FSU’s Emergency Management Drone Team Assists in Search and Rescue After Hurricane Ian

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – Students from Florida State University’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security program used drones to support FEMA’s urban search and rescue in Fort Myers following Hurricane Ian.

FSU EMHS and Center for Disaster Risk Policy program director David Merrick said the team is using technology to help search for survivors in collapsed structures and give rescuers on the ground more information on how which they can do their job safely.

Merrick said the destruction left by Hurricane Ian is on par with what he saw begging after Hurricane Michael.

The director said search and rescue was even more difficult after Ian due to how quickly the storm’s track adjusted and the high population in southwest Florida.

“There are a large number of people who need help, and there is no electricity, water or essential services. There are all the communities on the barrier island, which means we can’t get supplies in and we can’t get people out. So there’s a lot of helicopter and boat use,” Merrick said.

Although the work is challenging, Merrick said the experience will help prepare students to respond to the next natural disaster or crisis.

“What we teach in the classroom is public service. This is a unique opportunity for us to use our skills to help the citizens of Florida,” Merrick said.

The team also found some bright spots amid the devastation.

“The community looks out for each other and people are constantly bringing supplies, such as gas, generators and water. It’s always uplifting to see people help each other out in situations like this,” Merrick said.