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DHS employees leaving their day jobs to join volunteer corps for Harvey response

As the rain from Hurricane Harvey’s following tropical storms begins to subside, more than 12,000 federal employees from every corner of government are helping state and local disaster response teams in Texas and Louisiana.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is out front and center in the federal response, but hundreds of Homeland Security Department (DHS) employees are leaving their day jobs to take up posts on the Surge Capacity Force (SCF), a voluntary program that deploys non-FEMA employees to support particular disaster recovery efforts.

The SCF will only deploy under the secretary’s orders, and DHS has only activated the Surge Capacity Force once before, when about 1,100 non-FEMA employees supported disaster response and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Congress authorized the program under the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, which was designed to help FEMA better respond to catastrophic incidents.

SCF volunteers typically work in logistics, community relations and individual and public assistance. Others might help FEMA with additional human resources or budgetary work.

DHS couldn’t give an estimate of how many Surge Capacity Force volunteers it currently has on the ground in Texas and Louisiana, as the numbers change multiple times throughout any given day.

But about 280 Surge Capacity Force volunteers began training and received operational briefings on Monday, a DHS spokesman told Federal News Radio. The first wave of volunteers will be in the field helping hurricane survivors this week.

A second wave of roughly 500 SCF volunteers will arrive in the impacted areas on Thursday and leave Sunday, Sept. 3, when a third wave of 500 more employees arrives in Texas. They are scheduled to leave Tuesday, Sept. 6.

“These volunteers are driven by the same spirit that brought them into government service in the first place, and DHS welcomes any and all of our employees looking to go above and beyond the call of their routine duties in support of the life-saving and life-preserving missions on the ground in Texas and Louisiana,” the department said.

The department eventually hopes to add more employees from other agencies to join the SCF.

Meanwhile, the inter-agency rescue and recovery effort continued Wednesday and is expected to ensure for the next few days.

Culled from Federal News Radio

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