Disaster Service Worker FAQs

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As a California city employee, you may be called upon as a Disaster Service Worker in the event of an emergency.

What does "disaster service" mean?

Disaster service means all activities authorized by and carried out pursuant to the California Emergency Services Act to aid in the response and recovery phases of a disaster or emergency, including approved and documented training necessary or proper to engage in such activities.

Examples of emergencies for which City employees may be called upon to help include fire, flood, earthquake, tsunami, large-scale power shutoff events or pandemics. 

Who is included in the Disaster Service Worker status?

Pursuant to the California Emergency Services Act, any person employed by a county, city, state agency or public district in California is a public employee and considered a Disaster Service Worker (DSW). As public employees, City of Richmond employees are DSWs. In an emergency, non-essential public employees (those that are not required for continuity of operations) may be released from their usual duties so that they can be reassigned to assist any agency or organization carrying out its emergency response duties.

What is the oath or affirmation referred to in the government code?

Before entering upon the duties of employment, all public employees take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation set forth in the California Constitution that declares them to be Disaster Service Workers in time of need.  The oath or affirmation reaffirms an employee’s willingness to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California.  City of Richmond employees do this during the hiring process, and documentation of the Oath is filed with the City Clerk:

I, ________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

What does being a Disaster Service Worker mean to me?

As a Disaster Service Worker you may be asked to carry on with your work as usual, or you may be asked to do something completely different than your everyday job. There are many different ways to assist during a disaster because each situation is unique. You may be assigned and trained to do a specific disaster response job such as working in the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC); you may be called upon to assist your Department or other City Departments with their response efforts; or you may be assisting countywide efforts.

How are public employees assigned disaster service activities?

DSW assignments are based on the needs of the Emergency Operations Center, departmental operations, employee skills and qualifications, and employee availability.  You may receive a DSW assignment directly from the EOC or through your supervisor.  The duration of an employee's assignment will vary depending on operational needs.  Daily or hourly shifts may be different from your regular work schedule.  When you are deployed as a Disaster Service Worker your right to breaks and lunch still stand. Please discuss specific break times with your DSW Section Supervisor.

What is the scope of duties I may be asked to perform as a Disaster Service Worker?

Disaster service is designed to aid in the response and recovery phases of a disaster or emergency.

You are considered to be acting within the scope of disaster service duties when performing any act contributing to the protection of life or property or mitigating the effects of an emergency or potential emergency while under the supervision of any unit of the City of Richmond Emergency Operations Center (EOC). You are also considered to be acting within the scope of disaster service duties while under the supervision and direction of other State, Federal, and volunteer agencies responding to the disaster.

Examples of general disaster service duties include clerical support, answering telephones, delivering supplies, running messages, managing volunteers, staffing barricades, working in a Red Cross shelter, food preparation and serving, interpreting, and filling sandbags.  You will not be assigned DSW work for which you are not qualified or unable to do without adequate training or direction.

How can I prepare now for a disaster?

The safety and security of your family is paramount. City 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 impact to your family and yourself. Visit the Office of Emergency Services Preparedness Information page for details on how to prepare yourself and your family for a disaster.