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FAQs for Responders

1. Why Volunteer?

ESF #11 NCH relies on volunteer responder to staff the Mission Assignments (MA) that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assigns. These individuals are volunteers only in that they voluntarily sign up to serve during a disaster. Travel and overtime will be covered by FEMA, while base salary will still be covered by their home office. Responders are either Federal employees working for one of the bureaus within the Department of the Interior (DOI) or for one of the ESF #11 NCH partner agencies, or personnel working for one of our partner organizations.

When activated, ESF #11 NCH turns to a list of responders to help fulfill the MA that FEMA assigns to DOI. This list, maintained by the National Park Service (NPS) Emergency Incident Coordination Center (EICC), has names of responders. These responders are recruited from the various Bureaus within DOI.

Responders play an important role in helping us fulfill our role in protecting and responding to natural and cultural resources when they are under threat. Volunteering gives participants a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment as they work towards the goal of protecting natural and cultural resources that not only provide a sense of place to the local community, but also to the nation as a whole.  

2. How will I be paid while I am away from my home office? Will my home office be reimbursed for travel, overtime, and expenses?

 ESF #11 NCH responders are volunteers only in the sense that they willingly accept a temporary tour of duty to aid others affected by a disaster--they are still paid federal employees. During an ESF #11 NCH activation your home office will continue to pay your base salary, while travel and overtime will be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In certain circumstances, when agencies provide extra documentation, FEMA will reimburse base salaries for project-funded employees.

While deployed, you will be asked to keep track of your time and submit that time to FEMA, your home office, and the NCH Coordinator on duty in the area.

3. How to Volunteer

Each January, the Department of the Interior (DOI) and each support agency will solicit volunteers for ESF #11 NCH. DOI will provide an opportunity to all employees to volunteer. The employee completes a short information form to provide pertinent information, such as position and related qualifications, dates of availability, and confirmation of the supervisor's approval.

Each Agency and Bureau will then compile a list of approved volunteers to be submitted to the National Park Service’s Emergency Incident Coordination Center (EICC). This list will be kept on file for twelve (12) months, and updated throughout the year.

When ESF #11 NCH is activated, and a Mission Assignment (MA) is tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), ESF #11 NCH staff and the EICC will search the list on file for people with the necessary qualifications to respond to the type of work needed. They will be contacted, and if available, sent to respond to the incident.

4. I just received notice that I am to be deployed under ESF #11 NCH. What do I need to bring when I am deployed?

When you are notified that you will be serving as an ESF #11 NCH responder, you should also receive a letter with information detailing what items should be brought with you when you respond to the disaster.

The Standard Operating Procedures for ESF #11 NCH includes a packing list in the appendices, offering advice to responders on what to bring with them as they report for duty in locations impacted by disaster. Responders should also be sure to bring any information or papers that may have been sent to them by their Bureau prior to their deployment.

Additionally, responders might want to think about the geographic location in which they are deployed to better prepare themselves. Cold weather could call for more layers of clothing, while warmer weather could call for more insect repellent. To help, ESF #11 NCH will include additional site specific details to responders in a deployment letter to help them prepare for the duty location and type of work they have been assigned to.  

5. I want to help protect natural and cultural resources under ESF #11 NCH. How do I get included on the responder list?

Each year, the Department of the Interior and its Bureaus conduct a volunteer solicitation that sends out a call for volunteers through the Environmental Safeguards Group (ESG). The ESG is composed of representatives of the bureaus who are responsible for conducting a call for volunteers throughout their respective Bureaus.

In early January, the ESG will send out a call to their bureaus asking for volunteers to sign up to volunteer for deployment. Accompanying this request will be a short form to be completed by the prospective volunteer, requesting pertinent information, such as position, experience, and approval from their supervisor. If approved, the volunteer will be eligible for responding to disasters beginning March 1 of that year, and lasting for exactly for one year, or until they notify the ESG of their desire to be removed from the list.

If you are interested in volunteering, and your Bureau has already completed the annual call, please complete the volunteer resource form and submit it to your Bureau ESG member.

6. I have heard that in order to be deployed I will need required training. What is the training that is necessary for deployment?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires specific training courses to be completed before being deployed as a volunteer for ESF #11 NCH. These courses are designed to allow responders to begin their work as soon as they arrive in the affected area and to help them better understand the command structure in which they will be working in and how it is set up.

For specific training courses that might be helpful, visit the training page of this website here.

7. How long does a typical response last?

The length of a typical response can vary depending on the severity of the incident and the level of damage sustained by NCH resources, the intensity of the disaster, work conditions, etc. On average, most response deployments are for 2-3 weeks, while some last up to 30 days.

Response deployments can only occur once the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issues a Mission Assignment (MA) detailing the scope of work (SOW). Once the SOW has been approved by the Department of the interior, volunteers with the appropriate skills and expertise will be deployed under the MA.

MAs typically last for either 30 or 60 days, beginning with the day the MA is issued by FEMA. Some MAs can last up to 90 days, but such MAs are rare, usually only when extensive damage has been done to NCH resources in the aftermath of a major incident or disaster. During these longer ESF #11 NCH activations, staff are rotated in and out of the impacted area to ensure that volunteers are not overly stressed or overworked during response activations.

8. I volunteered for deployment under ESF #11 NCH, but I am no longer able to serve. Can I be removed from the list?

If you are no longer able to serve as a possible responder under ESF #11 NCH, for whatever reason, then you should ask the National Park Service Emergency Incident Coordination Center, which maintains the list for ESF #11 NCH, to remove your name. You should also contact your Bureau’s Environmental Safeguards Group Representative to make them aware of your request.

If you are only able to serve on a seasonal basis, as your bureau unit or home office might not be able to function without you during the peak season, this is not an eliminating factor from volunteering for ESF #11 NCH. When you sign up, mention on your form the months that work best for you so that we can make note of it on the volunteer roster.


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