Situation Overview

The EMP was developed to define the processes and procedures the University takes when responding to hazards that threaten University students, staff, visitors, and property.  The University of Chicago is situated in an openly accessible, urban environment within a city of approximately three million inhabitants.  The University is a highly visible, geographically dispersed, and decentralized organization.  It is susceptible to many hazards and threats to public safety.  Accordingly, the University has structured its emergency management plan to be “all-hazards” in nature.  Therefore, policies, processes, and protocols contained within this document will stress the performance of capabilities required to counter the effects of all hazards.

Emergency Categories

Activation of the EMP is dependent on the type and severity of the hazard occurring.  An emergency resulting from a hazard is defined as an unplanned event that:

  • Poses a serious threat to persons or property, as well as significantly disrupts normal operations
  • Cannot be managed by a routine response
  • Requires a quick and coordinated response across multiple departments or divisions

If an event meets the criterion above, it is then categorized according to its scope and severity.  Three emergency categories have been defined.  Each category will elicit a different approach at the discretion of the Senior Emergency Management Officer.

Category I
A Category I event affects only one department or division of the University and does not require a response beyond the capability of that department or division working with the University Police Department (UCPD), the Office of Emergency Management, and the Safety Office.

Category I events are managed by UCPD, the Office of Emergency Management, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, and the affected department or division. Although Category I events will not trigger activation of the EMP, they must be reported to the Senior Emergency Management Officer (Associate Vice President for Safety, Security and Civic Affairs & Chief of Police).

Examples: localized hazardous material spills, contained fires, bomb threat

Category II
A Category II event requires a coordinated response by multiple departments or divisions of the University. Upon notification by the Emergency Director (Director of Emergency Management) of such an event, the Senior Emergency Management Officer will assess the situation and, if warranted, approve or disapprove activation of the EMP.

Examples: extended electrical outage, large-scale damage, severe weather

Category III
A Category III event is catastrophic in scale. It affects the University and surrounding community as well, and requires a response beyond the University’s capabilities. Upon notification by the Emergency Director of such an event, the Senior Emergency Management Officer will assess the situation and, if warranted, approve or disapprove activation of the EMP.

Examples: large civil disturbances, pandemic outbreaks of infectious diseases, bioterrorism

Note: Anyone with knowledge of an emergency will immediately call UCPD (773-702-8181, or 123 using on- campus telephones).

Hazard Analysis

Although the EMP is structured to manage all hazards, the University has identified specific capabilities to execute based on an analysis of hazards that are most likely to occur.   In identifying these capabilities, the University performed an analysis of threats common to surrounding area and analyzed operations likely to occur in response to those threats.  The hazard analysis categorized threats by hazard types: natural, technological, and human-caused.  Examples of hazards from each category appear below:


  •     Pandemic
  •     Tornado


  •     Power outage
  •     Cyber attack


  •     Terrorism
  •     Violent intruder

A full analysis of these hazards is available in the University of Chicago’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Program.

Vulnerability Analysis

Part of assessing the potential impact of an emergency includes identifying vulnerabilities that would be exacerbated during such an event.   Accordingly, the University has conducted an analysis to assess potential vulnerabilities on campus including physical vulnerabilities of facilities and equipment and vulnerabilities pertaining to at-risk populations of staff and students.  This assessment assists in influencing the focus of preparedness efforts and the positioning of resources.  

A full analysis of these vulnerabilities is available in the University of Chicago’s CEMP.

Capability Analysis

To determine the current level of knowledge, skills, ability of University response personnel, a capability analysis has been performed.  This analysis includes the level of training and equipment available to respond to all-hazards and aids in determining key strengths and areas in need of improvement.  Future preparedness initiatives will focus on developing areas of need and maintaining strengths.

A full analysis of capabilities is available in the University of Chicago’s CEMP.