When a disaster strikes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency rushes in. But while FEMA may be there to help survivors prepare for disasters and navigate recovery after, they aren’t the ones who show up with saws in hand to remove fallen trees or clear roadways for disaster responders. That work is often handled by local and stage agencies—and increasingly by disaster response nonprofits like Team Rubicon.
Which is why FEMA and Team Rubicon often work side-by-side to identify those in need, and to deliver them expedient assistance. It’s also why, on September 7, 2023, the two organizations signed a memorandum of agreement further formalizing the partnership.
As part of the agreement, Team Rubicon will now have a seat within FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center anytime a disaster strikes. This will allow Team Rubicon’s local volunteers on the ground during a disaster to provide FEMA with timely real-world awareness of the situation at hand, and will allow FEMA to better share a larger picture of the situation with Team Rubicon, making it easier for the veteran-led disaster response nonprofit to better and more quickly assess unmet needs within the affected communities.
“Team Rubicon is excited about this partnership because it will enable our ability to meet needs and help more people,” said Team Rubicon’s Vice President of Operations, Jeff Byard. “A partnership works both ways, and we will also share information and collaborate on the unmet needs that disasters present.”
The partnership is an extension and further formalization of a relationship between the two organizations that has existed for years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Team Rubicon helped FEMA coordinate more than 2 million vaccinations across 110 cities nationwide. In addition to the more than 1,100 response operations completed both domestically and internationally since its establishment in 2010, Team Rubicon worked in coordination with FEMA in Texas to help Hurricane Harvey survivors in 2017, in Alabama to help tornado survivors in 2022, and deployed a coordination team to Guam in response to Typhoon Mawar in 2023.
Already the partnership is proving its merit, especially since Team Rubicon was embedded within the NRCC during Hurricane Idalia.
“It gives us access to a tremendous amount of information we basically wouldn’t otherwise have, which allowed us to inform our response and actually be one of the fastest responses to a hurricane ever,” said Team Rubicon’s Director of Operations Support, William Porter.
By fastest, Porter means everything from identification of the hurricane and its impact path to boots-on-the-ground to having a FOB stood up and actually creating impact.
Going forward, Porter sees that speed and impact only increasing. “From the liquid flow of information to our recon teams to be able to give the ground truth to FEMA about what they are seeing, this partnership is really going to bridge some gaps.”