Helping the community recover from disaster

Robert Church is ready to respond to an emergency at a moment’s notice. Church, who is the director of emergency management at Northern Arizona University, has an extensive history planning and managing disaster response efforts.

Church, who served in the Navy and then became a police officer in the Arizona Department of Corrections, began his position at NAU in March 2019.

“I am responsible for the development and maintenance of our emergency response and recovery planning efforts. This includes the development and execution of various drills and exercises to help us practice and improve those plans,” Church said. “With the help of the members of the university’s Emergency Management Advisory Group, we identify threats and hazards to our university community and develop plans to help mitigate those when possible; and response plans when necessary.”

When Church is not working to keep the university prepared for emergency situations, he volunteers his time with Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization that utilizes the skills and experiences of military veterans, first responders and other volunteers to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. The organization began with eight dedicated individuals, mostly veterans, who felt a need to help after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010.

“I was looking for a way to continue my sense of purpose and continue to use my skills to help others,” Church said. “With my background knowledge and skill sets in emergency management, Team Rubicon was a natural fit for me, especially the response planning and operational component.”

Church joined Team Rubicon in 2016 and has since responded to multiple disaster situations in Arizona. He planned the response operations during the post-fire flood events in Flagstaff after the Museum Fire; and flooding that occurred around the Verde River in Camp Verde. He also served as a sawyer—a person who saws timber—as part of the response efforts in the Happy Jack community after the Tinder Fire, and this summer he served as the operations section chief and public information officer as part of the response to the Dudleyville community after the Margo Fire.

“Volunteering with Team Rubicon means making a difference in the lives of people who have often lost everything they own. Their community has been destroyed, and they need someone to come in and give them a starting point and ray of hope that they can recover and rebuild,” Church said.

Team Rubicon is an inclusive organization who will take in anyone willing to help others, no special training need. “There is room for everyone on our team. There is no better feeling than knowing you helped others in a way you could only have achieved as part of a team. I guarantee if someone goes on one of our disaster response operations, it will forever change their life. It humbles you and you will gain a new perspective of what is important in life.

To find out more about Team Rubicon, visit the group’s website.

NAU Communications