Hurricane Ian: Veteran-led Team Rubicon opens an Emergency Response Center in Chicago’s West Town

CHICAGO (WLS) — Bagpipes rang out on Saturday as Team Rubicon celebrated the grand opening of its new Tactical Operations Center, located in a historic, restored fire station in West Town.

“They come from all over the country to serve communities,” said Thomas Sivak, FEMA Region Five Administrator. “Having Team Rubicon in the city of Chicago shows how the community comes together.”

Team Rubicon is a veteran-led disaster relief organization. That means the giant national organization is busy responding to Florida’s Hurricane Ian.

“We texted all of our 150,000+ volunteers asking if they would like to go to Florida to help,” said Team Rubicon member Jennifer Gist. “In less than six hours we had 900 registrations.”

At the Tactical Operations Center, teams of volunteers called “Grayshirts” are working hard to coordinate relief efforts with on-site personnel working to clean up hard-hit Florida communities.

“Track clearance teams went to the hardest-hit areas and cleared several counties,” said Mike Watkins, Team Rubicon’s North Branch operations director. “Clearing debris from the road to allow emergency vehicles and people access.”

Team Rubicon’s Tactical Operations Center is located in the first fire station built after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It was an active fire station for a century.

Team Rubicon welcomes people from all walks of life, but a desire to serve others and respond to disasters across the country is what binds this organization together.

Army Veteran Ben Keefe says volunteering in disasters with Team Rubicon is his way of continuing his desire to serve outside of the military.

“You don’t know how big the impact will be until you get there and see the sheer scale of the destruction,” Keefe said. “To play even a small role and help a family or two means a lot to the families.”

As decimated Florida communities now assess the monumental recovery ahead, Team Rubicon is working on the ground to make a long-term difference.

Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All rights reserved. Hurricane Ian: Veteran-led Team Rubicon opens an Emergency Response Center in Chicago’s West Town

Russell Falcon

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