Team Rubicon uses DigitalGlobe technology to aid Houston residents after Hurricane Harvey

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, there was an overwhelming need for water rescues in Texas. Despite never formally conducting floodwater rescues as an organization, Team Rubicon was moved to action by the numerous requests for assistance. On August 28—just three days after Harvey made landfall—we deployed six boat-rescue teams of experienced volunteers to the Houston area.

In an area as large as Houston, Team Rubicon struggled to identify locations in most need of assistance as well as open roads and launch points for our teams. Because of our partnership with DigitalGlobe, we had access to FirstLook imagery, which we used to map passable routes to pockets of water from which our teams could head out to rescue Houston residents stranded by flooding. Without FirstLook imagery, we would have wasted precious hours driving around looking for access routes. With so many people trapped without electricity, food or water, we didn’t have time to lose.

Photo credit: Kirk Jackson, Team Rubicon

When the waters began to recede, Team Rubicon used FirstLook imagery to mobilize our larger teams for debris removal. The imagery enabled us to focus our efforts on pre-targeted areas where the waters had receded and also to forecast additional flooding. What would normally take three or four days if we surveyed areas manually, we completed in a few hours thanks to DigitalGlobe. We used that time instead to help Hurricane Harvey survivors return to their homes and begin to regain a sense of normalcy.

Photo credit: Jeremy Hinen, Team Rubicon

In the last month, Team Rubicon deployed more than 1,000 volunteers to Texas and served 360 homes affected by Harvey. To learn more, visit

Feature image photo credit: Kirk Jackson, Team Rubicon