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As a local government employee, your daily roles and responsibilities directly impact the lives of people who live, work, and play in the City of Sacramento.  During an emergency or disaster, the City may ask you to change your normal scope of duties, or routines to fulfill an unexpected need, as a Disaster Service Worker (DSW).  All public employees within California are considered Disaster Service Workers. This includes cities, counties, and state employees.  You will never be asked to perform duties that you do not know how to do or have not received adequate training for. 

On this page, you can learn more about your role as a Disaster Service Worker, and how to prepare yourself and your family.

  • State Law: California Government Code
  • Roles and Responsibilities of Public Employees
  • D.S.W. Training
  • Get Prepared Now
  • Potential Area Disasters
  • Rights and Protections


Under State law, Title I, Section 3100 of the California Government Code, all government employees are declared Disaster Service Workers who can be called upon in any emergency. This means that City, County, and State employees have a responsibility to help in a disaster. Employees will perform duties as described in the Business Continuation Plans for their respective programs, or other duties as assigned.  Every effort will be made to permit employees time to check on and secure the safety of their families. Once the employee has ensured their families are secure, they may be required to report back to work immediately following a disaster. With this in mind, employees are encouraged to follow the steps to form an Emergency Response Plan for Home and Family to prepare their families now for unexpected disasters. If an employee must leave the work site to check on their family, prior to leaving the employee should work out a plan with their supervisor or designee for when to return to work and how to be contacted.


Recent events around the world, and here in California, have increased awareness of the need for teamwork and preparedness for all emergency incidents, hazards, and disasters. Under State law, all government employees are DISASTER SERVICE WORKERS who can be called upon in any emergency.

The California Government Code states that: "All public employees are hereby declared to be Disaster Service Workers subject to such disaster service activities as may be assigned to them by their superiors or by law": This means that in addition to our everyday duties, we have an added responsibility to help in a disaster. This is important. All of our advanced preparation and planning can only succeed if we are ready, willing, and prepared to continue our responsibility to serve the public even in the face of crisis. Many public employees are already trained to respond.  During a disaster, some departments will respond in their traditional roles (such as police and fire). Other departments may be required to perform their day-today tasks as well as other duties to support the activities of the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Employees who do not have a specific disaster assignment, and who have not received specific training, may be asked to perform other duties as assigned. These duties will normally be nontechnical, but very important, such as:

  • Answering telephones
  • Ordering / Delivering supplies
  • Rendering first aid
  • Guiding visitors
  • Managing volunteers
  • Monitoring news reports
  • Picking up tree limbs
  • Staffing barricades
  • Cooking / Food Handling
  • Running messages
  • Tracking information in the EOC
  • Helping in a Red Cross shelter
  • Language Interpretation
  • Crisis Counseling
  • Filling sandbags
  • Other tasks as needed

During a time of emergency, non-essential employees may perform regular duties or may have alterations to their duties.  You may also be asked to take on tasks outside of your normal responsibilities to work in support of emergency operations, assist with support functions at a disaster site, coordinate information about the disaster or available public services, and other activities needed to effectively respond to the hazard in your community.

Examples of how your work may be altered during an emergency response period include:

  • Performing your usual services, but with additional hours or in a different location.  For example: providing disaster victims with government services, such as medical aid, housing, or other assistance.
  • Emergency response related activities associated with the program in which you normally work (those who work in programs with statutory response responsibilities during an incident).  For example: Lab Technicians; Epidemiologists; Drinking Water Engineers; Food, Drug and Radiation Inspectors; Safety and Health Officers, Public Information Officers, and Program Managers
  • Using your professional skills and abilities to go above and beyond your normal daily tasks.  For example: Public Health Nurses, Physicians, and other medical professionals may be asked to deliver healthcare and/or perform triage. Laboratory Technicians, scientists, or engineers may be asked to perform work duties in lab or in the field.
  • You may be asked to support emergency operations in the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), or your Department Emergency Operations Center.  EOC tasks may include assisting with purchasing, record keeping, time keeping; Analyzing information, providing subject matter expertise, planning response activities; Answering phones, supporting emergency response facilities, writing press releases, monitoring media; Processing requests for supplies or resources to be sent to local health departments.

When working in your role as a Disaster Service Worker, always remember to:

  • Keep detailed records. For example, activity log, expenses, assignments, names and contacts. record your expenses, your DSW assignments, and the name of your DSW manager.
    Always sign in and out from work (track your work hours).
  • Always report your whereabouts to your command supervisor so that you can be easily located if needed.


  • Sacramento County Disaster Service Worker Training Video
  • FEMA Student Portal
  • Target Solutions Learning Management Center
  • FEMA Policy, Plans, and Evaluation Division Webpage
  • FEMA Recommended Training Opportunities


When can you be exempted from Disaster Service Work?

  • There will be times when family commitments or other pressing needs during an event will supersede you being able to work. Examples: care of elderly parents/relatives, care of children, or residing in the affected emergency zone.

How long might you be relocated?

  • The standard request is for a DSW to be available to work for 14 days. While the goal is to provide relief for someone after a week, in a catastrophic event (e.g., earthquake) this might be difficult.
  • Out of pocket expenses for travel and per diem will be paid according to your bargaining unit provisions.
  • Overtime will also be paid according to your bargaining unit provisions. If travel is required for prolonged periods, arrangements will be made for payment.

There are two Government Codes that protect DSWs:

California Government Code 8657: Provides immunity from liability for both the worker and the agency, absent willful or criminal acts.
California Government Code 8659: Protections for healthcare providers, absent the event of a willful act or omission.

Emergency orders executed by the Governor could add additional requirements and/or benefits for Disaster Service Workers.


The safety and security of your family is paramount.  Public employees may need to work following a disaster, but every effort will be made so that employees can check on their families and confirm their safety first.

Employees are strongly encouraged to take some basic steps now, to prepare and reduce the hazard impact to your family and your self.

  • Have an emergency kit in your home, which contains food, water, and basic supplies for at least three days.
  • Each member of the family should know how to turn off the gas, electricity, and water to the dwelling.
  • Have a portable radio and flashlight with spare batteries. These will provide a source of information and lighting in an emergency.
  • Develop a family emergency plan so that each member of the family knows what to expect in an emergency, including an out-of-state telephone contact.
  • Keep an emergency supply of water and food in your car and at the office.
  • Emergency Kit (pdf)
  • More information on preparing your home and family for a disaster

We may not be able to stop a disaster in it's tracks, the precautions we take can reduce the effects on our families and ourselves.  With your help, the citizens of Sacramento can have great confidence that we, the employees of the City of Sacramento, are ready, willing, and able to work together and continue to serve their community in the event of an emergency.  Thank you for your commitment to serving the City of Sacramento through preparation, response, mitigation, and recovery. 

A flooded community area