FIU: Staging Zone for FEMA

Emergency vehicles from the Federal Emergency Management Agency parked outside Gold Garage on MMC. Gerard Albert III/PantherNOW

By: Joshua Ceballos/Staff Writer


This article has been updated to include interviews with USAR officials.

FEMA  Urban Search and Rescue teams are stationed at FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus as the University becomes the staging area for Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in South Florida.

The parking lot across from the Gold Garage is closed off to any students or staff attempting to enter — the lot has been designated for personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency coming from all over the country, including Ohio and Virginia. 

Evan Schumann, a program manager for Ohio Task Force 1, came down with his team from Miami Valley, Ohio to the real Miami after being deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency last Friday, Aug. 3o.

Schumann tells PantherNOW that his unit, along with 18 of the 28 search and rescue units across the country, have shipped out to various parts of Florida outside the projected path of the hurricane, poised to react as soon as it makes landfall to clean up the mess.

“Our mission is to support the State of Florida in meeting its search and rescue needs and the needs of its citizens,” Schumann says.

Emergency vehicles parked on campus include fire engines, ambulances, fire rescue trucks and cargo trucks carrying heavy machinery for search and rescue operations. Tour buses carrying personnel are also parked in the lot, bringing emergency workers that work on two legs– or four.

Murphy is a search and rescue dog with Ohio Task Force 1. When he’s off duty, he likes to lie down with his handler. Gerard Albert III/PantherNOW

Schumann and his team, including Task Force Leader Jeff Newmann, have equipment with them to move concrete debris in the event the storm hits hard in more northern parts of the state such as West Palm Beach and Naples. They also have monitoring systems that local agencies can use to determine which parts of their communities need help the most after Dorian.


The workers are housed in the Graham Center Ballrooms on cots and will be fed by the University, according to Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Elizabeth Bejar. They await the arrival of Hurricane Dorian to head out into the field. In the meantime, you might find them grabbing a bite at 8th Street Campus Kitchen.

Urban Search and Rescue teams from Florida, Ohio and Virginia are all housed in the Graham Center Ballrooms, about 200 emergency personnel ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Bejar tells PantherNOW that FIU was chosen as the staging area for FEMA services because the University has a good reputation with local and state emergency agencies.

“FIU has a good reputation in Florida and the U.S. for emergency services, so FEMA called us and we answered the call,” says Bejar.

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