Serving on a Local Operation with Team Rubicon

Mike Washington

Maybe you’re a new Greyshirt wondering what it’s like to deploy with Team Rubicon, or someone who is curious about how we mobilize our teams when disaster strikes. Whatever the case, you’re in the right place.

One of the most urgent moments in the disaster response sequence is in the immediate aftermath of the event. An impacted community is still in a haze and overwhelmed by the heartbreaking damage and knowing how to begin is difficult when it’s your town or your home. Team Rubicon is experienced and well-equipped for these unfortunate scenarios.

“A disaster has taken place, and responders are needed”

When disaster strikes, Team Rubicon’s local Mission Planning Team (MPT) springs into action. The MPT coordinates with city and state emergency management agencies and sounds the alarm for Greyshirts in the region. Once a plan of action is in place, Team Rubicon members are able to register to deploy as responders within their online portal known as “Roll Call.”

Then, the Mobilization team provides dispatch instructions via email to Greyshirts who have volunteered themselves to respond. Those volunteers who step up are then vetted and those who are selected to deploy receive next step instructions.

SIDE NOTE: While the Mobilization Team would love to dispatch all volunteers who step up to deploy, there are only so many hands that are needed on any given operation. If you volunteer but receive a “stand down” notice, don’t take It personally—every Greyshirt, even the most seasoned, receives their fair share of “stand down notices”.

If selected, you will receive dispatch instructions

After being vetted and approved to deploy, information on how to travel from point A to point B and who to contact with any questions is found within what we call “dispatch instructions”—a message that contains need-to-know details about your deployment.

If you’re deploying locally, you’ll be expected to drive yourself to a designated rally point within the given timeframe based on the availability you provided.

Your dispatch instructions will also include your worksite departure date, worksite departure time, and any specialized information to help prepare you for the situation (such as expected weather conditions or billeting information for members staying overnight.)

SIDE NOTE: Team Rubicon strictly prohibits any member from “self-deploying” meaning showing up without being dispatched by the Mobilization team is a big no-no. Only depart to a volunteer event after you receive your deployment instruction message, no exceptions.

Operations may span several days

For a local operation, the need and scale of the response will dictate a need for members to stay overnight as an option for those available beyond one day.

If you’re a member who’s only able to serve for one day—hell yeah—but be prepared to hit the ground hard and work up a sweat for people in need. For those who have marked themselves as available to serve for multiple days straight, get ready for a good workout, and be sure to pack with that in mind.

Pack light, pack right

Before you head out consider what to pack based on the season and amount of time you’ll be deployed.

Depending on the season, your packing list might include a few extra items that will keep you warm, dry, or cool. You should already have a good idea of the sort of work you will be assigned from the initial call to action and your dispatch instructions, but what to bring is fairly standard regardless of the type of work.

This list will help get you started with essentials and things to consider when packing for your first operation:

  • A face covering. During the pandemic, Team Rubicon requires all Greyshirts to wear a face covering in accordance with our COVID-19 safety guidelines.
  • Comfortable boots. If you have a pair that are broken in and reliable, those are your best bet.
  • Durable pants. Grab a pair or two of full-length pants that are tough and comfortable for outside work. Also, we recommend leaving jeans at home.
  • Socks. When you think you have just the right number, pack one more pair.
  • Sleeping bag. Pack one only if your dispatch instructions have you staying overnight.
  • Your Team Rubicon grey shirts. Bring them if you have them, but don’t worry if you don’t because you’ll get one when you arrive to the operation.
  • Warming layers. A sweatshirt, a jacket, and a beanie are always good things to have because being outside all day might feel cooler than you expect.
  • A refillable water bottle. Water will be provided so no need to pack multiple days-worth of water.
  • Prescription medications. Friendly reminder to pack any personal, prescribed medications you’ll need or potentially need while on deployment.
  • Heart and grit. You are what’s most important to the success of the operation. Raising your hand to serve takes guts and people are counting on you.

“You have arrived at your destination”

The morning of the operation, you’ll most likely be greeted by a handful of other Greyshirts and at least one of them will have a clipboard or a computer to check you in.

Afterwards, the operation leaders—who are also Greyshirts—will introduce themselves and brief the team on administrative details like where you’ll be staying and the general situation.

SIDE NOTE: There are new members on almost every operation, and for others, this ain’t their first rodeo. Greyshirts who have deployed with Team Rubicon on past operations are typically assigned as strike team leaders. Look to them for guidance and tips.

Every response is different

Serving with empathy and respect is the constant in Team Rubicon’s service.

In response to flooding, your strike team might be asked to muck out homes for families devastated by the damage. After a disaster caused by a wind event like a tornado or hurricane, you might be asked to pick up pieces of what onlookers call “debris” but what survivors call “home”. We say this as a reminder that the people we serve are going through a personally devastating time, so be as respectful as you can to all you Interact with while in the field.

At the end of the day when you sit down to eat dinner with the team and unwind after a hard-day’s work, you’ll feel tired, accomplished, and ready to do it again whether that’s day two of your week-long deployment, or your next operation with Team Rubicon.

Read More Stories