Susan was married to L.A. City Firefighter Bob Ortega for 22 years before his duty-related death in 2005. Following his death, she drew upon her personal experience to write & found the "Families of the Fallen" support protocol, originally developed for fire departments to use when coming alongside the widows of fallen firefighters. This protocol was unanimously accepted at the International Association of Firefighters Convention in 2006, is now being used across the country, and is endorsed by firefighters and experts in the fields of grief, crisis, trauma, CIR, and PTSD.

This protocol is a one-of-a-kind tool written from the perspective of a widow and gives insights into the often unspoken societal and cultural vulnerabilities she faces. At the same time, the protocol gives grieving firefighters a pragmatic way to express their grief. It helps them to heal and return to work in a more resilient manner and alleviates much of the stress of loss allowing them to return to work more able to face future trauma.

This protocol is appropriate for use within any business, organization, law enforcement or military entity. There is a congruent protocol for churches as well as all the resources needed to begin its implementation.