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You don’t have to be a Greyshirt to work here, but it helps

For the last six months, I have been working for Team Rubicon UK alongside an amazing staff team that has expanded from three to nine full-timers, with me working part time. I’ve been working to increase our social media reach and develop Team Rubicon UK’s tone of voice, building on the solid foundations laid by our friend Kate Browne of Team Rubicon USA.

I was sold on the Team Rubicon mission from the start, and I love working here. Team Rubicon UK is the brightest, most passionate group of people I have ever worked with. We work to some simple rules:

  1. Don’t be a dick
  2. Get shit done
  3. Make bold decisions

What’s not to like?

There are other bonuses. We’re clear and direct (but not at the risk of breaking rule 1). We’re tech savvy and not afraid to try new technologies (but only if they’ll help with rule 2). We’re proactive. There is excellent banter. And don’t go trying it on with everyone, but take it from me - Team Rubicon UK has some of the best huggers on the planet.

With a range of deployments and service projects now under our belts I’ve picked up a lot more knowledge about how Team Rubicon works. There’s a lot to learn (drinking from the firehose as one of our US colleagues puts it). I’ve asked a lot of questions and somebody has always patiently responded, even when they’ve been up to their eyes in it. I need to pick up information on operations and deployments, volunteering, fundraising and whatever else we need to talk about, and distil it quickly into something that fits into 140 characters or plays well on Facebook while still being the truth. When a lot of people’s first contact with Team Rubicon is through social media, I take this responsibility very seriously, even if the tone of the messages is often humorous.

But that’s Team Rubicon. There is a lot of humour, but for all that we couldn’t be more committed or serious about what it is that we do.

Getting down and dirty

Having run digital engagement through a series of recent service projects, deployments and other goings on, and learnt a lot along the way (as much about what doesn’t work as what does), I still didn’t know my ICS from my elbow – so I asked to join the last induction training weekend.

To prepare for the weekend I took the required online training as well as a DBS check. Then, on a Friday evening a couple of weeks ago, myself and eighteen other people met at Team Rubicon UK’s HQ in Chilmark, Wiltshire. The mix of people broadly reflected our wider volunteer pool, with veterans and those in active service from across our armed forces, as well as civilian first responders and others with skills to offer. There was a real variety of backgrounds, interests and characters.

On Friday evening we started to get to know each other. Call it shared interest, the fact that everyone wanted to be there, or just what happens when you put a bunch of good people in a room together, but this diverse group of people started to gel very quickly and this continued through the weekend.

Operations Manager Charlie laying down some serious knowledge on the course

On Saturday, the firehose got turned on. Team Rubicon’s background and ethos. The UK resilience environment and JESIP (the catchily-titled Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme) that governs inter-agency working in major incidents. Deployment types. Safeguarding. Risk assessment and safe working. Case studies. Checking on and taking care of yourself and those around you.

Everyone in the room had something to contribute. People may have brought knowledge of logistics, leadership, tech or moving big heavy things from point A to point B and that pool of knowledge is one of Team Rubicon’s greatest strengths, but if that’s what you know, the training answers the question of how you use it in a disaster response. By working alongside agencies. Checking in to receive work orders. Working in manageable teams. Communicating clearly and in plain English. Not becoming a part of the problem.

Tech and Innovation Manager Chris trying desperately to pretend he does more than just play with gadgets during the Sunday morning exercise

Sunday followed up with more learning. Field tech, including Palantir, the platform used to collect and collate damage assessments in the wake of disasters. Fundraising. Then a practical exercise to simulate a disaster situation, with strike teams reporting back to Operations via radio and Palantir. Team Rubicon UK’s headquarters has plenty of space for this kind of activity, and with the site having previously been used for counter-terrorism exercises there’s no shortage of wrecked buildings to assist in the simulation. It’s like being on the set of Full Metal Jacket, but with cow pats.

Activate the Greyshirts

A Greyshirt in Team Rubicon parlance is a volunteer who has undergone training and is ready to go out on deployment. To show this, trained volunteers are given the distinctive Team Rubicon grey T-shirt with a white band where they stencil their name. It’s Team Rubicon’s uniform.

The latest batch of Greyshirts

The final activity on Sunday was awarding the TR grey T-shirts to the volunteers who had attended the weekend. I’m very proud to stand alongside a great group of people, and am proud to call myself a Greyshirt. I hope I’ll be in a position to volunteer in the future should the need arise, better serve other volunteers and better understand how disaster response works and how we can communicate this to you.

This is not the end of the learning. Team Rubicon UK is developing its training programme, and more courses and opportunities to meet others will be available in the future, at our Chilmark HQ and across the UK.

Oh, and I wasn’t the only one at the end of the weekend who couldn’t remember the last time they’d laughed so much. Thank you, Greyshirts.

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