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Team Rubicon's Disaster Preparedness: Expert Exercises with FedEx Support for Communities of All Sizes


New cost-free training initiatives are enhancing disaster management capabilities within vulnerable communities, empowering them to autonomously strategize for impending crises. To effectively respond to and recover from disasters, communities must comprehend their capabilities well in advance.

Numerous studies spanning decades illustrate that each dollar invested in disaster preparedness by a community can result in savings ranging from $4 to $11 in response or recovery expenses. Team Rubicon, one of only three non-governmental organizations with a memorandum of agreement with FEMA on a national scale, possesses extensive experience and acknowledged expertise in disaster management and preparedness. The organization's provision of this expertise in a professional capacity stands out as one of the most valuable services rendered to susceptible communities.
FedEx, a steadfast sponsor of Team Rubicon, has played a pivotal role in aiding numerous American communities post-disasters. While Team Rubicon's commitment extends globally, covering the entire disaster timeline, FedEx's partnership is not limited to post-crisis support; it also encompasses assistance in the preparatory phase. Disaster preparedness exercises emerge as a highly effective strategy for Team Rubicon to mitigate the impact of disasters on vulnerable communities by strengthening their disaster management capacities. In this endeavor, FedEx emerges as a crucial ally, contributing to providing at-risk communities with the knowledge and training necessary for effective crisis planning.
Benefits of Disaster Preparedness Exercises for Communities
Numerous communities face challenges in conducting effective disaster exercises due to resource constraints. Community leaders require significant investments in time, finances, and trained personnel to practice and refine their disaster management strategies. Team Rubicon's Greyshirts, in their capacity as disaster response volunteers, routinely organize preparedness exercises nationwide, addressing a broad spectrum of threats such as wildfires and floods.

These exercises, managed by FEMA-trained and -certified Master Exercise Practitioners, constitute a professional approach to emergency management exercise design, execution, and evaluation. The structured involvement of a skilled team holds the potential for substantial cost savings, particularly for communities lacking the resources to conduct their own exercises.

“Most of the areas that we go to don’t have adequate funding or staff,” said Michael Brady, one of Team Rubicon’s Master Exercise Practitioners, “and our ability to bring these simulations at no cost to the community, along with our experience and certification, helps them build their capabilities.”

The process of building capacity initiates with the identification of shortcomings in disaster preparedness, such as the absence of appropriate response equipment, an inadequate communication system, or insufficiently trained staff for disaster response. Simulations play a crucial role in this endeavor, providing a no-fault, cost-effective environment to assess and stress-test a community's disaster plans.

An additional advantage, as highlighted by Team Rubicon's Exercise & Field Leadership Manager, Greg Ramoni, is that these exercises yield scalable benefits for smaller communities. Ramoni notes, "The smaller the community, the more time- and cost-prohibitive such an exercise is, and so the greater the benefits to the community become."
A recent illustration of this occurred at a small college in Wisconsin in October 2023. Team Rubicon collaborated with the college to conduct a tabletop exercise—an interactive simulation conducted in a classroom-style setting. Participants engaged in discussions regarding their roles in a specific potential emergency, focusing on their responses to that particular scenario, specifically addressing an active shooter situation.

“This is a small school,” explains Brady, “the impact on them, if there’s an active shooter, is going to be massive because they don’t have the resources like a big state university. By us going down there, we gave them close to that level of preparedness.”
Acting as an impartial entity, Team Rubicon assists emergency managers and community leaders in identifying gaps in their disaster planning. This role has the potential to save time, money, and lives when a disaster occurs. Team Rubicon's Master Exercise Practitioners, being professionals from outside the community, offer expert analysis and testing that would typically be financially burdensome for many communities.

Thanks to FedEx's support, the financial and logistical aspects of organizing and conducting exercises are not imposed on the communities. Exercises involve various elements such as paperwork, forms, posters, handouts, and more, all of which, according to Brady, are efficiently handled by FedEx Office.
Although the potential benefits of these simulations are more significant for smaller communities, Team Rubicon's disaster preparedness exercises, based on the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), provide actionable lessons for communities of all sizes. The HSEEP methodology, recognized nationally as a set of best practices, guiding principles, and performance guidelines, is designed to be applicable to various disasters, ranging from cyclones and blizzards to wildfires and hurricanes.
In late 2022, Team Rubicon engaged in a full-scale nuclear disaster simulation in Atlanta, involving around 40 federal, military, state, local, and nonprofit agencies and organizations. This diverse participation enables Team Rubicon to respond effectively to any situation, as highlighted by Chayne Sparagowski from the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency. Team Rubicon's reach extends beyond domestic disaster planning, exemplified by a summer 2023 mission to Colombia, where they led a three-day disaster preparedness exercise. Empowering the Colombian government to develop local exercises and responses, Team Rubicon shared templates for their use.
Team Rubicon's exercises encompass a spectrum, ranging from functional, full-scale exercises to classroom seminars and small workshops. All these formats provide community leaders with the opportunity to test their plans, policies, and personnel in a no-fault, cost-effective environment. Collaborations with partners like FedEx enable the extension of these efforts to communities of all sizes, facing a variety of disasters or crises.
“I get to help train communities to better respond, to help people in their worst day.” said Greg Ramoni, “and FedEx helps get us there before that worst day happens.”