Hurricane Ian: Veteran-led Team Rubicon opens emergency operations center in Chicago's West Town

Operations center located inside restored Chicago firehouse

ByChristian Piekos WLS logo
Saturday, October 1, 2022
Veteran-led Team Rubicon opens emergency operations center in Chicago's West Town
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Team Rubicon opened a new emergency operations center West Town that is helping with Hurricane Ian recovery efforts.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Bagpipes rung out Saturday as Team Rubicon celebrated the grand opening of its new Tactical Operations Center nestled inside a historic restored firehouse in West Town.

"You come from across the nation to serve communities," said FEMA Region five administrator Thomas Sivak. "Having Team Rubicon in the city of Chicago shows the fabric of the community coming together."

Team Rubicon is a veteran-led disaster relief agency. Which means, the massive national organization is busy right now responding to Hurricane Ian in Florida.

"We sent a text out to all 150,000 plus of our volunteers asking them if they wanted to go down to Florida to help," said Team Rubicon member Jennifer Gist. "In less than six hours, we had 900 sign-ups."

Inside the Tactical Operations Center, teams of volunteers, called "Grayshirts", are hard at work coordinating relief efforts with personnel on the ground working to clean up hard-hit Florida communities.

"The route clearance teams went to the most affected areas and cleared several counties," said Mike Watkins, Team Rubicon's North Branch Operations Director. "Clearing debris off the road so there's access for emergency vehicles and people to have."

Team Rubicon's Tactical Operations Center is housed inside the first firehouse built after the Great Chicago Fire in 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 knits this organization together.

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

"You don't know how big of an impact you'll make until you get there and see the sheer volume of destruction," Keefe said. "To even play a small part, helping one or two families, it means a lot to the families."

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