IS-102.c: Preparing for Federal Disaster Operations: FEMA Response Partners

Lesson 1: Introduction to Federal Disaster Response & Recovery

Course Welcome

This course is designed to help prepare you to support disaster operations for deployment as a FEMA response partner in a federally declared incident. In recent years, we have witnessed the destruction that can be caused by the forces of nature, or precipitated by terrorist or criminal acts.

Responding to incidents requires that we must be ready, willing, and able to deploy at a moment's notice. This course provides you with practical tips and advice for incident deployment.

If you have not completed the IS 100.b, IS 200.b, IS 700.a, and IS 800.b courses, you may want to do so before completing this course.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This course is designed for FEMA response partners including personnel from other Federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private-sector companies.

If you are a member of the FEMA Disaster Workforce, you should complete the IS-101 Deployment Basics Course available through FEMA's Independent Study website.


Course Objectives

Upon completing this course, you will be able to describe how to:

  • Understand the mission, role, and organization of FEMA during Federally declared incidents.
  • Indentify the primary Federal partners (Emergency Support Functions) that support disaster operations.
  • Prepare for deployment, including detailing what information to gather, what steps to take, and what things to pack.
  • Check in when you arrive at your assigned location.
  • Acclimate to the working and living conditions at the assigned incident facility.
  • Take care of yourself during deployment.
  • Maintain standards for accountability.
  • Complete the check-out process.


Lesson Overview

You should now be ready to start the first lesson of this course. The objectives for each of the major topics of this lesson are as follows:

  • Doctrine and Authorities: To describe disaster response and recovery doctrine and authorities.
  • Roles: To identify the roles of response partners.
  • Federal Assistance: To identify the process for requesting Federal assistance and the available programs.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA’s existence represents a small part of the long history of Federal participation in emergency management. Although FEMA may be the best-known brand of Federal emergency management assistance, it is just one member of a much larger team. Other Federal departments play important roles in preparing for, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating disasters. State, Tribal, and local governments have significantly enhanced and expanded their capabilities since 2003, and communities, as always, continue to provide the first line of defense for and response to disasters and emergencies.

With a renewed emphasis on engaging the private sector, nongovernmental entities, and the general public, emergency management practitioners in the United States value collaboration as never before. Our collective experience as a Nation has created a more coordinated approach to emergency management, brought more players to the table, and demonstrated the power of teamwork.

FEMA’s mission is “to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a Nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.” In pursuing this mission, all FEMA activities are based on specific authorities such as the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), and Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5. FEMA’s activities and functions are also driven by doctrinal guidance such as the National Strategy for Homeland Security and the National Response Framework.


Who We Serve

During an incident, we coordinate and provide services to assist a wide variety of groups and individuals. These groups include:

  • The American public
  • Disaster survivors
  • State, tribal, territorial, and local governments
  • Community and voluntary organizations

Disaster Operations require partnerships among levels of government, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations, requiring a Whole Community approach to support the needs of disaster survivors.


Federal Role

When an incident occurs that exceeds or is anticipated to exceed State, tribal, or local resources, the Federal Government may provide resources and capabilities to support the State response. The Federal Government maintains a wide array of capabilities and resources that can be made available upon request of the Governor.

For incidents involving primary Federal jurisdiction or authorities (e.g., on a military base or a Federal facility or lands), Federal departments or agencies may be the first responders and first line of defense, coordinating activities with State, territorial, tribal, and local partners.

The Federal Government also maintains working relationships with private-sector businesses and NGOs.

Roles of Key Federal Officials

National Leadership: The President

  • Leads the Federal Government response effort.
  • Ensures that the necessary coordinating structures, leadership, and resources are applied quickly and efficiently to large-scale and catastrophic incidents.
  • Sets policy for large-scale incidents after consulting with the Homeland Security Council and National Security Council.


Secretary of Homeland Security

  • Serves as the principal Federal official for domestic incident management.
  • Coordinates the Federal resources utilized in the prevention of, preparation for, response to, or recovery from terrorist attacks, major disasters, or other emergencies.
  • Provides the President with an overall architecture for domestic incident management and coordinates the Federal response, when required, while relying upon the support of other Federal partners.
  • Contributes elements of the response consistent with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS’s) mission, capabilities, and authorities.

Note: Federal assistance for incidents that do not require DHS coordination may be led by other Federal departments and agencies consistent with their authorities. The Secretary of Homeland Security may monitor such incidents and may activate specific Framework mechanisms to provide support to departments and agencies without assuming overall leadership for the Federal response to the incident.


FEMA Administrator

  • Serves as the principal advisor to the President, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Homeland Security Council on all matters regarding emergency management.
  • Assists the Secretary of Homeland Security to prepare for, protect against, respond to, and recover from all-hazards incidents.
  • Manages the operation of the National Response Coordination Center and provides for the effective support of all Emergency Support Functions.
  • Makes recommendations to the President through the Secretary of Homeland on Stafford Act declaration requests.
  • Manages the core DHS grant programs supporting homeland security.


Law Enforcement: Attorney General

  • Serves as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.
  • Generally acting through the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
    • Assumes lead responsibility for criminal investigations of terrorist acts or terrorist threats by individuals or groups inside the United States or directed at U.S. citizens or institutions abroad.
    • Coordinates activities of the other members of the law enforcement community to detect, prevent, and disrupt terrorist attacks against the United States.
  • Approves requests submitted by State Governors pursuant to the Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Act for personnel and other Federal law enforcement support during incidents.
  • Enforces Federal civil rights laws and provides expertise to ensure that these laws are appropriately addressed.


National Defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities: Secretary of Defense

  • Approves requests for response resources.

    The primary mission of the Department of Defense (DOD) and its components is national defense. Because of this critical role, resources are committed after approval by the Secretary of Defense or at the direction of the President. Many DOD components and agencies are authorized to respond to save lives, protect property and the environment, and mitigate human suffering under imminently serious conditions, as well as to provide support under their separate established authorities, as appropriate. The provision of defense support is evaluated by its legality, lethality, risk, cost, appropriateness, and impact on readiness.

  • Retains command of military forces.

    When Federal military and civilian personnel and resources are authorized to support civil authorities, command of those forces will remain with the Secretary of Defense. DOD elements in the incident area of operations and National Guard forces under the command of a Governor will coordinate closely with response organizations at all levels.


International Coordination: Secretary of State

  • Manages international preparedness, response, and recovery activities relating to domestic incidents.
  • Manages efforts related to the protection of U.S. citizens and U.S. interests overseas.


Intelligence: Director of National Intelligence

  • Leads the Intelligence Community and serves as the President's principal intelligence advisor.
  • Oversees and directs the implementation of the National Intelligence Program.


Other Federal Department and Agency Heads

  • Serve in primary, coordinating, and/or support roles based on their authorities and resources and the nature of the threat or incident.
  • Participate as members of the Unified Coordination Group in situations where their agency or department has responsibility for directing or managing a major aspect of a response.
  • Execute their own authorities to declare disasters or emergencies. For example, the Secretary of Health and Human Services can declare a public health emergency. These declarations may be made independently or as part of a coordinated Federal response. Where those declarations are part of an incident requiring a coordinated Federal response, those Federal departments or agencies act within the overall coordination structure of the Framework.

Note: When the overall coordination of Federal response activities is required, it is implemented through the Secretary of Homeland Security consistent with Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 5. Other Federal departments and agencies carry out their response authorities and responsibilities within this overarching construct. Nothing in the Framework alters or impedes the ability of Federal, State, tribal, or local departments and agencies to carry out their specific authorities or perform their responsibilities under all applicable laws, Executive orders, and directives. Additionally, nothing in the Framework is intended to impact or impede the ability of any Federal department or agency to take an issue of concern directly to the President or any member of the President’s staff.


Disaster Operations Goals

Federal response has a number of specific goals when activated for an emergency. These goals include:

  • To save lives.
  • To protect property and the environment.
  • To ensure basic human needs are met:
    • Public health and safety,
    • Temporary shelter, and
    • Critical resources (water, food, ice, etc.).
  • To restore critical infrastructure:
    • Utilities,
    • Telecommunications, and
    • Transportation.
  • To restore essential Government services.


Incident Management Organization

In this part of the lesson, you will learn about the following incident organizations:

  • National Response Coordination Center (NRCC)
  • Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC)
  • Joint Field Office (JFO)
  • Disaster Recovery Center (DRC)


Understanding Incident Management and Support

Recently developed FEMA doctrine makes a clear distinction between Incident Management and Incident Support as it relates to Federal-level disaster operations:

  • Incident management is the incident-level operation of the Federal role in emergency response, recovery, logistics, and mitigation. Responsibilities in incident management include the direct control and employment of resources, management of incident offices, operations, and delivery of Federal assistance through all phases of emergency response.
  • Incident support is the coordination of all Federal resources that support emergency response, recovery, logistics, and mitigation. Responsibilities include the deployment of national-level assets, support of national objectives and programs affected during the disaster, and support of incident operations with resources, expertise, information, and guidance.


National Response Coordination Center (NRCC)

The National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) is a multiagency center located at FEMA Headquarters. During an incident, the NRCC operates on a 24/7 basis or as required to:

  • Monitor potential or developing incidents.
  • Support the efforts of regional and field components, including coordinating the preparedness of national-level emergency response teams and resources.
  • Initiate mission assignments or reimbursable agreements to activate other Federal departments and agencies (in coordination with Regional Response Coordination Centers).
  • Activate and deploy national-level specialized teams.

In addition, the NRCC resolves Federal resource support conflicts and other implementation issues forwarded from the field.


Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC)

Each of FEMA’s regional offices maintains a Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC). The RRCCs are coordination centers that expand to become an interagency facility in anticipation of a serious incident or immediately following an incident.

Operating under the direction of the FEMA Regional Administrator, the RRCCs coordinate Federal regional response efforts until the Joint Field Office is established.

Regional Response Coordination Centers (RRCCs) are 24/7 interagency coordination facilities staffed in anticipation of a serious incident in the FEMA region or immediately following an incident.

After establishing communications with the affected State emergency management agency, RRCCs:

  • Develop initial Federal objectives,
  • Provide Federal support to the affected States, and
  • Deploy teams to establish the Joint Field Office (JFO) that will assume these functions.


One RRCC Per Region

Each of FEMA’s regional offices maintains an RRCC. Regional offices are FEMA’s permanent presence for communities and States across the Nation, help develop all-hazards operational plans, and generally help States and communities become better prepared.

Map of the United States showing the FEMA regions

FEMA Regional Offices

FEMA has 10 regional offices, each headed by a Regional Administrator. The regional field structures are FEMA’s permanent presence for communities and States across the Nation. The staff at these offices support development of all-hazards operational plans and generally help States and communities become better prepared. These regional offices mobilize Federal assets and evaluation teams to work with State and local agencies. Many of FEMA’s most experienced response personnel are employed at regional offices.

Each of FEMA’s regional offices maintains a Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC). The RRCCs are 24/7 coordination centers that expand to become an interagency facility staffed by Emergency Support Functions in anticipation of a serious incident in the FEMA region or immediately following an incident. Operating under the direction of the FEMA Regional Administrator, the RRCCs coordinate Federal regional response efforts, and maintain connectivity with State emergency operations centers (EOCs), State fusion centers, Federal Executive Boards, and other Federal and State operations and coordination centers that have potential to contribute to development of situational awareness. Ongoing RRCC operations transition to a JFO once it is established, so that the RRCC can remain ready to deal with new incidents.

Other Federal departments and agencies have regional or field offices that may participate with State, tribal, and local governments in planning for incidents under their jurisdiction and provide initial response assets to the incident.


Joint Field Office (JFO)

While FEMA has commonly referred to it as “the field,” FEMA’s incident level refers to the level at which FEMA incident management is accomplished, typically in partnership with States and in support of local officials.

One field facility is the Joint Field Office (JFO). The JFO:

  • Is a multiagency coordination center established near the incident site.
  • Provides a central location for coordination of Federal, State, local, tribal, nongovernmental, and private-sector organizations.
  • Enables the effective and efficient coordination of Federal prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery activities.

The JFO is often set up in an abandoned building with folding tables for desks, shared computers, and phones. To the outside eye, it may appear chaotic as everyone pitches in and gets the job done.

The JFO may be the primary Federal incident management field structure used to coordinate Federal, State, tribal, and local governments and private-sector businesses and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with primary responsibility for response and short-term recovery.

Personnel from Federal and State departments and agencies, other jurisdictional entities, and private-sector businesses and NGOs may be requested to staff various levels of the JFO, depending on the requirements of the incident.

JFOs are organized, staffed, and managed in a manner consistent with NIMS principles.


JFO Leadership: Unified Coordination Group

The Unified Coordination Group is the primary Federal or State organizational structure for managing and supporting disaster response operations at the field level. The Unified Coordination Group:

  • Is comprised of senior leaders representing State and Federal interests, and in certain circumstances tribal governments, local jurisdictions, the private sector, or nongovernmental organizations.
  • Applies unified command principles to coordinating assistance being provided to support the local, tribal, and State response.


Unified Coordination Group Members

The composition of the Unified Coordination Group varies, depending upon the scope and nature of the incident. For a Stafford Act incident, two key group members include:

  • Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO). The FCO is appointed by the President to execute Stafford Act authorities. The FCO is the primary Federal representative with whom the State, tribal, and local response officials interface to identify needs and set objectives for an effective collaborative response.
  • State Coordinating Officer (SCO). The SCO is appointed by the Governor to coordinate State disaster assistance efforts. The SCO works with the FCO to formulate State requirements and set priorities for use of Federal support.


Additional Unified Coordination Group Members

Additional members of the Unified Coordination Group may include the following individuals:

Federal Resource Coordinator

In non-Stafford Act situations, when a Federal department or agency acting under its own authority has requested the assistance of the Secretary of Homeland Security to obtain support from other Federal departments and agencies, DHS may designate a Federal Resource Coordinator (FRC). In these situations, the FRC coordinates support through interagency agreements and memorandums of understanding. Relying on the same skill set, DHS may select the FRC from the Federal Coordinating Officer cadre or other personnel with equivalent knowledge, skills, and abilities. The FRC is responsible for coordinating timely delivery of resources to the requesting agency.

Senior Federal Law Enforcement Official

The Senior Federal Law Enforcement Official (SFLEO) is an individual appointed by the Attorney General during an incident requiring a coordinated Federal response to coordinate all law enforcement, public safety, and security operations with intelligence or investigative law enforcement operations directly related to the incident. The SFLEO is a member of the Unified Coordination Group and, as such, is responsible to ensure that allocation of law enforcement requirements and resource allocations are coordinated as appropriate with all other members of the Group. In the event of a terrorist incident, the SFLEO will normally be a senior FBI official who has coordinating authority over all law enforcement activities related to the incident, both those falling within the Attorney General’s explicit authority as recognized in HSPD-5 and those otherwise directly related to the incident itself.

Defense Coordinating Officer

The Department of Defense (DOD) has appointed 10 Defense Coordinating Officers (DCOs) and assigned one to each FEMA region. If requested and approved, the DCO serves as DOD's single point of contact in the field for requesting assistance from DOD. With few exceptions, requests for Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) originating at the JFO or other field locations are coordinated with and processed through the DCO. The DCO may have a Defense Coordinating Element consisting of a staff and military liaison officers to facilitate coordination and support to activated Emergency Support Functions (ESFs).

Specific responsibilities of the DCO (subject to modification based on the situation) include processing requirements for military support, forwarding mission assignments to the appropriate military organizations through DOD-designated channels, and assigning military liaisons, as appropriate, to activated ESFs.

Note: DOD is a full partner in the Federal response to domestic incidents, and its response is fully coordinated through the mechanisms of this Framework. Concepts of “command” and “unity of command” have distinct legal and cultural meanings for military forces and military operations. For Federal military forces, command runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense to the Commander of the combatant command to the DOD on-scene commander. Military forces will always remain under the operational and administrative control of the military chain of command, and these forces are subject to redirection or recall at any time. The ICS “unified command” concept is distinct from the military chain of command use of this term. And, as such, military forces do not operate under the command of the Incident Commander or under the unified command structure.

Joint Task Force Commander

Based on the complexity and type of incident, and the anticipated level of DOD resource involvement, DOD may elect to designate a Joint Task Force (JTF) to command Federal (Title 10) military activities in support of the incident objectives. If a JTF is established, consistent with operational requirements, its command and control element will be co-located with the senior on-scene leadership at the JFO to ensure coordination and unity of effort. The co-location of the JTF command and control element does not replace the requirement for a Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO)/Defense Coordinating Element as part of the JFO Unified Coordination Staff. The DCO remains the DOD single point of contact in the JFO for requesting assistance from DOD.

The JTF Commander exercises operational control of Federal military personnel and most defense resources in a Federal response. Some DOD entities, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, may respond under separate established authorities and do not provide support under the operational control of a JTF Commander. Unless federalized, National Guard forces remain under the control of a State Governor. Close coordination between Federal military, other DOD entities, and National Guard forces in a response is critical.

Other Senior Officials

Based on the scope and nature of an incident, senior officials from other Federal departments and agencies; State, tribal, or local governments; and the private sector or nongovernmental organizations may participate in a Unified Coordination Group. Usually, the larger and more complex the incident, the greater the number of entities represented.


Field-Level Leadership/Command Structure

The chart below shows the field-level leadership or command positions that may be included.

Positions at the JFO include: FCO, Deputy FCO, Special Assistant to the FCO; External Affairs Officer, Assistant External Affairs Officers (to include Joint Information Center, Congressional Affairs, Community Relations, Intergovernmental (Local, Tribal, State), Planning and Products, Private Sector; Chief of Staff, FCO Executive Specialist, Legal Advisor, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Equal Rights Specialist, Security Manager; Safety Officer.

Chief of Staff

  • Manages the field-level administrative functions.
  • Oversees efficient functioning of all staff elements.
  • Interfaces with the FCO and Section Chiefs/staff on internal issues needing resolution.
  • Manages FCO staff.
  • Oversees the ongoing professional development of assigned personnel.

Special Assistant to the FCO

  • Serves as a confidential advisor to the FCO.
  • Monitors information in current situation and expected developments to identify potential risks, threats, and consequences.
  • Assists the FCO on the development of policy and strategic planning.
  • Oversees compliance with statutes, regulations, and other legal requirements by continually monitoring field-level operations.
  • Organizes working sessions and meetings to analyze issues and develops optional strategies for the FCO to consider.
  • Serves as a liaison to other Federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.
  • Represents the FCO at External Affairs events such as press conferences, VIP visits, community meetings, etc.
  • Oversees the implementation of special projects.
  • Identifies resources (personnel, supply, services, etc.) constraints and proposes solutions.

FCO Executive Specialist

  • Establishes and maintains Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO)/Deputy FCO files.
  • Provides administrative support to the FCO/Deputy FCO.
  • Manages FCO/Deputy FCO contacts.
  • Serves as liaison with Section Chiefs.

Legal Advisor

  • Identifies potential legal issues.
  • Gathers information and conducts legal research.
  • Analyzes the facts, context, and the law to develop opinions, recommendations, and solutions.
  • Provides legal advice, instruction, and communication.
  • Prepares disaster declaration documents and resolves declaration-related issues.
  • Processes external requests for information.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisor


  • Provides prompt, expert means of resolving disputes and promotes conflict prevention strategies and skills at disaster sites.
  • Facilitates public participation, policy making, and collaborative decision-making groups, as requested.
  • Mediates legal, contract, procurement, and other complex disputes.

Equal Rights Specialist

  • Identifies potential Equal Employment Opportunity and Civil Rights issues.
  • Provides information and assistance on issues pertaining to sexual harassment, Affirmative Action, and Equal Employment Opportunity.
  • Ensures nondiscrimination in hiring decisions and in staffing and managing the JFO, DRCs, and other disaster operations offices.
  • Ensures that the administration and service delivery of the JFO or DRCs are conducted without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, or physical or mental disability.

Security Manager

  • Conducts security needs and FEMA Security Program needs assessment.
  • Identifies available local law enforcement agencies and their resource capabilities.
  • Sets up secure environment for personnel identification operations (i.e., badging and fingerprinting).
  • Develops and implements Occupant Emergency Plan (OEP) for JFOs and other field facilities.
  • Establishes and monitors security field operations.

Safety Officer

  • Advises management officials in charge of FEMA worksites of all occupational safety and health matters.
  • Assists management officials in implementation of Federal, State, tribal, and local safety and health requirements.
  • Assesses local risk and determines need for FEMA safety and health programs.
  • Develops the Incident Safety Plan.
  • Conducts inspections, surveys, and audits to identify safety and health hazards, and makes recommendations for abatement and implementation of FEMA safety and health programs.
  • Acts to respond to an emergency or prevent others' unsafe acts.

Liaison Officer

  • Serves as the point of contact for assisting and coordinating agencies not otherwise represented at the field level.

External Affairs Officer

Manages all External Affairs elements including:

  • Joint Information Center (JIC): Joint Information Center activities ensure the coordinated and timely release of incident-related prevention, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation information to the public.
  • Congressional Affairs: Congressional Affairs provides information to the Washington, DC, and district offices of Members of Congress. It addresses incident-related questions, concerns, and problems expressed by their constituents.
  • Community Relations: Community Relations program provides the vital information link between the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the State and local communities, and those affected by disasters.
  • Intergovernmental (State, Local, and Tribal Affairs): State, Local, and Tribal coordination assists with direct communications interaction and outreach to public and elected officials. Tribal Affairs provides procedures to facilitate incident management programs and resources available to tribal governments to assist them in protecting their families, community livelihood, and cultural and environmental resources.
  • Private Sector: Private Sector coordination assists with communications involving counterparts in the nongovernmental and commercial areas.
  • Planning and Products: Planning and Products develops all external and internal communications strategies and products for the External Affairs organization and components. This includes recognition of the need for specialized communications procedures to assist those with access and functional needs.


FEMA Field-Level General Staff

FEMA field operations are organized into four sections based on the Incident Command System (ICS) standard organization.

Graphic depicting the Emergency Support Functions supporting the Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Admin Sections

Depending on the scope and nature of the incident, the Unified Coordination Group identifies which Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) to activate based on the established objectives and incident action plan. You will learn more about ESFs later in this lesson.


Field-Level General Staff Roles

Although the FEMA General Staff use ICS titles, their function is to support the onsite incident command structure. Below is a summary of the different roles assumed by each Section.


FEMA Field General Staff

Incident Scene General Staff


The Operations Section coordinates operational support with on-scene incident management efforts. Branches, Divisions, and Groups may be added or deleted as required, depending on the nature of the incident. The Operations Section is also responsible for coordinating with other Federal facilities that may be established to support incident management activities.

The incident scene Operations Section is responsible for all tactical incident operations and implementation of the Incident Action Plan. In the Incident Command System, it normally includes subordinate Branches, Divisions, and/or Groups.


The Planning Section’s functions include the collection, evaluation, dissemination, and use of information regarding the threat or incident and the status of Federal resources. The Planning Section prepares and documents Federal support actions and develops unified action, contingency, long-term, and other plans.

The incident scene Planning Section is responsible for the collection, evaluation, and dissemination of operational information related to the incident, and for the preparation and documentation of the Incident Action Plan. This Section also maintains information on the current and forecasted situation and on the status of resources assigned to the incident.


The Logistics Section coordinates logistics support that includes: control of and accountability for Federal supplies and equipment; resource ordering; delivery of equipment, supplies, and services to the JFO and other field locations; facility location, setup, space management, building services, and general facility operations; transportation coordination and fleet management services; information and technology systems services; administrative services such as mail management and reproduction; and customer assistance.

The incident scene Logistics Section is responsible for providing facilities, services, and material support for the incident. It also provides facilities, security (of the Incident Command facilities), transportation, supplies, equipment maintenance and fuel, food services, communications and information technology support, and emergency responder medical services, including inoculations, as required.

Finance and Administration

The Finance and Administration Section is responsible for the financial management, monitoring, and tracking of all Federal costs relating to the incident and the functioning of the FEMA field operations while adhering to all Federal laws and regulations. This Section includes Cost, Procurement, Human Resources, and Training Units.

The incident scene Finance and Administration Section is responsible for all administrative and financial considerations surrounding an incident. Some of the functions that fall within the scope of this Section are recording personnel time, maintaining vendor contracts, overseeing compensation and claims, and conducting an overall cost analysis for the incident.


Field-Level Organizational Structure

Below is a standard organizational structure at the field level, including the JFO:

Standard organizational structure for the JFO


Disaster Recovery Center (DRC)

A Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) is a readily accessible facility or mobile office where applicants may go for information about disaster assistance programs. Some of the services that a DRC may provide:

  • Guidance regarding disaster recovery
  • Clarification of any written correspondence received
  • Answers to questions, resolution of problems, and referrals to agencies that may provide further assistance
  • Status of applications being processed by FEMA.


Emergency Support Functions Overview

Emergency Support Functions, or ESFs, are used by the Federal Government and many States as the primary mechanism to organize and provide assistance.

ESFs are organized into 14 functional areas such as transportation; public works and engineering; firefighting; search and rescue; mass care, housing, and human services; public health and medical services; agriculture and natural resources; and many more. ESFs may be selectively activated for both Stafford Act and non-Stafford Act incidents and are assigned to support headquarters, regional, and field activities.

At the Joint Field Office, these resources are assigned where needed within the Unified Coordination structure. For example, if a State requests assistance with a mass evacuation, resources from several different ESFs may be integrated into a single branch or group within the Operations Section. Regardless of where ESFs may be assigned, they coordinate closely with one another to accomplish their missions.

National Response Framework Annexes describe the scope, policies, and concept of operations of each ESF. In addition, these annexes identify ESF coordinators, primary agencies, and support agencies. Let’s take a closer look at each of these roles.

An ESF coordinator has ongoing management oversight throughout the preparedness, response, and recovery phases of incident management.

A primary agency is a Federal agency with significant authorities, roles, resources, or capabilities for a particular function within an ESF. During a Stafford Act incident, the ESF primary agency serves as a Federal executive agent under the Federal Coordinating Officer.

Support agencies are those entities with specific capabilities or resources that assist the primary agency in executing the mission of the ESF.

Throughout the year, ESFs plan and prepare with all participating organizations and form partnerships with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations. In doing so, Emergency Support Functions are a key element for building our national response capability.


Emergency Support Functions (ESFs)

Emergency Support Functions, or ESFs, are used by the Federal Government and many States as the primary mechanism to organize and provide assistance.

ESFs are organized into 14 functional areas such as transportation; public works and engineering; firefighting; search and rescue; mass care, housing, and human services; public health and medical services; agriculture and natural resources; and many more. ESFs may be selectively activated for both Stafford Act and non-Stafford Act incidents and are assigned to support headquarters, regional, and field activities.


ESF Descriptions

ESF #1: Transportation
ESF Coordinator: Department of Transportation

  • Aviation/airspace management and control
  • Transportation safety
  • Restoration and recovery of transportation infrastructure
  • Movement restrictions
  • Damage and impact assessment

ESF #2: Communications
ESF Coordinator: DHS (National Communications System)

  • Coordination with telecommunications and information technology industries
  • Restoration and repair of telecommunications infrastructure
  • Protection, restoration, and sustainment of national cyber and information technology resources
  • Oversight of communications within the Federal incident management and response structures

ESF #3: Public Works and Engineering
ESF Coordinator: Department of Defense (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

  • Infrastructure protection and emergency repair
  • Infrastructure restoration
  • Engineering services and construction management
  • Emergency contracting support for life-saving and life-sustaining services

ESF #4: Firefighting
ESF Coordinator: Department of Agriculture (U.S. Forest Service)

  • Coordination of Federal firefighting activities
  • Support to wildland, rural, and urban firefighting operations

ESF #5: Information and Planning
ESF Coordinator: DHS (FEMA)

  • Collects, analyzes, processes, and disseminates information about a potential or actual incident
  • Conducts planning activities

ESF #6: Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services
ESF Coordinator: DHS (FEMA)

  • Mass care
  • Emergency assistance
  • Disaster housing
  • Human services

ESF #7: Logistics Management and Resource Support
ESF Coordinator: General Services Administration and DHS (FEMA)

  • Comprehensive, national incident logistics planning, management, and sustainment capability
  • Resource support (facility space, office equipment and supplies, contracting services, etc.)

ESF #8: Public Health and Medical Services
ESF Coordinator: Department of Health and Human Services

  • Public health
  • Medical
  • Mental health services
  • Mass fatality management

ESF #9: Search and Rescue
ESF Coordinator: DHS (FEMA)

  • Life-saving assistance
  • Search and rescue operations

ESF #10: Oil and Hazardous Materials Response
ESF Coordinator: Environmental Protection Agency

  • Oil and hazardous materials (chemical, biological, radiological, etc.) response
  • Environmental short- and long-term cleanup

ESF #11: Agriculture and Natural Resources
ESF Coordinator: Department of Agriculture

  • Nutrition assistance
  • Animal and plant disease and pest response
  • Food safety and security
  • Natural and cultural resources and historic properties protection
  • Safety and well-being of household pets

ESF #12: Energy
ESF Coordinator: Department of Energy

  • Energy infrastructure assessment, repair, and restoration
  • Energy industry utilities coordination
  • Energy forecast

ESF #13: Public Safety and Security
ESF Coordinator: Department of Justice

  • Facility and resource security
  • Security planning and technical resource assistance
  • Public safety and security support
  • Support to access, traffic, and crowd control

ESF #14: Long-Term Community Recovery
Superseded by the National Disaster Recovery Framework

Long-Term Community Recovery was superseded by the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF). For guidance on long-term community recovery, please refer to the NDRF. Refer to this link for more information on ESF #14:

ESF #15: External Affairs
ESF Coordinator: DHS

  • Emergency public information and protective action guidance
  • Media and community relations
  • Congressional and international affairs
  • Tribal and insular affairs


ESF Activation

ESFs may be selectively activated for both Stafford Act and non-Stafford Act incidents. Not all incidents requiring Federal support result in the activation of ESFs.

For Stafford Act incidents, the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) or Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC) staff may activate specific ESFs by directing appropriate departments and agencies to initiate the actions delineated in the ESF Annexes.

The ESFs deliver a broad range of technical support and other services at the regional and field levels, as required by the incident.


ESFs Within the Field Structure

Resources coordinated through ESFs are assigned where they are needed within the response structure.

For example, if a State requests assistance with a mass evacuation, resources from several different ESFs may be integrated into a single Branch or Group within the Operations Section. During the response, these resources would report to a supervisor within the assigned Branch or Group.

Regardless of where ESFs may be assigned, they coordinate closely with one another to accomplish their missions.



This lesson presented an overview of the response doctrine and authorities, response partner roles, and Federal assistance. You should now be able to:

  • Describe disaster response and recovery doctrine and authorities.
  • Identify the roles of response partners.
  • Identify process for requesting Federal assistance and the available programs.

In the next lesson you will learn about response organizations.