Emergencies on campus

Emergencies on campus

Part of our college students’ everyday lives is learning how to prepare for and react in case of an emergency on campus.

Campus emergencies may be weather-related (hurricane, tornado, earthquake, winter storm, flood, mudslide) or involve serious accidents (fire) or an active shooter or other kind of attack. Colleges and universities devise emergency plans for all of these scenarios and rehearse responses with the campus community through regular drills.

Whether your student goes to school across town or across the country, you may — naturally — worry about the possibility of an emergency. Here’s how to talk to your student about being prepared for emergencies, and where to find the information you need.

The Emergency Management Department

On the college/university website, search “emergency management” or “emergency preparedness.” You can also use Google — type in those words plus the name of your student’s school.

On the Emergency Management (or Preparedness) home page you can find out more about emergency response plans and procedures, how students sign up for alerts, hazards specific to the campus, personal preparedness tips and more.

Steps your student (and you) can take to stay informed minute-by-minute in case of a campus emergency:

  • Sign up for campus alert text messages. Your student should be automatically registered via their campus email address. Remind your student to keep their online student account up-to-date with a current mobile phone number.
  • On some campuses, parents may also register to receive text message alerts.
  • Follow your student’s school on social media (Facebook and Twitter). The Emergency Management department may have its own Twitter feed.
  • In an emergency, updates should be posted on the school website home page and you can call the main campus information line for recorded updates.

“Run, hide, fight” is the response detailed on a safety card that you can download from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This protocol in the case of an active shooter event will not be used by all institutions — be sure to familiarize yourself with the procedures being taught/practiced at your student’s school.

Talk about emergency preparedness with your student!

  1. Remind your student to program 9-1-1 and also the campus police emergency number into their phone.
  2. Ask your student about emergency drills (lockdown, etc.) that have taken place. What were they instructed to do in different kinds of situations? Going over the information again with you should help fix it in your student’s mind.
  3. Be sure you have the names and phone numbers of a few of your student’s roommates or close friends as well as their parents, and that they have yours.
  4. Students should understand the natural hazards on and near their campus (for example, if the campus is in a flood plain) and pay attention to severe weather warnings so they can be in a safe place if/when a storm hits.
  5. They should know multiple ways out (including fire exits) of the buildings they frequent on campus.
  6. They should know their residential housing staff/landlord and be able to get in touch with them quickly.
  7. In a weather-related emergency, your student could be stranded in a resident hall or apartment for a few days, potentially without power. Encourage your student to make an emergency kit that includes a three-day supply of non-perishable food (dried fruit, nuts, bars, tuna packets, crackers, etc.) and water, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, first aid supplies, any medications they take, rain gear and warm clothes.

Mass shootings are the kind of emergency we fear most. Campus Emergency Management departments rehearse these scenarios with students, faculty and staff. If you would like to know more about the latest research and recommendations about how to respond in these situations, you might want to read about the ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training) Center at Texas State University. ALERRT developed a training program that is used throughout the nation and which has spun off a civilian training course called CRASE (Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events) using the “Avoid, Deny, Defend” strategy. CRASE strategies are featured in this CNN report (warning: it includes disturbing, though not graphic, references to specific mass shootings).


Diane Schwemm

Diane Schwemm is a writer and editor at CollegiateParent. She and her husband have three sons in high school and college. In her off hours, she likes to read, hike and garden and, thanks to the influence of her family, appreciates ballet and basketball equally.

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  • We're so glad you found the list useful and hope your son is having a good adjustment to college!


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