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Surge Capacity Force

Surge Capacity Force logoIf an incident exceeds the capacity of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster workforce, the Secretary of Homeland Security is authorized to activate the DHS Surge Capacity Force (SCF) to augment the federal response to a catastrophic disaster. The SCF is composed of federal employees from DHS and other agencies. They assist Americans in their greatest time of need. The program is managed by FEMA. Volunteering for 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.

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!

Am I eligible to deploy through the Surge Capacity Force?

You are eligible to participate in the Surge Capacity Force if you meet the following criteria:

  • Full-time federal employee from any federal agency
  • Have a valid federal government identification badge from your agency
  • Have a valid Government-issued travel card
  • Successful completion of your agency’s anti-harassment training within the last 365 days
  • Obtain supervisor approval
  • Successful completion of the following required online Independent Study courses and exams through the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) (
    • IS-35.20 FEMA Safety Orientation 2020
    • IS-0100.c Introduction to Incident Command System (ICS)
    • IS-102.c Preparing for Federal Disaster Operations:  FEMA Response Partners
    • IS-0700.b National Incident Management System (NIMS), An Introduction
    • IS-0800.d National Response Framework (NRF), An Introduction

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 skill-sets if you are deployed.

What Can I Expect Once Deployed?

Type of Work

Volunteers may serve in a variety of FEMA program areas. The most popular are Acquisitions, Disaster Survivor Assistance, External Affairs, Financial Management, Human Resources, Individual Assistance, Information Technology, Logistics, Planning, Public Assistance, and the National Processing Service Center.

Deployment Conditions

Conditions during deployment may be austere, 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 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 in 2017, 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: June 18, 2020

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