Sheltering Support

Providing a safe, sanitary, and secure place for evacuees and disaster survivors to stay while displaced from their homes requires the cooperation and coordination of multiple agencies and organizations.

In the event of a natural or human-caused disaster, state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments can initiate a request for sheltering support services after the issuance of a Presidentially declared emergency or major disaster declaration authorizing Public Assistance emergency protective measures. FEMA Mass Care and Emergency Assistance deploys equipment, materials, supplies, and personnel to support disaster-affected jurisdictions in providing life-sustaining services in congregate and non-congregate facilities that provide a secure and sanitary environment for displaced survivors. Mass Care and Emergency Assistance also coordinates support to survivors sheltering in place, people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, dietary restrictions, household pets, and service animals, and in some instances, may be requested to assist with routine sheltering activities in support of survivors at medical shelters.

People with disabilities and others with access and functional needs are to be accommodated in general population shelters. If requested, Mass Care and Emergency Assistance can assist with durable medical equipment, consumable medical supplies, personal assistance services, etc. to provide a basic level of care in congregate shelters ensuring that only survivors with acute medical needs are referred to medical shelters. FEMA can provide needed resources through in-house capabilities, mission assignments to other federal agencies, and/or contract capabilities.


Sections 309, 402, 403, 502, 611, and 613 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), Public Law 93-288, as amended and codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 5152, 5170a, 5170b, 5192, 5196, and 5196b

FEMA Mass Care and Emergency Assistance Responsibilities Pre-Incident and During Response and Recovery Phases of Disasters


  • Provide technical assistance for the development of multi-agency sheltering templates; federal, state, tribal, and territorial emergency preparedness plans; training materials; exercises; and other tools to strengthen and enhance the nation’s capacity to support sheltering activities.
  • Expand national capabilities beyond the traditional mass care/emergency assistance shelter providers to meet Federal Interagency Operational Planning (FIOP) – Response metrics.
  • Coordinate support for survivors sheltering in place with disabilities, access and functional needs, dietary restrictions, and household pets or service animals, as well as providing support for survivors in medical shelters, when requested.
  • Provide training to whole community shelter providers.
  • Analyze and incorporate best practices and lessons learned into preparedness activities, including reminding shelter operators that service animals are permitted in general population shelters and should not be separated from their handlers.
  • Develop agreements with various entities to provide resources, programs, and services for sheltering during disaster response activities.
  • Provide technical assistance for the establishment of state/territorial/tribal sheltering task forces.
  • Provide technical assistance for implementation of FEMA data systems, including the National Shelter System, which supports state, tribal, and territorial (STT) governments with mass care and emergency assistance planning, data analysis, and mapping and reporting.
  • Provide subject matter expertise to internal FEMA partners, including Response, Recovery, Logistics and National Preparedness Directorates, Public Assistance Division, Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, and the National Processing Service Centers.

Response and Recovery 

  • Coordinate with other federal agencies, STT governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other partners to analyze and validate the need for human and material resources, programs, and services for sheltering.
  • Assist STT governments in the implementation of a coordinated and integrated sheltering mission that meets the disaster-caused needs of evacuees and survivors.
  • Promote coordination and preparedness to support the creation of innovative programs that are responsive to the needs of the shelter population.
  • Provide subject matter expertise/technical assistance in FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center (NRCC), Regional Response Coordination Centers (RRCC), joint field offices (JFO), initial operating facility (IOF), STT emergency operations centers (EOC), and other field settings.
  • Monitor, analyze, validate, and support STT requirements, as requested, to provide a safe, sanitary, and secure environment for shelter residents.
  • Identify resource requirements, shortfalls, and limiting factors. 
  • Facilitate the fulfillment of requests by ensuring that the sequence for obtaining resources is followed.
  • Provide resource support through the FEMA Logistics Management Directorate, including equipment, material, supplies, and facilities, shelf-stable meals, water, cots, blankets, durable medical equipment (DME), consumable medical supplies (CMS), and personnel, to support STT sheltering operations.
  • Provide evacuee and survivor support to STT governments through the activation of pre-negotiated blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) and indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts for food and food supplies, DME, CMS, commonly used shelter items (CUSI), and other needed commodities.
  • Support STT governments during a disaster when sheltering operation needs exceed STT government capabilities as outlined in the National Response Framework Emergency Support Function (ESF) #6 Annex.
  • Provide the necessary tools and resources to develop an integrated strategy and process for implementing coordinated sheltering operations by the FEMA joint field office (JFO) and the STT government coordinator for carrying out mass care activities, limiting duplication of efforts, and maximizing resources within any STT government that has requested federal assistance.
  • Provide staff support to the STT for sheltering task forces, Multi-agency Sheltering Transition Teams, or other teams that advise and assist shelter managers with shortfalls and other concerns that may fall outside their area of expertise (e.g., functional and access needs support and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance). See for more information.
  • Facilitate FEMA staff’s access to congregate care facilities to assist in the registration of disaster survivors for federal disaster assistance.
  • Provide technical assistance for the ESF #6 Support System, which can support the STT with congregate care planning, data analysis, mapping, and reporting.
  • Provide support for the collection of shelter information, including data entry (upon request).
  • Mission assignments to other federal agencies, including: AmeriCorps to provide volunteers to augment congregate care points of distribution and other operational staffing requirements; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for shelter assessment team staff support; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for subject matter expertise and technical assistance on household pets, service animals, and support animal activities; and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for human and material resources, such as facility inspection teams.
  • Most sheltering support takes place in a congregate setting. However, FEMA may provide support to non-congregate shelters, such as when congregate shelters are inadequate to sustain existing shelter needs (e.g., shelter operators and other partners project they will be unable to sustain congregate shelter operations).  
    • FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) is one type of short-term non-congregate sheltering assistance for displaced disaster survivors taking refuge in emergency shelter locations other than their pre-disaster primary residence. 
  • Activate Individual Assistance Support Contracts (IASC), as needed, which provide a broad range of congregate and non-congregate care management and support resources. IASC is generally considered a last option.

Triggers for Implementation

During Presidentially declared disasters, most Mass Care and Emergency Assistance is Direct Federal Assistance, which is funded under the Stafford Act Section 403 (a)(3)(B) (commonly referred to as Category B) of a major disaster or emergency declaration, and the federal share of assistance shall be not less than 75 percent of eligible cost.

Tools and Resources


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