The FSU Emergency Management and Homeland Security (EMHS) Program was very active during Hurricane Irma in the state of Florida. EMHS was activated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management to support statewide Hurricane Irma preparations.
The Irma activation included recruiting student volunteers as part of the Student Disaster Corps run by EMHS. Nearly 40 EMHS students were placed as disaster volunteers with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Florida Department of Health, and Volunteer Florida. Student volunteers worked around the clock supporting organization hotlines and helping enter shelter management data.
EMHS employees in Texas for Hurricane Harvey response. From left to right: Rob McDaniel, Mike McDaniel, Jarrett Broder, Mason Johnson
FSU EMHS also runs the critically important Virtual Operations Support TEAM (VOST) which tracks trends and rumors about Hurricane Irma on social media. The VOST team flags potentially dangerous or erroneous information and passes it to officials who can address any misinformation. Supervised by EMHS staff, students also monitor social media reports concerning gas shortages, traffic problems, power outages, and individuals needing assistance. The information is compiled to Division of Emergency Management in situation reports, providing a citizen level perspective. VOST was activated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management both in preparation for and following Hurricanes Harvey (in Texas) and Irma (in Florida).
EMHS faculty, staff, and students worked directly with Division of Emergency Management officials in many capacities at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. The small drones, or unmanned aerial systems team, had only just returned from Texas where they were mapping Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Back in Florida, the EMHS unmanned aerial systems team was activated to assist with the State Emergency Response Team Air Operations mission in order to facilitate airspace coordination, communication, and integration.
Finally, the EMHS unmanned aerial systems team deployed to South Florida following landfall of Hurricane Irma. The team was tasked with supporting urban search and rescue operations, as well as working directly with FEMA to conduct damage assessments of impacted areas.
EMHS continues to monitor important weather events, especially those affecting the state of Florida, and is always looking for opportunities where students may gain real-world experiences in emergency management.
Bobby Duggleby is the Outreach Coordinator for the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program at FSU.