Disaster Mental Health Services Branch

A services branch of the Mental Health Service Command




Position Summary:

The United States Fire Department Reserve Corps under the Mental Health Service Command (USFDRC: MHSC) as developed the Disaster Mental Health Services Branch (DMHSB).


The DMHSB provides disaster mental health services to individuals and families who have been impacted by a disaster. (e.g., bioterrorism, man-made or natural disasters). The DMHSB: Disaster Mental Health Responders (DMHR) personnel would respond to disasters or critical incidents when local behavioral health resources have been depleted or are overwhelmed.


The DMHR are independently licensed and/or certified professionals acting within the scope of their licenses and/or certification to provide services using professional knowledge, and interventions that focus on basic to advance care, support and comfort to first responders, their families, and communities experiencing disaster-related stress.; as well as other DMHR workers experiencing the stress of disaster response during all phases of disaster, including preparedness, response, and recovery.


Responsibilities and Functions:

The primary responsibilities and functions are to provide supportive observation to those on scene to assure that the first responders and other emergency services personnel are working with-in healthy boundaries of stress management, recognizing physical limitations (fatigue, hunger, working without injury), and limitations of immediate emotional consequences of working a disaster or emergency site (numbness, anger, irritation, overwhelm, fatigue, shock, despair, grief, guilt, etc) that can lead to both typical and atypical stress responses and conditions. 


The goal is to help provide a safety and oversight mechanism to assure the well-being of the responders in a supportive manner, using components from critical stress management, psychological first aid, and advance services.


DMHR Services Include, But Not Limited to:

  • Identifying mental health needs through individual psychological triage and mental health surveillance.
  • Promotion of resilience and coping, including enhanced psychological first aid (EPFA), individual psychoeducation, community level support and community resilience training.
  • Providing targeted disaster mental health interventions, including secondary assessment and referrals, crisis intervention, casualty support and advocacy.

The Mental Health Volunteer Should Be Able to:

  • Understand the principles of Critical Stress Management, (CISM).
  • Understand the components of Psychological First Aid
  • The basics of CISM: defusing, debriefing, education, and critical incident supportive services
  • Understand how Psychological First Aid and CISM and the role of Disaster Mental Health is supportive intervention, and not therapy.
  • Understand the components of Incident Command System, (ICS) and the various roles of the various responders on disaster scenes.
  • Understand the complexities of working at a disaster site and the roles of the various responders at a disaster site.
  • Understand the need for identification and consultation for assistance and referral when/if necessary.
  • Understand stress management for a first responder culture in the context of a disaster or critical incident situation.
  • Identify the major psychiatric symptoms and syndromes which are most frequently connected with a disaster.
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of stress (psychologically and physically)
  • Be able to intervene with responders about the signs and symptoms of stress appropriately.
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of stress, distress, PTSD, dissociation, depression, grief, and bereavement.
  • Be able to recognize and differentiate stress syndromes, brief grief reaction, PTSD, generalized anxiety, brief psychotic episode.
  • Understand and identify insulating factors to preventing negative impact of stress and pathological effects of stress.

The DMHR provide interventions in three distinct phases that may be delivered at a disaster site, in an affected community, these are:

  • Immediate Response
    • Behavioral Health Needs Assessment.
    • Psychological First Aid.
    • Crisis Incident Stress Management.
    • Community Outreach.
    • Public Information.
    • Behavioral Health Consultation.
  • Transition to Recovery
    • Brief Supportive Counseling.
    • Information Dissemination.
    • Screening and Referral.
    • Support Groups.
    • Public Education.
  • Preparedness and Mitigation
    • Disaster Behavioral Health Planning and Networking.
    • Prevention Services Designed to Strengthen Community Resiliency.
    • Specialized Training Initiatives for reservist members and Community Partners Activation.

Other Duties as Assigned:

  • Attend, participate in team/staff meetings, and all-staff meetings as required.
  • Participate in agency quality improvement activities, e.g., accreditation projects,
  • committee work, special events, etc.
  • Participate in quality improvement activities at the team/program level.
  • Participate in external committees as required.
  • Duties may change from time to time.


  • Minimum of two (2) to five (5) years of experience in the delivery of community supports to clients, especially within the community mental health services and/or crisis intervention fields.

Volunteer Commitment:

  • The DMHR is asked to sign up to a rotating schedule of being “on-call” to respond to emergencies and disasters during a specific period usually consisting of days, one week, or varies depending on the emergency or disaster. Several DMHR works are mostly remote currently through telehealth.

Important Notice Regarding COVID-19:

Safety First! Our need for volunteers is constant and our guidelines reflect the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) and local-government COVID-19 safety recommendations. We even have a variety of remote (work-from-home) opportunities available. We do require volunteers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, we will ask you to report whether you are or are not vaccinated. This personal, confidential information will help us determine appropriate staffing needs. Be sure to review guidance from the CDC for more information, consult your healthcare provider, and follow local guidance. The number one priority is the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, and recipients, and the people we serve.


Florida State and Federal Compliance:

The USFDRC maintenance active recruitment for duly licensed professionals by the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling, and the certified professionals by the Florida Certification Board willing to aid and assist in the welfare of all citizens, residents, and visitors of the State of Florida.

Become a Disaster Mental Health Responder now!



  • At a minimum, holds a Master’s Degree in one of the mental health professions listed below; and
  • Holds a current, unencumbered license from, or is registered with, any U.S. state or territory as a social worker, psychologist, professional counselor, marriage and  family therapist, or psychiatrist (any level license/registration, including nonclinical licenses such as Licensed Masters Social Worker or LMSW)


  • At a minimum, holds a Master’s Degree in school psychology or school counseling; and
  • Holds a current, unencumbered license or certification as a school psychologist or school counselor issued by an appropriate state board.


  • Have a state license as a registered nurse; and
  • Have a minimum of two years of experience working in a psychiatric setting, verified by a letter from a current or previous employer.


  • Meet the above educational criteria for the specified profession; and
  • Held a license (any level license) from any U.S. state or territory as a social worker, psychologist, professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, psychiatric nurse or psychiatrist, or a certificate as a school psychologist or school counselor; and
  • Maintained a license or certification in good standing upon retirement and without any disciplinary action taken by the issuing U.S. state or territory licensing or certification board.


Graduate students are eligible to work in the Disaster Mental Health program when they meet both the following criteria:

  • Enrolled in a graduate program leading to a master’s or doctoral degree in a Disaster Mental Health-eligible field of study (for example social work, psychology, professional counseling, school counseling, school psychology, marriage and family therapy, psychiatric nursing, or psychiatry); and
  • Supervised onsite by a Reservist Officer or field supervisor.
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