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Surge Capacity Force

Surge Capacity Force logoIn the aftermath of a catastrophic event, DHS turns to its Surge Capacity Force, a group of employees from Components within DHS as well as Other Federal Agencies, who help affected communities by supporting FEMA's urgent response and recovery efforts. The Surge Capacity Force is made up of Federal employees from every Department or Agency in the Federal government.

Wherever you work in the Federal government, you can help individuals, families, and communities get back on their feet when disaster strikes by joining the Surge Capacity Force.

Are you a Federal employee? Do you want to help survivors of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria? Join the Surge Capacity Force today!

Am I eligible to deploy through the Surge Capacity Force?

As a permanent, full-time Federal employee, you are eligible to participate in the Surge Capacity Force if you meet the following criteria:

  • You obtain your immediate supervisor's approval to participate (and again before deploying).
  • You are a current Federal employee with an HSPD-12 PIV card.
  • You possess a Government-issued travel card.
  • You have the ability to deploy to the field within 24 hours' notice.
  • You complete the application process as provided by your home agency.
  • You complete the following online Independent Study courses (
    • IS-100.B Introduction to Incident Command System (ICS)
    • IS-102.c Deployment Basics for FEMA Response Partners
    • IS-35.18 FEMA Safety Orientation
    • IS-700.A National Incident Management System (NIMS), An Introduction
    • IS-800.B National Response Framework (NRF), An Introduction

Specialized skills are not required to volunteer. Everyone has skills to provide assistance to those in times of need. However, if you have specialized expertise that may be helpful, we ask that you please identify those particularly relevant skill-sets when you sign up and when you deploy.

What Can I Expect Once Deployed?


The Surge Capacity Force is only activated when the incident is catastrophic. Living conditions are often austere during deployments and may include, but are not limited to: no running water, no electricity, sleeping in tents or other non-conventional forms of housing (e.g., ships), and weather extremes. In the aftermath of a disaster, housing is often in low supply, and limited hotel space is needed for disaster survivors. Participants should be prepared for hardship conditions and work that requires significant amounts of walking or standing. However, many will serve in FEMA Joint Field Offices or other facilities that may be similar to their regular working environment.


Deployments last no more than 45 days, though they can be shorter if the mission is completed.

Pay & Benefits

Surge Capacity Force volunteers continue to be paid by their home Department/Agency while they are deployed in support of FEMA. FEMA will reimburse your Department/Agency for all eligible travel and overtime. As a federal employee, both your health care coverage and worker’s compensation will remain with you during deployment; however, if you have a state-managed plan, you may want to check their policy on providers out of state/out of network


Online training is always available and free.  Periodic trainings will be offered for specific disaster positions.  Just in time training may be offered at a Personnel Mobilization Center or Joint Field Office during an activation. 

How Do I Sign-Up?

Contact your Department/Agency Surge Capacity Force coordinator. If you do not know who that is, you can email and we will connect you with your Department/Agency coordinator.

History of the Surge Capacity Force

The Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-295) established the Surge Capacity Force to deploy Federal employees in the aftermath of a catastrophic event to help support response and recovery efforts. The Surge Capacity Force has been activated twice.  DHS activated the Surge Capacity Force for the first time in 2012 in support of Hurricane Sandy. More than 1,100 (non-FEMA) DHS employees deployed to New York and New Jersey to supplement FEMA’s substantial disaster workforce.

In response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the wildfires in California, the Surge Capacity Force was activated a second time.More than 2,740 individuals from eight DHS components were deployed. SCF was expanded to agencies outside DHS for the first time, including 34 federal departments and agencies in the program, increasing Surge Capacity Force personnel by more than 1,300 employees.

Last Published Date: September 7, 2018

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