CERT responds to simulation

Courtesy Kristen Spillane
Courtesy Kristen Spillane

In the middle of a sunny Saturday afternoon, disaster struck. A gas leak caused an explosion and alarms sounded as victims poured out of Stanford Residential College.

Thankfully, it was only a drill.

The University of Miami’s Canes Emergency Response Team (CERT) held its annual spring semester disaster readiness exercise on Saturday. This large-scale event held each spring is the culmination of the team’s weekly meetings, drills and training sessions.

“The disaster readiness exercise was a good opportunity for young CERT members to gain experience and build upon what they practice in training,” said Scott Burnotes, UM’s director of emergency management.

Founded in 2006, UM CERT is a student-run team trained as a first response unit in disaster situations. While originally designed as a citizen’s emergency response team based in communities, the UM CERT was one of the first college-based organizations entirely led by students. The group works closely with the University of Miami campus police as well as the Coral Gables fire and police departments and has become one of the premier college-based teams.

To keep the disaster readiness exercise (DRE) as realistic as possible, information was not released to CERT members until the scene was unfolding at around 5 p.m. Volunteers played the parts of the victims. Each victim was given a specific wound or case which CERT members had to diagnose, assess and treat correctly.

Following the exercise, the group met for debriefing. Both UMPD and Coral Gables Fire Rescue offered praise, constructive criticism and an overall evaluation of the drill.

CERT President Elsie Black was proud of the success and the great strides the organization has made since its establishment.

“Without CERT, my college career would have been completely different. It’s a passion and CERT has really become like a family,” Black said.

CERT is even taking its leadership to other local universities to help establish student emergency response groups throughout Florida.

“A large part of CERT’s success and growth comes from the group’s ability to keep members engaged and involved,” Burnotes said.

Sophomore Sheikh Ali, a member of CERT, said in his third DRE he saw dramatic improvement in the quickness of the response teams.

“Everybody knew exactly what do to,” Ali said.

Kristen Spillane may be contacted at kspillane@themiamihurricane.com.