Disaster Reservist Program

The Human Services Program assists individuals and households affected by a disaster. When the President declares a disaster, state Disaster Reservists are hired to deliver the programs and services. The Human Services Program strives to maintain a pool of reservists who are immediately available when needed.

We need individuals who learn quickly, work well in a team environment, have excellent communication skills, compassion and empathy, and the ability to work long hours. Reservists must be willing to travel statewide and have the ability to deal with confused, angry, or abusive clients. Basic computer skills are required for some positions.

The work is hard, but Disaster Reservists know the rewards of helping the citizens of Washington during a disaster. Those best suited to do this work will be people who are retired, or chose not to work full time, or who have jobs that they can leave for months at a time. NOTE: This is not a full time position in Emergency Management.

Frequently Asked Questions

When are disaster reservists employed?

Reservists are primarily called to employment when the President declares a major disaster in the state of Washington. There are two exceptions. First, in order to request a presidential declaration we must do a preliminary damage assessment to verify disaster damage reported by the local jurisdictions. To do that, we hire a few reservists (usually less than 5) to help with this process. The second exception is for training. You are activated and paid for training.

Is this a full time position?

No. While you will work 8-12 hours a day, 5-7 days a week while you’re called to employment, most Disaster Reservist employment lasts from a few days to a few months.

What do disaster reservists do?

Generally, most reservists will work in only one of the nine functional areas of Human Services in any given disaster. The functional work areas are:

  • Preliminary Damage Assessment - reservists work as part of a State/FEMA/Local jurisdiction team to validate damage reported by the local jurisdiction. The purpose is to determine if there is a need for federal disaster assistance.
  • Community Relations - reservists work as part of state/FEMA two-person team traveling throughout the affected communities letting people know what disaster assistance programs are available and how to access them.
  • Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) Co-manager - reservists are paired with a FEMA partner and together they manage a Disaster Recovery Center. The U.S. Small Business Administration, the American Red Cross and other state/federal/local agencies providing aid to the public may also occupy the DRC. The DRC is a place where people can go to get advice and assistance with their disaster related needs. The DRCs are usually located in the heart of the disaster area providing easy access for those affected by the disaster.
  • Assistance Award Processing - Reservists process disaster assistance awards for the state managed portion of the Individuals and Households Program (IHP). This is initially done from the Joint Field Office (JFO) and eventually moves back to the state emergency operations center. Reservists use the National Emergency Management Information System (NEMIS) to process disaster assistance awards. Training in NEMIS and case processing is required. Other than that, you do not have to be proficient in computer skills of any kind to process cases.
  • Document Control and Reports - One or two reservists maintain client files during the disaster and render reports required by the Grant Coordinating Officer. This involves making sure that all correspondence is transmitted to the National Processing Service Center (NPSC) for scanning into NEMIS. Knowledge of files management is desired and training in NEMIS is required to do this job.
  • Quality Assurance - One or more reservists will review processed cases and reports to determine erroneous trends and initiate corrective actions.
  • Appeals and Recoups - One or more reservist will process applicant appeals in accordance with the State Administrative Plan and will initiate the recovery of funds as directed.
  • Funeral Detail - When there are multiple deaths in a disaster, we will hire several reservists to provide direct assistance to the families of the deceased. The concept is to provide sensitive, personal service to families who have lost loved ones by helping them through the disaster assistance process to ensure the maximum amount of assistance.
  • In-House Inspector - A reservist performs inspections of disaster-damaged property on behalf of the state Individual and Households Other Needs Assistance program to verify categories of loss and they perform vehicle inspections to verify a damage claim when FEMA inspectors are not available to perform this service.

How long will I be employed?

Employment time varies with the size of the disaster (how many people apply for assistance), the application period, and any extensions. The application period is normally 60 days unless there is an extension. Preliminary Damage Assessment, Community Relations, Disaster Recovery Centers, and in-house inspections generally last from 1 to 60 days. The case processing staff is initially quite large and then is reduced depending on caseload. A few case processors are employed for many months, some for up to a year. Quality Assurance and Appeals/Recoup staff will be employed on an as needed basis. In small disasters these positions may not be filled at all.

How much does the job pay?

Currently, reservist pay begins at $20.19 per hour. You will accrue sick leave, but there are no other benefits. State reservist pay increases are linked to that of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Assistance Employees (DAE). When the FEMA DAE gets a raise, the state reservists get a comparable increase in pay.

I live in a rural area. Does that matter?

No. We recruit people from all across Washington State.

What position will I be assigned to work?

When you are trained, we try to match you to your area of interest to the extent possible. Ideally, we would like all reservists trained and experienced in case processing before they do anything else. In doing case processing, you will learn the program thoroughly. Once you know the program, you will be better suited to fill the other positions.

I work full time; can I still be a reservist?

Sometimes this works if you can leave your job suddenly for an undetermined amount of time. The reservists that can do this are generally business owners.

Is training provided, where, and when?

Training is provided when funds are available and at a time when most reservists say they can come to training. In the last several years we have had money for training and have been able to conduct at least one training session per year. These sessions were two-day courses taught on a Friday and Saturday. When training is conducted it usually takes place at the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Camp Murray. Location of training could change depending on the availability of the Emergency Operations Center at the time.

Based on the experience, skills, and knowledge listed on my resume, am I qualified?

Past work experience, knowledge, and training have little bearing on your employment as a Human Services reservist. Primarily, we look for people who REALLY care about others and can assist them in a non-judgmental way.

I already work for the state; can I also work as a disaster reservist?

Yes, you can, but it takes special coordination between the Washington Military Department and the agency you work for. Keep in mind, reservists get no benefits.

I am a state retiree, how will working as a reservist affect my retirement?

State retirees working as reservists need to manage their hours and income so as not to jeopardize their current retirement pay. Such monitoring is the responsibility of the retiree. Retirees should check with the state retirement system to get a clear explanation of what they can do without negatively affecting their retirement.

Can I work part time as a reservist?

To maintain continuity of operations we need to keep staff on the job until the job is done. None of the positions are suited to anything less than full time employment for the duration of time you are needed. However, toward the end of a recovery operation, it may be possible that we will only need to keep someone on part time. A person who was with us from the start may end up working just part time.

Is travel involved and will I be required to be away from home for extended periods?

Most of the time, travel will be involved. You should plan to be away from home for the duration of your employment. If it turns out that you get to work near home, you may be able to go home each night. Vehicles will usually be provided for Community Relations Teams to travel to affected areas. Everyone else is responsible for providing his or her own transportation to the job site.

When I am called, how long will I have before I have to report to work?

When you are called, you may be needed in as little as 12 hours. When a disaster occurs, we will notify you by e-mail to stand by. As soon as it looks like we are going to need you, we will send you another e-mail telling you to get ready. Then, when we need you we will call or send an e-mail telling you when and where to report. If you are on the check-in list as available, we will expect you to respond.

If I have to travel, will I get travel allowance for mileage, lodging, and per diem?

Yes, but travel and per diem are normally paid after the travel occurs unless you make a request for advanced travel funds. Travel allowances are paid at the state rate under state rules.

What kind of hours can I expect to work?

When recovery operations start, you can expect to work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for the first week or two. After the initial surge in providing assistance is over, staffing levels, the number of days per week, and the hours will be reduced to meet the current demand for services.

What kind of characteristics are you looking for in a reservist?

The following characteristics are more important than any technical skill you may have: charitable, sympathetic, empathetic, caring, open-minded, ability to think outside the box, and nonjudgmental.

What does it take to get in the disaster reservist employment pool?

Its simple! Just complete the Reservist Candidate Questionnaire and e-mail it to jennifer.connely@mil.wa.gov. You will be notified soon after if you are an eligible candidate and provided instructions on next steps.

For more information:

 Email: Jennifer Connely

For an employment application & reservist questionnaire:

State Application Form
Reservist Candidate Questionnaire


Call the Human Resource Office (HRO) at Camp Murray: (253) 512-7941 to have the forms sent to you.