Evacuation means exiting a facility as directly and safely as possible. Evacuation is appropriate when conditions inside a structure pose a threat to the health and safety of building occupants and leaving the facility is safer than remaining inside of it. Evacuation should occur through the closest exit way, but depending on the circumstances, an alternate or secondary evacuation route may need to be used.

Strategies for an Effective Evacuation

The goal of evacuation is to leave the premises as quickly and safely as possible. The following strategies may promote an effective evacuation:

  • 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.

Refer to your facility’s emergency plan for specifics on evacuation routes.

Notifying Building Occupants

The University notifies its community of an emergency using the cAlert system. However, due to the fast-moving nature of the event, it may not be possible to notify building occupants in a timely manner. Therefore, evacuation may be prompted by signaling of fire alarms or notification from building managers, safety teams, or other building occupants that are aware of an immediate danger.

If you feel your safety is jeopardized and evacuating is an appropriate strategy given your circumstances, you do not have to wait for an official notification to evacuate.

Evacuation for Persons with Disabilities

During an event that requires evacuation, a person with disabilities may have the following evacuation options:

  • Horizontal evacuation (e.g., going from one building into a connected, adjacent building on the same level).
  • Vertical (e.g., stairway) evacuation (towards the ground floor of the building).
  • Proceeding to an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area to await evacuation.
  • Staying in place to await evacuation (e.g., office, classroom, dormitory room).

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.

Assembly Locations

After evacuating, you should report to a pre-designated assembly area and wait for further instruction. Assembly areas are designated locations where a headcount can be taken or emergency officials can debrief regarding the incident.

If reporting to an assembly area is not safe or feasible, contact supervisors or other appropriate individuals to inform them of your safety and location.

Refer to your facility’s emergency plan for specifics on assembly locations.


It is important to be aware of the nearest exits and building emergency evacuations routes prior to an emergency. Take note of primary and secondary building evacuation routes before an event occurs so that you will be equipped to act fast and ensure your safety.