University of South Florida

Helping one another: USF comes together for Hurricane Irma

Before, during and after the storm, many offered helping hands and shelter

As Hurricane Irma churned toward Florida’s west coast area last week, USF Bulls did not just hunker down or evacuate in preparation for the monster storm.  They rallied big time.

USF employees spent countless hours planning for and responding to the storm during the week, some returning home only to shower and others working remotely.

USF volunteers helped the community fill in the gaps for a wide variety of emergency response needs, including staffing EOC call centers.


The USF community also reached out to the wider Tampa Bay community — caring for evacuees at area hurricane shelters, including the USF Sun Dome, the county’s largest shelter for people with special health care needs; fielding phone calls at emergency operations centers; and volunteering around the clock in partnership with local agencies to respond to a myriad disaster needs.

Here are just some of the stories about ways the USF family helped each other and the members of the public before, during and after Hurricane Irma:

Following the storm, USF public health students volunteering on a Disaster Survivor Assistance Team worked with code enforcement officers to assess flood and wind damage across Hillsborough County, including along the Alafia River.

Public health coordinates community disaster response

USF College of Public Health’s Elizabeth Dunn began working with emergency management undergraduate students to start disaster relief efforts last Wednesday when Tampa expected to be hit by a category 4 or 5 hurricane. County and city officials realized then they would need to rely on USF to help fill in the gaps in areas of need.

So, Dunn, director of the USF Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), collaborated with her CERT leaders, reaching out to organizations and colleges across USF to mobilize and, if needed, to train volunteers.

“With such a large storm coming and because of what was happening in Texas during Harvey, many resources were spread thin,” she said, “so we were trying to make sure there was nothing missed within our community.”

USF volunteers (including a couple of children of USF Bulls) delivered food and water to hurricane survivors at a distribution point in Dover on the weekend after Hurricane Irma. The USF Community Emergency Response Team worked with Hillsborough County Aging Services and other local CERTs to help manage the event.

The response to CERT’s call to action was gratifying.

“Our USF family definitely came forward when there was a need,” said Dunn, instructor and assistant to the Director of the Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief, and Homeland Security program at COPH. “It was our chance to be part of something bigger than us.”

Read full article, including more stories shared by Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Pharmacy…

USF CERT Director Elizabeth Dunn works on disaster preparedness and response in the College of Public Health.

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