Frequently Asked Questions about Public Employees
As a County employee, you may be called upon to work as a Disaster Service Worker (DSW) in the event of an emergency. The frequently asked questions may help you further understand your role as a DSW including helping to understand your role and obligations as a disaster service worker and what to do in an emergency.
Where in government code are disaster service workers identified?
California Government Code
Section 3100-3109 states in part:
It is hereby declared that the protection of the health and safety and preservation of the lives and property of the people of the state from the effects of natural, manmade, or war-caused emergencies which result in conditions of disaster or extreme peril to life, property, and resources is of paramount state importance…in protection of its citizens and resources, all public employees are hereby declared to be disaster service workers…
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.
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 a Department Operations Center or the County Emergency Operations Center; you may be called upon to assist your Department or other County Departments with their response efforts; or you may be assisting nonprofit disaster response agencies such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.
What is the oath or affirmation that is referred to in the government code? Why does the County ask that employees sign an Affirmation of Loyalty?
Before entering upon the duties of employment, all public employees take and subscribe to an oath or affirmation set forth in the California Constitution, declaring 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.
County of Sonoma employees sign an Affirmation of Loyalty during the hiring process, and documentation of the Affirmation is kept in the employee's Department personnel record.
Who is included in 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.
Disaster Service Worker does not include any legal alien employed as a public employee, public employees who are engaged in law enforcement, fire services or emergency medical services on a day-to-day basis, or members registered as active fire fighters of any regularly organized and officially recognized volunteer fire department.
What is my responsibility as a Disaster Service Worker?
It is your responsibility to prepare yourself for disaster service duties by ensuring that you and your family are ready for an emergency.
Be prepared! Make sure your family is prepared - if you are at work when a disaster strikes, you may be staying at work until you are released by someone in authority. If you are at home, you may be called in to work. Management can suspend sick leave and scheduled vacation in the event of a major emergency, and you are responsible for reporting for duty if requested.
Know your plan! Each Department has an emergency response plan. When the County Administrator declares an emergency, follow your department's reporting instructions and be prepared to be assigned to any type of disaster service activity where you are needed.
Make sure you are familiar with your DSW responsibilities by periodically reviewing the training and preparedness materials available on this site.
If there is a disaster, what am I expected to do?
If a disaster happens while you are at work:
Report immediately to your department supervisor or to a department designated staging area.
If you are driving:
If you are driving during your work day - such as delivering supplies or conducting inspections - and a disaster occurs, call your supervisor and let them know where you are. Your supervisor may tell you to stay where you are and assist there, or direct you to another location. If you cannot contact your supervisor report to your designated alternate work site or drive to the closest County facility.
If you are at home, or otherwise away from work:
Secure your family first; then follow procedures or instructions established by your Department for reporting to your normal work location or designated alternate staging area. Notify your supervisor of your location and status, if possible.
Listen to the radio to receive possible county-wide reporting instructions, KSRO is usually very reliable during emergencies.
Be sure to keep your County identification badge with you—It may be required to access emergency transportation routes or facilities.
What about my family?
Every effort will be made to permit you time to check on and secure the safety of your family. It is possible, however, that you may be required to remain at work for an extended period of time, or to immediately report-in following a disaster.
Prior to leaving the worksite to check on family you must coordinate with your supervisor or DSW manager to agree on a time for return and to ensure connectivity and safety.
It is critically important that you prepare an emergency plan for your family so they will know what to do in your absence. You are encouraged to utilize information at SoCoEmergency.org and www.redcross.org to create a home and family disaster preparation plan before a disaster occurs.
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 County of Sonoma 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 such as Department of Public Health, and the American Red Cross.
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 may be assigned or choose to volunteer for more specific disaster response duties such as working in a Department Operations Center or the County Emergency Operations Center. Approved and documented training and exercises designed to enhance your disaster response skills is included in the scope of a Disaster Service Worker's duties. See the DSW training guide for additional areas of disaster response that you may want to be trained in, and talk to your supervisor.
How are Disaster Service Worker activities assigned?
In most cases, your department supervisor or DSW manager will provide you with a general assignment based on the needs of the County to carry out its responsibilities during times of disaster. Duties may be outside your regular scope of work or schedule. Established work restrictions continue to apply, such as lift limitations.
Who determines my work hours and what is the expected length of time I will be required to work as a DSW?
The CAO/EOC Management can change your normal schedule or require overtime during an emergency. Your supervisor or DSW manager will determine your work hours and manage an equitable schedule during long-term disasters. Although there is no limit to the number of days a DSW can be assigned to an emergency, the CAO and the Board of Supervisors monitor declarations of emergency closely and will close the incident as soon as possible.
If I am a worker with a disability, would there need to be an accessibility review of my (potential) worksite and roles/responsibilities before I can be assigned to disaster duties?
All accommodation are made for personnel with disabilities or others with access and functional needs, keeping safety in mind when assigning duties deemed to be within their "normal scope of work". It is the determination of the County as to what an employee can or cannot do.
Do public employees acting as Disaster Service Workers get paid?
Disaster Service Workers get paid only if they have taken and subscribed to the Affirmation of Loyalty. Overtime and other compensation is provided in accordance with established MOUs and the nature of the disaster declaration.
What if I am injured while performing my assigned duties as a Disaster Service Worker?
The Disaster Service Worker Program (DSWP) is the result of legislation to provide workers' compensation benefits to registered Disaster Service Workers (DSW) who are injured while participating in authorized disaster-related activities, including pre-approved training. The Program also provides limited immunity from liability.
Claims sustained by public employees while performing disaster services will be filed as worker compensation claims under the same authorities and guidelines as with all employees within the County of Sonoma.