Disaster Services Branch

The Disaster Services Branch of the California Department of Social Services supports local emergency agencies in order to provide temporary shelter, feeding and other services for persons affected by a disaster or emergency. Shelters are generally opened and operated by the American Red Cross, assisted by local or county employees. Meals are provided at the shelters and also are provided for disaster victims who have been able to remain in their homes, but are unable to prepare meals. The mass care and shelter disaster response function is delegated to the Disaster Services Branch of the California Department of Social Services through an Administrative Order by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).

Other Responsibilities

The Disaster Services Branch also assists in networking with/between counties. Additionally, the Branch tracks resources needed for care and sheltering with other state agencies and coordinates with the American Red Cross to assist in training for shelter operations. Branch staff may deploy to assist with Mass Care and Shelter response operations throughout the state. Response and training operations are augmented with trained members of the Volunteer Emergency Services Team (VEST), comprised of state employees from a variety of departments and agencies. Integrating response capabilities to address access and functional needs is a focus of the state's Mass Care and Shelter planning and response. The Disaster Services Branch coordinates the Functional Assessment Services Team (FAST) to address access and functional needs in the shelter setting. The Branch also operates the State Supplemental Grant Program, which offers assistance to persons affected by major disasters.

Mass Care and Shelter Guidance

The Disaster Services Branch is pleased to share the Mass Care and Shelter Guidance for Local Governments During a Communicable Disease Outbreak or Pandemic, which has been updated to reflect best practices and lessons learned. This guidance provides a range of possible sheltering options as well as considerations when planning for how to best accommodate the needs of operational areas.

The updates to the guidance include:

  • Modifications put forth by California Department of Public Health (CDPH) including COVID-19 protocols such as COVID-19 vaccination and COVID-19 symptom screening
  • Expanded “Evacuations and Temporary Evacuation Points (TEPs)” to include sections on what information is captured there, as well as information given to clients at the TEP
  • Introduced the “Non-Congregate Shelter (NCS) Program” with related sheltering options
  • Added “Feeding” section to encourage working with new and existing feeding partners/resources, identify methods for feeding, and engage OAs in pre-planning efforts
  • Added an “Authorities” section and added to the “Resources” section at the end of the guidance

These changes were developed by the California Department of Social Services, and was reviewed by the Red Cross, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (including Access and Functional Needs), California Department of Public Health, and the Emergency Medical Services Authority.

Contact Us

CDSS Disaster Services Branch
744 P St / MS 8-10-143
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-8880

Disaster Services Branch Programs

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