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Chapter 13: Emergency Preparedness

13.0 Emergency Preparedness

Division of Safety and Security
Emergency Management

Use this guide to help you become better prepared to provide guidance for your students. If you have any questions about preparedness, contact Virginia Tech Emergency Management.

What is the role of an instructor during an emergency?

Students, even in the university environment, look to the person at the front of the class for leadership, anticipating that the instructor will know what to do if an emergency occurs.

  • Clearly cover basic emergency preparedness techniques during the first week – 10 minutes of pre-planning can save lives. Contact Virginia Tech Emergency Management at 540-231-4873 or if you need assistance. Visit for additional resources.
  • Remind students to update their emergency contact information on Hokie SPA and to sign-up for VT Alerts at
  • Know how to report any emergency from your classroom or lab.
  • Individuals with disabilities – who self-identify – should be able to provide information on special assistance needs if an emergency occurs. They may need help leaving the building during an evacuation.
  • Provide leadership if an emergency occurs; lead by example and follow emergency procedures.

How do I report an emergency?

Dial 911 from your cell phone or campus phone when you need Police, Fire, or Emergency Medical Services. Remain calm – your actions influence others.

  • Tell the dispatcher you are at Virginia Tech and give the street address, building name and room number.
  • Give your full name and the telephone number from which you are calling, in case you are disconnected.
  • Describe the nature of the emergency (describe clearly and accurately).
  • Remain calm and do not hang up as additional information may be needed. If possible, have someone meet emergency personnel outside of the building.

What should I carry with me to class?

In addition to your daily class materials, you should also include:

  • A charged cell phone. Make sure you have signed up for VT Alerts in advance.
  • A list of important telephone numbers (i.e. department leadership, lab supervisors if applicable, etc.).

What if there is a medical emergency during class time?

Provide plenty of space for the victim and emergency personnel.

  • Call 911. Try to have someone escort emergency medical personnel to the scene.
  • Unless they are in immediate danger, do not move any victims until emergency personnel arrive.
  • If properly trained, give appropriate first aid and/or CPR until emergency personnel arrive.

How do I secure-in-place?

When it is necessary to secure-in-place, you will be the safest by placing a locked door or other barricade between you and the associated violence or danger.

  • Remain calm!
  • If you are outside during a secure-in-place emergency you should seek cover in the nearest unlocked building. If the buildings in the immediate area have exterior doors that have been locked, continue to move away from the danger, seek cover, move to another building, or leave campus if it is safe to do so.
  • Once inside, find an interior room and lock or barricade the doors.
  • To minimize vulnerability, turn off lights, silence phones, draw blinds, and move away from windows.
  • Await further instruction from VT Alerts and emergency personnel.
  • DO NOT leave until an “All Clear” is received.

What if someone wants to enter a secure area?

If there is any doubt about the safety of the individuals inside the room or building, the area needs to remain secure. Allowing someone to enter a secure location may endanger you and others. Use good judgement.

If there are individuals outside the secured door who wish to get in, several factors should be considered to determine if it is safe:

  • Can you see the area outside the door to determine that someone is not lying in wait? Is it a trap?
  • If a physical description of the subject was given in the secure-in-place alert, consider similarities such as age, race, clothing description, height, weight, sex, and hair and eye color.

If the decision is made to let a person in, consider the following:

  • Have the person leave anything he or she is carrying (a backpack, laptop case, package, etc.) on the ground, outside of the secure area.
  • Have the subject lift up his or her shirt, coat, and/or jacket until the waistline is visible and rotate 360 degrees to see if he or she is concealing a weapon.

Remember, always use common sense. There are exceptions to all guidance and prescribed directions.

How do I shelter-in-place?

Shelter-in-place events are usually weather-related emergencies. When it is necessary to shelter-in-place, you will be safest by moving inside to a building space that protects you from the danger. DO NOT lock doors behind you as others may also need to shelter-in-place.

  • Remain calm!
  • Immediately seek shelter inside the closest sturdy building. DO NOT wait until you physically see a tornado or severe weather event to react.
  • Resist the temptation to go outside and check the weather conditions yourself.
  • Once inside, stay away from windows, glass, and unsecured objects that may fall.
  • Seek shelter in interior rooms and corridors.
  • Avoid large free-standing expanses such as auditoriums and gymnasiums.
  • DO NOT use elevators.
  • Await further instruction from VT Alerts and emergency personnel.
  • DO NOT leave until an “All Clear” is received.

During a tornado, seek shelter on the lowest level possible. If warranted, consider crouching near the floor and seeking additional shelter under a sturdy desk or table, or cover your head with your hands.

Weather definitions

  • Watch: Conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather. Closely monitor the situation in case conditions worsen.
  • Warning: Severe weather has been observed. Listen closely to instructions provided by weather radios, emergency officials, and other alert mechanisms. Seek shelter immediately.

How do I evacuate the class?

Evacuation routes are posted in building hallways, usually near stairwells or exits.

  • Know two evacuation routes for your room. Look for illuminated EXIT signs to determine primary and secondary exits.
  • Remember, all fire alarms are mandatory evacuations. Do not use elevators unless authorized to do so by emergency personnel.
  • As your class is evacuating, encourage all persons to leave the building – do not wait for those who refuse to leave. Inform emergency personnel of the location of those that are still in the building. Try to keep your class together. Move at least 50 feet away from the building to provide easy access for emergency personnel.

How to assist an individual with a disability?

If you have questions about special assistance, call Services for Students with Disabilities at

  • Ask students to self-identify in confidence if they will require special assistance during an emergency.
  • Communicate the type of emergency to the individual. Depending on the type of disability:
    1. Auditory: communicate with the hearing impaired by writing a note, hand gestures, or by using another method to convey the message.
    2. Visual: describe the nature of the situation and offer to act as a “sighted guide” by offering your elbow and escorting him or her to a safe location. Determining a “buddy” before an emergency occurs can be a good start.
    3. Mobility: if a person cannot safely leave the building, a “buddy” can accompany the individual to an area of refuge without blocking the evacuation path. The individual with a disability should call 911 to provide his or her location while the buddy notifies onsite emergency personnel of the situation. You should attempt a rescue evacuation of an individual with a disability as a last resort and only if you have had rescue training. If the other evacuation options are not available or are unsafe (and danger is not immediate), the individual with a disability can remain in a room with an exterior window, a telephone/cell phone. Notify 911 and onsite emergency personnel.

Stay informed

Use these outlets to stay up-to-date on what to do before, during, and after an emergency.