The decision to volunteer with Team Rubicon Canada was an automatic yes for me when I was asked if I could take some time to respond to the wildfires in Fort McMurray. I saw a presentation about the plan to launch TR Canada a few months earlier, and was able to provide a bit of technical advice on how deploying in Canada would work within the emergency management framework our municipalities use. I could not have guessed how fast this advice would be acted on to mount a Team Rubicon mission in Fort McMurray!
The process of registering as a volunteer and having my travel and orientation arranged was quick and straightforward. Upon my arrival at the Team Rubicon base that had been established in Fort McMurray, experienced volunteers from Team Rubicon USA mentored me. Getting up to speed was a snap because Team Rubicon uses the Incident Command System (ICS) for their operations, which makes them fully interoperable with public authorities and partner response agencies. After two days of mentoring by the Incident Commander, I assumed command.
As the Incident Commander, I became the link between the municipality and the cluster of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) looking after community restoration work. What impressed me most was how ready and able my fellow Team Rubicon volunteers were to apply a heavy dose of elbow grease to get the community back on its feet. First, we were able to decontaminate all of the non-perishable goods in the local food bank to get them back up and running. Next, teams were able to help dispose of refrigerators that had to be sealed up because the spoiled contents were now considered by the public health authority to be biohazardous. The largest part of the operation, however, was providing sifting services for residents whose homes were completely destroyed. Team Rubicon volunteers were able to enter the footprint of these homes and safely perform the sifting work to recover heirlooms and mementos thanks to their ability to work in level C hazardous material protective equipment.
This experience has been overwhelmingly fulfilling in every sense. My role with TR Canada has challenged all of the skills that I have developed in the military, emergency management, leadership, physical stamina, and creative problem-solving. What was most rewarding was seeing the impact of our hard work in the community by helping its residents. The impact we had was not only good for the community; it was also good for the volunteers. Team Rubicon, primarily comprised of military veterans, emergency services personnel and kickass civilians, creates a sense of teamwork and belonging in creating a meaningful impact together. This, in turn, has a powerful effect of renewed purpose and value on the spirits of the volunteers.
I would highly recommend TR Canada to anyone looking for a volunteer opportunity where the impact is immediate and compelling. You will have the satisfaction of a hard day’s work, a community of shared purpose, and meaningful, very personal contributions to the community.