Disaster Management 101: California’s Emergency Support Functions


In times of crisis, a coordinated and efficient response is crucial to ensure the safety and well-being of California’s communities. The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) drafts, finalizes and follows the California State Emergency Plan (CSEP), which serves as the blueprint for this coordinated response, outlining the roles and responsibilities of various agencies and organizations in managing disaster situations.

At the heart of this plan are the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs), each assigned a specific area of expertise and responsibility.

At the state level, the ESFs consist of an alliance of state agencies, departments, and other stakeholders with similar discipline-specific responsibilities. This grouping allows each ESF to collaboratively mitigate, prepare for, cohesively respond to and effectively recover from an emergency.

California Emergency Support Functions:

CA-ESF 1: Transportation Annex

Emergency Support Function 1 (ESF-1) is responsible for coordinating transportation-related activities during emergencies and disasters, including:

  • Managing the allocation of transportation resources.
  • Facilitating evacuation procedures.
  • Assessing and repairing damaged transportation infrastructure.
  • Overseeing traffic management, logistics, and supply chain support, ensuring the efficient movement of people and goods.
  • Collaborating with agencies like the California Department of Transportation, local transportation departments, law enforcement, and the private sector to ensure a coordinated and effective response.

ESF-1 plays a crucial role in maintaining transportation systems’ functionality and enabling timely response and recovery efforts in California.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) leads ESF-1 for emergency response.

CA-ESF 2: Executive Communications Annex

Emergency Support Function 2 (ESF-2) is dedicated to the coordination of communications and information management during emergencies and disasters, including:

  • Facilitating the flow of critical information among various response agencies and ensuring effective communication with the public.
  • Managing resources related to telecommunications, information technology, and emergency notification systems.
  • Coordinating public warning and alerting systems to disseminate timely and accurate information to residents and emergency responders.

ESF-2 collaborates with telecommunications providers, public safety agencies, and other stakeholders to ensure a well-coordinated and efficient communication network during crises in California.

In California, Cal OES leads ESF-2 in times of crisis.

CA-ESF 3: Executive Construction and Engineering Annex

Emergency Support Function 3 (ESF-3) focuses on coordinating and providing public works and engineering support during emergencies and disasters, including:

  • Assessing and repairing critical infrastructure, such as water and wastewater systems, public buildings, and utilities.
  • Ensuring the availability of essential services like clean water and sanitation.
  • Coordinating with various agencies, including local public works departments and utility providers, to efficiently restore and maintain infrastructure functionality.
  • Managing resources and personnel needed for infrastructure recovery efforts and collaborates with other emergency support functions to ensure a comprehensive and well-coordinated response in California.

In the golden state, the California Department of General Services (DGS) implements ESF-3 under the guidance of the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps).

CA-ESF 4: Fire and Rescue Annex

Emergency Support Function 4 (ESF-4) is responsible for coordinating firefighting and related firefighting support activities during emergencies and disasters, including:

  • Managing resources and personnel needed to combat wildfires and protect communities from the destructive impacts of such incidents.
  • Working closely with state, local, and federal firefighting agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations involved in wildfire response efforts.
  • Deploying firefighting teams, equipment, and air support to contain and extinguish wildfires, while also providing incident management support and logistics coordination.
  • Pre-fire planning, preparedness, and post-fire recovery to enhance California’s overall wildfire response and mitigation capabilities.

In California, both the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and the Cal OES Fire and Rescue Division lead the firefighting response for ESF-4.

CA-ESF 5: Management Annex

Emergency Support Function 5 (ESF-5) focuses on the coordination of emergency management and response activities related to information and planning, including:

  • Gathering, analyzing, and disseminating critical information to support situational awareness and decision-making during emergencies and disasters.
  • Managing the state’s emergency operations center (EOC) and coordinates planning efforts across various agencies and jurisdictions.
  • Allocating resources, ensuring that response and recovery efforts receive the necessary support.
  • Facilitating public information and community outreach, ensuring that residents are well-informed and prepared for emergencies.

Overall, ESF-5 is vital for effective emergency response coordination and information management in California.

During emergencies, Cal OES coordinates ESF-5.

 CA-ESF 6: Mass Care and Shelter Annex

Emergency Support Function 6 (ESF-6) is responsible for coordinating mass care, emergency assistance, housing, and human services during emergencies and disasters, including:

  • Meeting the immediate and essential needs of affected individuals and communities.
  • Providing shelter, food, medical care, and other critical services to those impacted by the disaster.
  • Collaborate with various agencies, non-profit organizations, and volunteers to ensure a comprehensive and compassionate response.

ESF 6 plays a key role in managing and coordinating resources, logistics, and personnel to support mass care and human services efforts throughout California.

When called upon by Cal OES, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) acts as the lead state agency for ESF-6.

CA-ESF 7: Executive Resources Annex

Emergency Support Function 7 (ESF-7) focuses on logistics and resource support during emergencies and disasters, including:

  • Managing and coordinating the acquisition, transportation, and distribution of essential resources such as food, water, medical supplies, and equipment.
  • Ensuring that response and recovery efforts have the necessary resources to effectively address the needs of affected populations.
  • Collaborating with various agencies, organizations, and private sector partners to maintain a robust supply chain and logistics network.

Led by GovOps and implemented by DGS, ESF-7 helps establish distribution points and coordinates the delivery of goods and services to impacted areas, contributing to the efficient and timely response in California.

CA-ESF 8: Executive Public Health Annex

Emergency Support Function 8 (ESF-8) is dedicated to public health and medical services during emergencies and disasters. Its primary responsibilities include:

  • Coordinating medical response efforts.
  • Ensuring the availability of healthcare services.
  • Protecting public health.
  • Working closely with healthcare facilities, public health agencies, and medical professionals to address the health needs of affected populations.
  • Managing medical supplies, personnel, and patient transportation, particularly during large-scale incidents.

With the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) as the lead state agency, ESF-8 facilitates the deployment of medical teams, the operation of medical shelters, and the distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to support emergency response and recovery in California.

CA-ESF 9: Search and Rescue was merged into CA-ESF 4 and 13

CA-EF 10: Executive Hazardous Materials Annex

Emergency Support Function 10 (ESF-10) is dedicated to oil and hazardous materials response and environmental protection during emergencies and disasters. ESF-10’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Coordinating efforts to mitigate and manage hazardous materials incidents, oil spills, and other environmental emergencies. It
  • Collaborate with various agencies, including environmental protection agencies, to assess and minimize the environmental impact of disasters.
  • Managing resources, such as specialized equipment and trained personnel, to respond effectively to hazardous materials incidents and protect California’s ecosystems.
  • Coordinating public information efforts to keep residents informed about environmental hazards and response activities during emergencies.

Led by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), ESF-10 ensures a comprehensive and coordinated approach to environmental protection and hazardous materials response in the state.

CA-ESF 11: Executive Agriculture Annex

Emergency Support Function 11 (ESF-11) is responsible for agricultural and natural resources coordination during emergencies and disasters. ESF-11’s primary focuses include:

  • Safeguarding California’s agriculture, livestock, and natural resources in the face of various crises.
  • Collaborating with state agencies, agricultural associations, and other stakeholders to assess and respond to the impacts of disasters on the state’s agricultural and natural resource sectors.
  • Coordinating the allocation of resources, including personnel, equipment, and supplies, to support agriculture and natural resource recovery efforts.

Under the leadership of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), ESF -11 provides aid to farmers, ranchers, and the public to ensure the preservation of California’s agricultural and natural environments during emergencies.

CA-ESF 12: Executive Utilities Annex

Emergency Support Function 12 (ESF-12) focuses on energy coordination during emergencies and disasters. Its primary responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring the continuity of energy services, addressing power disruptions, and managing energy-related resources.
  • Collaborating with various agencies, including energy providers, regulatory bodies, and utility companies, to assess and respond to energy-related challenges during crises.
  • Coordinating the allocation of energy resources, personnel, and equipment to support response and recovery efforts.
  • Helping disseminate information about energy-related issues to the public.

Under the guidance of the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), ESF 12 works to minimize disruptions to energy infrastructure and services to ensure the state’s resilience during emergencies.

CA-ESF 13: Law Enforcement Annex

Emergency Support Function 13 (ESF-13) focuses on public safety and security during emergencies and disasters, including:

  • Coordinating law enforcement, public safety, and security efforts to protect lives, property, and critical infrastructure.
  • Collaborating with various agencies, including law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and emergency management, to ensure a coordinated response to public safety threats.
  • Managing and deploying public safety resources, personnel, and equipment to respond to incidents such as civil unrest, acts of terrorism, or public health emergencies.

Overall, ESF-13 helps maintain situational awareness, manage evacuation procedures, and ensure the safety and security of residents and communities throughout California during crises.

With the utilization of the Law Enforcement Mutual Aid System, the Cal OES Law Enforcement Branch leads the Law Enforcement Annex.

CA-ESF 14: Executive Long Term Recovery Annex

The Executive Long Term Recovery Annex provides an overview of the state’s approach to long-term recovery following emergencies and disasters. ESF-14’s responsibilities include:

  • Outlining the strategies and principles for rebuilding communities, restoring infrastructure, and supporting the physical, economic, and social recovery of affected areas.
  • Coordinating the collaboration among various government agencies, local communities, non-profit organizations, and private sector partners to facilitate a holistic and resilient recovery process.
  • Emphasizing the need for comprehensive planning, resource allocation, and ongoing evaluation to ensure that communities can fully recover and rebuild in a sustainable and disaster-resistant manner.

With Cal OES as the leading state agency, the Executive Long Term Recovery Annex serves as a foundational document for guiding long-term recovery efforts to enhance the resilience and well-being of California’s communities.

CA-ESF 15: Public Information Annex

Emergency Support Function 15 (ESF-15), Public Information, is a critical component of disaster response and recovery efforts. Its responsibilities include:

  • Managing and disseminate accurate and timely information to the public and various stakeholders during emergencies.
  • Ensuring that essential information, such as safety instructions, updates on the situation, and resource availability, is readily accessible to help people make informed decisions and stay safe during crises.

Under Cal OES as the lead state agency, ESF 15 works closely with discipline-specific subject matter experts, media outlets, and other communication channels to maintain open and effective lines of communication, enhancing public awareness and understanding of the ongoing emergency.

CA-ESF 16: Evacuation was merged into CA-ESF 13

CA-ESF 17: Executive Volunteer and Donations Management Annex

Led by California Volunteers, Emergency Support Function 17 (ESF-17) focuses on leveraging executive-level volunteer resources for efficient disaster response and recovery efforts. ESF-17 involves coordinating skilled individuals from various sectors to provide specialized expertise and support during emergencies.

These executive volunteers play a crucial role in augmenting the capacity of response agencies and organizations, ensuring a more comprehensive and effective response to complex emergencies.

CA-ESF 18: Cybersecurity Annex

The Cybersecurity Annex is a critical component designed to address cyber threats and protect the state’s digital infrastructure during emergencies and disasters. Its duties include:

  • Identifying, mitigating, and responding to cyber incidents that could compromise the integrity of critical systems and data.
  • Coordinating government agencies, law enforcement, cybersecurity experts, and private sector partners to strengthen cyber resilience.
  • Disseminating protocols for sharing information, conducting cyber risk assessments, and responding to cyberattacks to ensure the continuity of essential services.

Led by Cal OES, the Cybersecurity Annex plays a pivotal role in safeguarding California’s digital assets and maintaining cybersecurity during times of crisis.



California State Emergency Support Functions