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Surge Capacity Force

Surge Capacity Force logo If an incident exceeds the capacity of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster workforce, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is authorized to activate the DHS Surge Capacity Force (SCF) to change the federal response to a catastrophic disaster. FEMA manages this program that relies on federal employees from DHS components and Other Federal Agencies (OFA's) to support its mission of helping people before, during, and after disasters.

Becoming a Member of the SCF is a unique opportunity to support DHS missions during and immediately after major disasters or emergencies, and develop skills beyond your regular positions. Are you a Federal employee? Do you want to help survivors? Join the Surge Capacity Force today!

The Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-295) established the Surge Capacity Force (SCF) 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 first activated the Surge Capacity Force 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.

DHS activated the Surge Capacity Force the second time in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the wildfires in California in 2017. 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.

Any permanent full-time federal employee GS-15 and below, from any federal executive agency, may volunteer with the SCF.

​In order to avoid disruptions to agency operations and ensure volunteers are prepared to serve, applicants must: 

Specialized skills are not required to become a member; 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 skillsets if you are deployed.​

Type of Work

Members may serve in a variety of FEMA program areas depending on operational requirements such as Individual Assistance, Disaster Survivor Assistance, External Affairs, IT, Logistics, National Disaster Recovery Support, Equal Rights, Planning, among others.

Deployment Conditions

Conditions during deployment may be harsh, with limited power, water, and housing. Volunteers should be prepared for hardship working conditions and tasks that require significant amounts of walking or standing.
However, many members will serve in FEMA Joint Field Offices or other facilities that may be similar to their regular working environment. SCF staff asks all members to disclose any requests for reasonable accommodations, prior to deploying, to ensure all needs are met at their assignment location.


Deployments generally do not exceed 45 days, though they can be shorter if the mission is completed.

Pay & Benefits

Surge Capacity Force members continue to be paid by their home Department/Agency while they are deployed in support of FEMA. FEMA will reimburse your component/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


Those interested will first take mandatory independent study training, following which FEMA may also provide other optional training opportunities, as feasible based on operational requirements. Currently, this includes an approximately two-hour, virtual FEMA orientation course, as well as opportunities for virtual Registration Intake and Hazard Mitigation training. FEMA expects to expand the content of the two-hour introductory course and hosts Mobilization Exercises annually to test the readiness of the SCF program to deploy. When deployed during an activation, Just-in-Time training may be offered at a Personnel Mobilization Center or Joint Field Office.  If you have any questions regarding available training opportunities, please reach out to your component or Agency POC for more information or see below. 

Contact your component/Agency Surge Capacity Force POC. If you do not know who that is, you can email surgecapacityforce@fema.dhs.gov and we will connect you with your component/Agency coordinator.

Last Updated: 10/04/2022
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