input and to learn what terminology you have found effective for communicating with the people seeking help.

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