Veteran-founded response organization featured in Scott Frame memorial lecture

Jonah Thompson, a Team Rubicon volunteer and paramedic, shares the experiences of mobile disaster response teams in the Philippines and Nepal

LAS VEGAS — The veteran-founded disaster response organization, Team Rubicon USA, was the subject of the Scott Frame lecture at the World Trauma Symposium

Paramedic Jonah Thompson told the story of Team Rubicon's founding by a group of U.S. military veterans that had served together in Afghanistan and Iraq. This group of friends felt compelled to do something to help in Haiti after the earthquake. Their initial effort led to the creation of Team Rubicon USA, which deploys small, multidisciplinary teams of volunteer medical providers and other disaster specialists, who are mostly military veterans, to improve a community's recovery from a natural disaster.

Thompson is a U.S. Army veteran, Clay Hunt Fellow for Team Rubicon and has over twenty years of experience in emergency services as a paramedic, law enforcement officer, and disaster response specialist. During his presentation Thompson reported on the Team Rubicon responses to Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and the Nepal Earthquake earlier this year.

Army veteran and paramedic Jonah Thompson secures medical supplies during the Nepal Earthquake response.
Army veteran and paramedic Jonah Thompson secures medical supplies during the Nepal Earthquake response. (Photo courtesy of Jonathen Davis, Team Rubicon)

About 60 people from Team Rubicon deployed to Nepal. About half of those people were medical providers. Other personnel were disaster assessment specialist with skills to assess structures, roads, and other infrastructure communities need.

In Nepal most of the patients with major trauma died or were evacuated before Team Rubicon arrived. Most of the patients they did see needed minor wound care, chronic illness management and education related to sanitation, shelter and self-care.

Memorable quotes

"We have specific skills as military veterans and responders to access difficult areas and provide care."

"After a disaster people are desperate for contact with anyone and they want reassurance that someone is out there that cares about them."

"Identifying a remote LZ, signaling a helicopter, conducting LZ operations and evacuating a critically injured patient is what Team Rubicon members learned to do in the military."

Paramedic and U.S. Army veteran Jonah Thompson

Key takeaways

These are important points from Thompson's description of the Team Rubicon experience as a mobile disaster medical team in the Philippines and Nepal

  • A bulk of the medical care by mobile teams after a natural disaster is care of minor wounds that can become rapidly significant because of the environment and management of patients with chronic illness.
  • Small medical teams built relationships with formal and informal community leaders to collect intelligence on where to find patients and the services that were needed.
  • Simply providing human contact and showing that the outside world cares and is willing to reach remote areas is an important function for disaster medical teams.
  • Reconnaissance from an UAV (drone) team can help determine where to deploy and target mobile medical teams

As Thompson closed the presentation he discussed some of their strengths and acknowledged some of the limitations of Team Rubicon. The organization is well-suited for lifesaving care in remote, difficult to reach areas and utilizing the reconnaissance and intelligence gathering skills of their team members with expeditionary military experience. Other non-governmental organizations might be able to continue long-term response services with the disaster intelligence collected by Team Rubicon.

Visit Team Rubicon USA to learn more.

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