Student emergency organization dedicated to serving community

Posted September 20, 2013


Any mention of a natural disaster or campus lock down is synonymous with the CERT team at the University of Miami.

Many students and faculty are unaware of this group completely made up of undergraduate UM students, but they are certainly present when disaster strikes.

Starting Sept. 9, the Canes Emergency Response Team joins together again to recruit a new group of members who will then take on the 20 hours of training. These brave students will learn the mission of CERT and pledge their dedication to the cause.

Shanon Smith, president of UMiami CERT team, added that there are currently 40 members, excluding study-abroad students and graduate students.

“I learned through ‘CanesFest and since then we have expanded our organization to University of Florida, Eckerd, St. Leo and Indian River State College,” she said.

Smith, president of the organization, describes her role as “overseeing the entire process from executive board meetings to planning for potential disasters.”

Despite this, she relies heavily on the whole CERT team and communicates with it when a task needs to be completed. Andrew Wiemer, director of Volunteer Service and Leadership Development, is also heavily involved with the CERT team efforts.

Matthew Shpiner, Emergency Preparedness and Campus Safety manager, co-founded CERT while a student at UM in 2005.

“During times of disaster, the CERT team is activated. The team has a broad array of capability, we can respond to disasters within the geographic area, but we have not had that experience yet,” Shpiner explained.

Shpiner also added that there are weekly meetings of the executive board and that each semester there is full-scale disaster readiness exercise that is conducted by previous members.

The students in charge of training the new CERT members arrange the full-scale disaster readiness exercise. These select members explained that this exercise “represents a real time disaster including moulaged amputees and other scenes that might occur at the time of a disaster.”

Eleanor Judge, a transfer student from Maryland, is a prospective CERT member as she heard about their efforts through word of mouth.“

“I was looking for an organization to join that would allow me to help others while also helping the university as a whole,” said Judge.

She believes that the Canes Emergency Response Team is the perfect opportunity for an undergraduate student to have a very real positive impact on others.

Smith said the organization is building a record of service.

“CERT helped with hurricane Katrina cleanup and local relief efforts and when President Obama was on campus we handed out water, monitored the crowd for heat stroke victims, and provided necessary first-aid,” Smith stated. “We also worked in the University Incident Command Post during tropical storm Isaac.”

When the Canes Emergency Response Team is needed they communicate with the University of Miami Police, but they do not work directly with them said Smith, but they do communicate when there is an on campus activity or natural disaster warning.

“I was interested in the medical aspect as well as being able to help fellow students during an emergency instead of feeling useless. I knew that with the skills I would acquire from the ‘Canes Emergency Response Team that I would be a beneficial member of the emergency response efforts on campus.”

It is clear that CERT is not just a club, but also a team whose members are passionate and determined to help in any way they can. Next time there is an on campus emergency or disaster; CERT will certainly be leading the campus to a better tomorrow.

Leave a Reply