Emergency Procedures

Emergencies are unpredictable events that can arise from a variety of circumstances. Members of the University community should be prepared to take action during any emergency to protect their well-being.

Although emergencies can vary in type and scope, many of the safety procedures taken in response to the emergency remain consistent. The following section describes four safety procedures University students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers, visitors, and other academic appointees can take to promote their safety in an emergency situation. Some procedures will be appropriate for certain hazards; other hazards may require using a combination of procedures. Choosing the proper procedures should be done in consideration of your circumstances at the time and be based on safety training you have received.

Emergency Procedures for Building Occupants*


    The goal of evacuation is to leave the premises as quickly and safely as possible. Refer to your facility’s emergency plan for specifics on evacuation routes.

    1. PREPARE:

    • Locate the nearest emergency exits in your facility

    • Know your evacuation route

    • Know the location of the designated assembly area

    2. ACT:
    • Exit the premises through the nearest exit.

    • Exit immediately, do not return for personal items.

    • If possible, inform others of the evacuation.

    • If possible, help others evacuate.

    • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.

    • Use the safest evacuation route possible.

    • Avoid coming in contact with the hazard (fire, suspicious package, violent intruder, etc.).

    • Prevent individuals from entering an area where the hazard may be.

    • Do not use elevators unless directed to by the Chicago Fire Department or other official agency personnel.

    3. RECOVER:
    • Return to building only when instructed to do so by fire department or building management.

    • Take other actions as instructed.


    Evacuation for Persons with Disabilities

    Individuals with mobility impairments may not be able to exit a building without help from emergency response personnel. Persons who are unable to evacuate should await evacuation assistance in designated rescue locations such as an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area.

    For specific procedures on evacuating with functional disabilities, please refer to the University’s Evacuation Procedures for Persons with Disabilities.

  • “Shelter-in-place” is taking shelter within a facility when external conditions are hazardous. In other words, using the building for protection.

    Sometimes a shelter-in-place is accompanied with a “lock-out.” A lock-out is simply locking the external doors to prevent entry. During some shelter-in-place incidents, community members will require their ID cards to access buildings.

    1. PREPARE:

    • Identify areas suitable for shelter-in-place prior to an incident. This will allow you to think clearly during an emergency and increase the odds of your safety.

    • Review your building’s emergency procedures and be vigilant of threats in your vicinity.


    2. ACT:

    • Shelter in an area that will shield you from the hazard.

    • Choose an area away from windows and glass and away from room corners where debris can accumulate.

    • When sheltering against storms, try to shelter in a basement or lowest lying ground possible.

    • Large storage closets, utility rooms, pantries, break rooms and copy and conference rooms without exterior windows may also work well as shelter areas.

    • Crouch down along the wall and protect your head with your hands, if necessary.

    • Stay away from all windows and doors and if possible move to an interior corridor.

    • Stay away from lobbies, walkways, atriums and other large glassed-in areas. Additionally, stay away from large, open areas with a long roof span.

    • If possible, take a cell phone, NOAA public alert radio, and flashlight.

    • If outside, seek shelter in the nearest building.

    • Time permitting, close and lock external facing doors and windows and close curtains, blinds, or shades.

    • Consider that a shelter-in-place event can last minutes to hours. Be cognizant of seating areas and of access to restrooms.


    3. RECOVER:

    • Remain in sheltered area until given the all clear by the City of Chicago Emergency Sirens. The siren will give a long blast for approximately 30 seconds.

    • Radio and TV stations, NOAA Public Alert Radios, and cAlerts will also be used to signal that an all clear has been given.


    Shelter-in-Place for Persons with Disabilities

    Individuals with mobility impairments have the option of sheltering within designated rescue locations such as an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area.

  • Lockdown is physically creating a barrier in a room or particular space within a facility to prevent access. Lockdown assumes the threat has already entered the building you are in, and the building is no longer safe. During lockdown, you are trying to create a safe space within the facility so that the threat has difficulty reaching you. Lockdown is one of the options available to you during a violent intruder or active threat type scenario. During certain lockdown scenarios, some buildings may be inaccessible to everyone except first responders to prevent the threat from entering. Please be aware of this and leave the area, if possible.

    1. PREPARE:

    • Think about suitable lockdown rooms in a facility prior to an incident. Knowing what characteristics make a room more conducive to lockdown will enhance your safety.


    2. ACT:

    • Choose a room with a sturdy door and a strong lock

    • If possible, avoid locking down in rooms with glass windows or panes as they are easily penetrable

    • Be cognizant of which way the door opens

    • In addition to locking, fortify entrance ways with heavy items such as furniture

    • If possible, avoid limiting escape routes

    • Stay low and hide behind large items that may provide full or partial cover

    • Avoid detection:

    • Be out of the view of the hazard (stay away from glass windows or doors)

    • Turn cell phones on silent (not vibrate, a vibrating phone is still audible)

    • Turn off room lights

    • Turn off other items that may cause noise such as TVs, radios, or web browsers


    3. RECOVER:

    • Return to your normal operations when instructed to do so

  • The goal of social distancing is to limit exposure to infectious bacteria and viruses during a communicable disease outbreak. The following strategies may be useful in conducting social distancing:

    1. PREPARE:

    • Develop a family emergency plan that includes how family members would be cared for if they got sick.

    • Maintain a reserve of vital supplies such as food and water and prescription medications.

    • Practice proper public health hygiene and hand washing techniques prior to the onset of an event.


    2. ACT:

    • Adhere to public health hygienic recommendations by washing your hands after touching commonly used items or coming into contact with someone who is sick.

    • Proper hand washing involves scrubbing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

    • Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth and avoid rubbing your eyes.

    • Practice proper coughing or sneezing etiquette.

    • Properly dispose of anything that comes in contact with your mouth such as tissues or plastic eating utensils.

    • Avoid coming in contact with individuals displaying symptoms of illness.

    • If working in close proximity to other individuals, attempt to keep a distance of approximately three feet from the nearest person while working.

    • Avoid congregating in large public venues such as theaters or sporting events.


    3. RECOVER:

    • Return to school or work only when instructed by medical professionals.

    • Take other actions as instructed.

*Note: These emergency procedures are for the University’s main campus. Procedures may differ at the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Gleacher Center, and global campuses and centers.