By Jennifer Palma

This Is Not a Drill

By Jennifer Palma
UM’s student-run ’Canes Emergency Response Team puts their training into action to assist with recovery efforts on campus.

Once a year the University of Miami’s ’Canes Emergency Response Team (CERT) conducts a disaster readiness exercise to work through emergency situations that could unfold at any time on campus. This week, the team assisted University leadership and essential personnel following Hurricane Irma.

UM CERT is a student-run organization trained as a response unit in disaster situations. Co-founded in 2006 by then-student Matthew Shpiner, who is now the University’s Director of Emergency Management, the organization works throughout the year to prepare for various situations that may arise—including hurricanes. Under the direction of UM’s Office of Emergency Management and Butler Center for Service and Leadership, CERT also trains with UM Police as well as the Coral Gables fire and police departments to better understand how their team can assist the UM community. 

“The value of CERT goes above and beyond their actual response capacity,” said John Gulla, emergency management coordinator at UM’s Office of Emergency Management and a CERT advisor. “Through their training and commitment to emergency response, the group has the student-led ability to evoke greater preparedness mindsets among their peers and for the entire UM community.”

Last week, CERT team members Denise Manfrini, Neha Aitharaju, and Avery DeVault, along with others, provided essential supplies to the dedicated team of staff and vendors who worked tirelessly to clear debris on the Coral Gables campus during hurricane recovery efforts.

“We spent the day distributing water, fruit, and snacks to help all of the workers fight fatigue and sustain energy,” said DeVault, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “As part of CERT, we aim to implement preventative measures in a disaster situation.”

Aitharaju, a senior in the College of Engineering, said that previous drills and training have prepared their team to assist in a variety of ways. “Throughout the year, we work closely with local authorities to better understand how we can help in various situations. Hurricanes and natural disasters have been something we have prepared for.”CERT in the EOC