Volunteers work to clear area filled with debris.

Team Rubicon: Innovating Disaster Relief

Veterans apply their military experience to reshape nonprofit disaster relief.

Volunteers work to clear area filled with debris.

Nearly nine years ago, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti, leaving hundreds of thousands of people injured and homeless, and buildings and infrastructure destroyed. But it also inspired two Marines — Jake Wood and William McNulty. They felt the skills, experience and mission-first approach they gained while serving in the military could be applied to humanitarian relief work in Haiti. “When we founded Team Rubicon,” Wood says, “we believed that the men and women who put the needs of others before their own by serving in uniform would be ideally suited to do the same for communities hit by natural disasters.”

The number of volunteers on Team Rubicon’s roster

The pair decided to take action. With supplies in hand and a map torn from a Wall Street Journal article the day before, Wood and McNulty crossed the Artibonite River, which marks the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. They were joined by six other veterans, first responders and medical professionals. Calling themselves Team Rubicon in reference to the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” — used to signify committing oneself to a bold course of action — the international nonprofit disaster response organization was born.

Volunteers at the Ready

Team Rubicon now maintains a roster of more than 85,000 volunteers who can be quickly deployed throughout the United States and around the world to deliver disaster response, long-term recovery and emergency medical services. The organization delivers all services free of charge and prioritizes aid for socio-economically vulnerable populations within disaster-affected areas. “After a disaster strikes, we send out recon teams to start conducting damage assessments and identifying the most impacted areas and communities that may need Team Rubicon’s assistance,” says William Porter, manager of national planning. “We then map the disaster area and overlay it with information from the Social Vulnerability Index to determine our priority areas for the response.”

Taking Action in 2018

In 2018, Team Rubicon has launched 82 disaster response operations, including responses to Hurricanes Florence and Michael in North Carolina and Florida, and Super Typhoon Yutu in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Building on processes established and lessons learned during their Hurricane Harvey response — the largest operation in Team Rubicon’s history — the organization has built the capability to scale and manage several large disaster response operations at one time without placing too much strain on their people and resources.

Perseverance and a relentless will to place service above self is woven tightly into Team Rubicon’s fabric.

DJ Sprenger
Senior Associate of Public Affairs, Team Rubicon

“Perseverance and a relentless will to place service above self is woven tightly into Team Rubicon’s fabric,” says DJ Sprenger, senior associate of public affairs at Team Rubicon. “This was on full display this fall. While we were still responding to Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, Hurricane Michael struck the Florida panhandle. Our teams persevered, stepped into the arena, and quickly planned and launched a large-scale response in Florida to help impacted communities stabilize and recover. Then, as we were still responding in North Carolina and Florida, Super Typhoon Yutu hit the Northern Mariana Islands, and we launched our first medical aid operation since receiving WHO [World Health Organization] verification as a Type 1 Mobile Emergency Medical Team.”

Initiative Meets Innovation

Since its founding, Team Rubicon has taken great pride in incorporating innovative technology into its disaster response operations. For example, the organization uses a BAE Systems GXP app to conduct damage assessments and Palantir apps and software to track and manage requests for assistance. Both of these innovative solutions help Team Rubicon digitally map disaster zones and provide detailed information to make timely and educated operational decisions.

Delivering Help and Hope

Thanks to longstanding relationships with Team Rubicon, Direct Relief, the American Red Cross and other relief organizations, FedEx is able to respond quickly and help deliver vital shipments to areas affected by disaster. In the aftermath of the hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires in 2017, for example, FedEx delivered 20,000 meals to Houston; 120 tons of relief to Mexico; and 80 tons of medical supplies and water, 50,000 meals, and $11 million worth of Direct Relief aid to Florida. To learn more, go to the FedEx Cares site.

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