Skip to main content

Emergency Guide

This guide is intended to help members of the University community make the best individual decisions during an emergency. However, the University recommends that you become familiar with this information before an emergency occurs to better protect yourself and others.

In the event of a major campus emergency, an Emergency Alert will be issued by the University Police Department. The Emergency Alert is a multimodal communications tool that is the primary method of alerting the campus community to an emergency.

For additional information, visit the UH Office of Emergency Management website.

Emergency Management Agencies
  • Assistant Fire Marshal (Local Emergency Management Director)
    Nathan Green
  • Emergency Management Director
    Kelly Boysen
Public Utilities

Critical Information

Smoke is MORE dangerous than fire. Most fire deaths are due to smoke inhalation.

In the event of fire or smoke

Staff
  • Activate fire alarm and notify building administration
  • Check assigned locations where students may not hear alarm
  • Implement evacuation plan for any students needing special assistance
  • Evacuate building using stairwells and report to a “Code Blue” tower
  • Shut doors behind you, if possible
  • Listen to instructions provided by first responders
  • If primary route is blocked or dangerous, use closest, safe exit
  • If trapped by fire, search for the safest way to get out
  • Once outside, assemble a near closest “Code Blue” tower
  • Report any missing persons, with last known location
  • Report extra or injured students to building administration
Building Administration
  • Call 911 and notify emergency responders
  • Confirm to dispatcher the building on campus involved
  • Provide exact location of smoke or fire, if known, if unknown provide general location
  • Ensure fire alarm has sounded
  • Meet with first responders
  • Advise location of injured persons
  • Determine if students need to be transported to an evacuation site
  • Receive “all clear” from UH Fire Marshal when safe to re-enter building

Additional Considerations

  • Plan for accommodations for students or staff with special needs
  • Ensure instructors have class and staff rosters

Critical Information

The role of faculty and staff in a medical emergency is to provide care to the victim until first responders arrive. Personnel should NOT provide any first aid beyond their training. You should comfort the victim and reassure him or her that medical attention is on the way. Before providing assistance, personnel should survey the scene for additional hazards and ensure it is safe to render aid. Remember aid rendered is covered by the Good Samaritan Law.

In the event a non-responsive or life-threatening injury or illness

Staff
  • Send for immediate help by notifying Security and Call 911
  • Describe injuries, number of victims and give exact location
  • If in locations with chemicals, provide MSDs to responders
  • Notify building administration
  • DO NOT move the victim(s), especially if you suspect a head or neck injury, unless safety is a concern
  • Check victim for medical alert bracelet or necklace
  • Provide information to first responders
  • Disperse onlookers and keep others from congregating in the area
  • If possible, isolate the victim(s)
  • Direct someone (e.g. staff, student) to meet and guide the first responders
  • Assist emergency medical services personnel with pertinent information about the incident
Building Administration
  • Ensure 911 was called and provide any updated information
  • Activate emergency response team
  • Ensure someone (e.g. staff, student) meets and directs first responders
  • Provide any additional information about the status of the victim(s)
  • Activate Recovery procedures as appropriate (debriefing or coordinate counseling resources)
  • Document all actions taken by staff / Conduct After Action Review (AAR)

For medical emergencies related to life-threatening allergies:

  • Encourage all employees with special health considerations to alert building administration

Critical Information

In the event of a natural or propane gas leak or odor – EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY.

In all other cases, first responders will take command of the situation and determine the steps to take regarding evacuation, shelter-in-place and ventilation systems (HVAC).

In the event of a hazardous material incident inside a school building

Staff
  • Notify building administration
  • Report location and type (if known) of the hazardous material
  • Move students away from the immediate danger zone
  • If safe, close doors to the affected area, if implementing evacuation procedures
  • Take emergency go-kits and class roster
  • Take attendance and report missing, extra or injured students
  • Render first aid as needed
Building Administration
  • Call 911 and notify emergency responders
  • Report location of leak or spill and type of material (if known)
  • Report any students or staff missing or injured
  • Develop an action plan with emergency responders (e.g. evacuation, shelter-in-place, shut down ventilation system (HVAC), etc.)
  • Notify district administration
  • Move staff and students away from the immediate danger zone
  • Keep staff and students from entering or congregating in danger zone
  • Document all actions taken
  • Keep a DOT HAZMAT Guide Book or NIOSH

In the event of a hazardous material incident outside a school building

Staff
  • Notify building administration
  • Report location and type (if known) of hazardous material
  • Move students away from the immediate vicinity of the danger
  • If outside, implement reverse evacuation procedures
  • Avoid turning on and off lights
Building Administration
  • Monitor situation
  • Consult with emergency responders
  • Identify the need for evacuation
  • Develop an action plan with emergency responders
  • Consider implementing Shelter-in-Place procedures
  • If there is an airborne release, shutdown ventilation system (HVAC)
  • Document all actions taken - Provide known hazardous materials to the fire department

Critical Information

Armed Assailant term solicits the same response no matter the dangerous weapon (knife or fire arm). University policies should address who has the authority to initiate lockdown procedures in all schools and buildings.

If a person displays a weapon, begins shooting or shots are heard

Staff
  • Seek immediate shelter for staff and students
  • Initiate lockdown with intruder procedures
  • Notify building administration
  • Provide location of the shooting, if known
  • Take attendance and notify the building administrator of missing students or staff as soon as the threat is removed
Building Administration
  • Initiate lockdown with intruder procedures
  • Call 911 and notify emergency responders
  • Provide the following information, if known:
    • Location of shooter(s)
    • Description, identity and number of shooters
    • Description of weapon(s)
    • Number of shots fired
    • Is shooting continuing?
    • Number of injuries
  • Notify main campus administration
  • Document all actions taken by staff
  • Implement Media procedures
  • Implement Recovery procedures

Work with local law enforcement to identify their response methods and capabilities. Exercise Armed Assailant drills with Staff and Local law Enforcement for effective responses in a variety of different conditions and times of day.

Critical Definition

An assault is the intentional infliction of, or attempt to, inflict bodily harm upon another person. Early intervention may reduce or eliminate escalation of the incident.

When an assault occurs

Staff (Initially confronted with the situation)
  • Notify building Security
  • Work as a team in response to ensure the safety of students and other staff
  • Defuse the situation, if possible, without putting yourself in harm’s way
  • Use a calm voice and low tones in addressing the assailant
  • If behavior escalates, shout “Stop!” and continue to use a calm voice
  • Disperse onlookers and keep others from congregating
  • Ensure first aid is rendered to all injured parties
  • Do not leave the victim alone
  • Seal off area to preserve evidence for law enforcement
  • Identify the assailant by name and description (e.g., clothing, height)
  • If the assailant has left the building, determine direction and mode of travel
  • If assailant leaves in a vehicle, provide description of the vehicle and license number
Building Administration
  • Identify any witnesses
  • Document all activities
  • Call 911 and notify law enforcement, if not on Campus
  • Give type and number of injuries
  • Advise if assailant is still in the building or on the property
  • Give name and description of the assailant
  • Give direction and mode of travel (vehicle type and description)
  • Consider lockdown procedures
  • Make appropriate referrals to student services or student assistance team
  • Document all actions taken by staff and complete incident reports

Critical Definition

ALL bomb threats must be taken seriously until they are assessed.

UHPD is primarily responsible for assessing the threat.

The decision to evacuate rests with the school officials, not emergency responders, UNLESS a device is located.

Upon receiving a bomb threat

Building Administration
  • Contact UHPD for a response to campus
  • Assess the threat by using the Threat Incident Report Form
  • Consult with emergency responders, as time permits
  • Determine credibility of threat
  • Document all actions taken by staff
Staff
  • Notify building administration
  • Preserve evidence for law enforcement
  • If written threat, do not handle in order to preserve fingerprints
  • If the threat is written on a wall, photograph
  • If phoned threat, document all relevant information
  • Complete Threat Incident Report Form

If the bomb threat is determined to be credible

Building Administration
  • Initiate appropriate lockdown procedures
  • Provide additional instructions as necessary
  • Direct staff to implement scanning process for suspicious items
  • Bombs may be placed anywhere on school property — inside or outside
  • Document all actions taken and findings by staff
  • Determine if evacuation procedures should be initiated
  • Limit the use of cell phones and radios in the building
Staff
  • Implement appropriate lockdown procedures
  • Scan classroom or assigned areas for suspicious items
  • Staff will be the best at telling what is out of place or potential indicators
  • Do not touch any suspicious devices, packages, etc. If a device(s) is located, it should be pointed out to emergency responders
  • Notify building administration of findings
  • Limit the use of cell phones and radios in the building

If evacuation procedures are initiated

Building Administration
  • Notify staff via phone system, hardwired PA system or by messenger
  • Do not use cell phones, radios or fire alarm system because of risk of activating a device
  • Ensure evacuation routes and area(s) are clear of suspicious items
Staff
  • Implement evacuation procedures
  • Take emergency go-kit and class roster

When responding to a bomb threat, law enforcement and first responders generally will not search a building unless requested. A bomb squad will generally not respond unless a suspicious package has been located.

Critical Information

Demonstrations on school property could be deemed trespassing.

If demonstration is near, but not on school property

Building Administration
  • Preplan for this by designating protest area around the building
  • Contact Security to confirm they are aware of situation
  • Contact UHPD on campus and consult in developing a plan of action
  • Notify building staff
  • Encourage staff not to participate in demonstrations and to maintain the learning environment
  • Monitor situation and make decisions based on developing information
  • Consider communication venues (e.g. website posting, email, etc.)
  • Consider lockdown with warning procedures
Staff
  • Notify building administration

If demonstration is on school property

Staff
  • Notify building administration
Building Administration
  • Identify who asks the demonstrators to leave
  • Develop an action plan with UHPD
  • Notify building staff
  • Consider lockdown with warning procedures
  • Ensure safe entry into and exit from the building
  • Monitor situation and make decisions based on developing information
  • Consider communication venues (e.g., website posting, email, etc.)

Critical Information

If the hostage-taker is unaware of your presence, Do Not Attract Attention!

In the event of a hostage situation and you are taken hostage

  • Cooperate with the hostage-taker to the fullest extent possible
  • STAY CALM, try not to panic; calm students if they are present
  • Be respectful to the hostage-taker
  • Ask permission to speak; do not argue or make suggestions

If you witness a hostage situation

Staff
  • Do not put yourself in harm’s way
  • Notify building administration immediately
  • Keep all students in their classrooms until further notice
  • Wait for further instructions
Building Administration
  • Preplan how local Law Enforcement will identify themselves to staff during clearing procedures
  • Use of department identification badges with photos
  • Distribute information to staff and practice it
  • Initiate lockdown with intruder procedures
  • Call 911 and notify emergency responders
  • If known, provide a description of the following:
    • Identity and description of the individual
    • Description and location of the incident
    • Number of hostages
    • Number of injuries
    • Seal off area near hostage scene
  • Students should be moved from exposed areas or classrooms to safer areas of the building
  • As soon as possible, and only if it can be accomplished safely, assign a staff member to stand outside warning visitors of the danger, until law enforcement arrives
  • When law enforcement arrives, they will take control of the situation
  • Continue to coordinate with law enforcement for the safety and welfare of students and staff
  • Document all actions taken

In planning, work with local law enforcement to identify their response methods and capabilities. At the beginning of each school year, provide them with updated building diagrams.

Critical Information

An intruder may be either well- or ill-intentioned. Early intervention may reduce or eliminate the escalation of the incident. There is always the potential that an intruder may possess a weapon or become violent.

In the event an unauthorized person enters school property (intruder)

Staff
  • Politely greet the subject and identify yourself
  • Contact Security and advise them before you approach the subject
  • If the subject refuses or his or her purpose is not legitimate, notify building administration that there may be an intruder in the school building
  • Attempt to maintain visual contact with the intruder until Security arrives
  • If possible keep students away from the intruder
  • Take note of the subject name, clothing and other descriptors
  • Observe the actions of the intruder (e.g., where he or she is located in the school building, whether he or she is carrying a weapon or package)
  • Back away from the subject if he or she indicates a potential for violence
  • Allow an avenue of escape for both the intruder and yourself
Building Administration
  • Respond to call for assistance from staff
  • Advise the subject they are trespassing and need to leave or law enforcement will be notified
  • If the subject refuses or his or her purpose is not legitimate:
    • Consider initiating lockdown with intruder procedures
    • Call 911 and notify law enforcement
    • Advise law enforcement of the intruder’s location and provide a full description
    • Attempt to keep the subject in full view until law enforcement arrives while maintaining a safe distance
  • Document all actions taken by staff

Critical Information

All media inquiries must be referred to UHPD or University Media Relations Office. The University, in coordination with community response agencies, assumes responsibility for issuing public statements during an emergency.

Public Information Officer (PIO)

The University of Houston Police Department and Office of Media Relations provide a coordinated release of public information during disasters and emergencies. Activities performed in the by these offices include: developing press releases and other written products; facilitating news conferences; updating websites with pertinent disaster information; providing information via social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter; monitoring media and social media reports for accuracy; planning tours for the governor and state officials to disaster-impacted areas; and responding to public inquiries. For a very large or lengthy disaster response, PIOs from other agencies may be asked to work in the JIC. The JIC is only operational when the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) is activated. The JIC also coordinates with partners at the local and federal government levels, along with the private sector, to ensure consistent messages are being delivered to the public.

Public Information Officer

  • The guidelines and procedures outlined in this policy are to be used in conjunction with all relevant existing departmental policies and procedures and apply to requests submitted during (on scene) and after an incident.
  • The Department’s Public Information Officer (PIO) is the individual designed by the Chief of Police to provide information to the media and public regarding incidents involving the Department or Department personnel.

Building Administration

  • Notify main campus and all staff of emergency event
  • Direct all media contacts to UHPD through dispatch 713-743-3333
  • Relay all factual information to media point of contact
  • If directed by administration, designate a site spokesperson
  • Update staff throughout the emergency, review details of the emergency and dispel rumors
  • Inform of contact of any media presence at the building
  • Request onsite assistance with media if necessary

Staff

  • Direct all media inquires to these points of contact

Communication Contact

List the district spokesperson and public information officer along with their alternates in case the primary contact is unavailable during a crisis. Consider pre-designating building or site spokespersons.

UHPD Public Information Officer (PIO)

Captain Brett Collier | 713-743-3333

Critical Information

Tornado shelter areas are interior hallways, interior restrooms or rooms away from exterior walls and windows and large rooms with long-span ceilings in permanent structures. Building diagrams should be posted in each classroom highlighting routes to safe areas. Having your building assessed by a structural engineer is the recommended way to designate safe areas.

Watches

Conditions are right for development of a weather hazard. Watches provide advance notice.

Warnings

Indicate a hazard is imminent or the probability of occurrence is extremely high.

If a tornado or severe thunderstorm WATCH is issued for the campus area

Building Administration
  • Monitor National Weather Service (NOAA) weather radio, all-hazard or emergency alert radio
  • Activate appropriate members of the school emergency response team to be aware of potential weather changes
  • Notify facilities staff of potential utility failure
  • Consider moving all persons inside building(s)
  • Review severe weather sheltering procedures and location of shelter areas
Staff
  • Review “Shelter in Place” procedures with students

If a tornado or severe thunderstorm WARNING has been issued or a tornado has been spotted near the school

Building Administration
  • Activate appropriate members of the school emergency response team of a change in weather status
  • Initiate Severe Weather Shelter Area procedures
Staff
  • Initiate Severe Weather Shelter Area procedures
  • Initiate Severe Weather Shelter Area procedures
  • Close classroom doors
  • Take emergency go-kit and class roster
  • Ensure students are in “tuck” positions
  • Take attendance and report any missing, extra or injured students to building administration
  • Remain in shelter area until an “all clear” signal is issued
  • In the event of building damage, evacuate students to safer areas
  • If evacuation does occur, do not re-enter the building until an “all clear” signal is issued by the incident commander

If flooding occurs near or at a school

Administration
  • Monitor NOAA weather radio, all-hazard or emergency alert radio stations
  • Develop an action plan with local emergency management officials and transportation coordinator
Building Administration
  • Know the flood level which your building is protected
  • Review evacuation procedures with staff
  • Notify relocation centers (Plan for locations outside of your immediate community)
  • Determine an alternate relocation center if primary and secondary centers are affected
  • If campus officials and emergency responders advise evacuation, do so immediately
Staff
  • Initiate evacuation procedures as directed
  • Take emergency go-kit and class roster
  • Take attendance and report any missing, extra or injured students to Security

Critical Information

Sexual assault is a crime of violence. For the victim, it is often an experience of fear, humiliation, violence and loss of control. Victims may experience a full range of emotional reactions. It is extremely beneficial for the victim to seek support regarding the assault.

Schools should address sexual assault as a crisis or emergency when:

  • A rape or sexual assault occurs on campus
  • A member of the victim’s family or friend requests intervention
  • Rumors of an alleged incident are widespread and damaging

In the event of a sexual assault or notification of a sexual assault

Staff
  • Notify building administration immediately
  • Complete all required reports
  • Maintain confidentiality during the investigation
  • Direct the individual (e.g., student or staff) not to repeat any information elsewhere in the school, especially if not the direct victim
  • Do not leave the victim alone
  • Ensure the short-term physical safety of the victim
  • Notify the emergency medical services or student services to provide care and secure immediate medical treatment if needed
  • If appropriate, preserve all physical evidence
  • Preserve personal effects, as well as the potential crime scene
Building Administration
  • Maintain confidentiality during the investigation
  • If a staff person heard the report, instruct them not to repeat anything or give any information within or outside the school unless specifically told to

If assault occurred on campus:

  • Notify appropriate law enforcement
  • Designate a counselor or staff member who has a positive relationship with the victim to review the types of support she or he may need
  • Encourage the victim to seek support from a rape crisis center
  • Take action to control rumors
  • Document all actions taken by staff and complete incident reports
  • Store all records related to sexual assault incidents and services provided in a confidential administrative file

Critical Information

Writing, talking or even hinting about suicide must be taken seriously. Immediate intervention is essential. Student confidentiality is superseded by the need for student safety.

In the event a staff member believes a student is a suicide risk or has attempted suicide

Staff
  • Stay with the student until assistance arrives
  • Notify Security or 9-1-1
  • Ensure short-term physical safety of the student, provide first aid if needed
  • Listen to what the student is saying and take the threat seriously
    • Assure the student of your concern
    • Assure the student you will find help to keep him or her safe
    • Stay calm and don’t visibly react to the student’s threats or comments
    • Do not let the student convince you the crisis is over
    • Do not take too much upon yourself. Your responsibility is limited to listening and providing support.
Building Administration
  • Call 911 if the student needs medical attention, has a weapon, needs to be restrained or a parent or guardian cannot be reached
  • Determine a course of action with social worker or other mental health professional
  • Do not allow the student to leave school without a parent or guardian
  • Document all actions by staff
  • Follow-up and monitor to ensure student safety
  • Implement Recovery procedures

Staff must exercise caution when discussing an attempted suicide or death by suicide with students. When the incident becomes public knowledge, it is best to request permission from the family to discuss it with students in order to address emotional reactions within the school community.

Critical Information

Characteristics of a suspicious package or letter include excessive postage or excessive weight; misspellings of common words; oily stains, discolorations or odor; no return address or a city or state postmark that does not match the return address; or a package that is not anticipated by someone in the school or is not sent by a known school vendor. We suggest posting the attached document in mail opening locations.

If you receive a suspicious package or letter by mail or delivery service

Staff
  • DO NOT OPEN package or letter
  • Notify building administration
  • Limit access to the area where the suspicious letter or package is located to minimize the number of people who might directly handle it
  • Preserve evidence for law enforcement
Building Administration
  • CALL 911 and notify law enforcement
  • Document all actions taken by staff
  • Mitigation:
    • Train staff, volunteers or student workers on mail procedures annually
    • Post information on suspicious packages in mail room or mail opening area

If a letter/package contains a written threat but no suspicious substance

Staff
  • Notify building administration
  • Limit access to the area in which the letter or package was opened to minimize the number of people who might directly handle it
  • Preserve evidence for law enforcement
Building Administration
  • Preserve evidence for law enforcement and turn the letter or package over to law enforcement
  • Document all actions taken by staff

If a letter or package is opened and contains a suspicious substance

Staff
  • Notify building administration
  • Limit access to the area in which the letter or package was opened to minimize the number of people who might directly handle it
  • Isolate the people who have been exposed to the substance to prevent or minimize contamination
  • Preserve evidence for law enforcement
  • Complete Threat Incident Report Form
Building Administration
  • Preserve evidence for law enforcement
  • Turn the letter or package over to law enforcement
  • Consult with emergency officials to determine:
    • Need for decontamination of the area and the people exposed to the substance
    • Need for evacuation or shelter-in-place
usps-suspicious-mail-poster-84.jpg

When sorting mail, staff should always be aware of the characteristics of a suspicious package or letter. When a suspicious package or letter has been identified, these procedures should be implemented immediately.

Critical Information

A threat is the expression of intent to harm one’s self, another person or property. A threat can be spoken, written or symbolic (e.g. a gesture). A threat can be direct, indirect, veiled or conditional. A threat may be a crime. All threats must be taken seriously and evaluated to address imminent danger and determine course of action.

In the event of IMMEDIATE danger

Staff
  • Take immediate action to secure or isolate the individual making the threat
  • Prevent access to potential weapons
  • Prevent access to the individual’s backpack, purse, locker, cell phone or other personal property that may contain a weapon
  • Take immediate action to move others from harm’s way (in the immediate vicinity of the incident)
  • Notify building administration
Building Administration
  • Initiate lockdown with intruder procedures
  • CALL 911
  • Notify main campus administration
  • Document the incident

If threat is identified but there is no immediate risk

Staff
  • Complete a Threat Incident Report Form
  • Notify building administration and student services staff
  • Maintain confidentiality
Building Administration
  • Convene the appropriate staff to evaluate the threat
  • Notify law enforcement
  • Conduct search of school and personal property, if needed
  • Develop an action plan
  • Notify main campus administration
  • Inform them of the situation, any concerns and course of action
  • Obtain permission to exchange information between agencies
  • Document any referrals, actions taken and decisions made
  • Implement Recovery procedures

Critical Information

Student access to weapons creates significant risk within a school environment. Early intervention may reduce or eliminate escalation of the incident.

If you are aware of a weapon on school property

Staff
  • Notify Security immediately and provide the following information:
    • Location, identity and description of the individual
    • Description and location of weapon(s)
    • Whether the individual has threatened him or herself or anyone else
  • Limit information to staff and students on a need to know basis
  • Stay calm and do not call attention to the weapon
Building Administration
  • Call 911 to report that a weapon is in school
    • Provide location, identity and description of the individual
    • Provide description and location of weapons
  • Develop an action plan for response
    • If the weapon is located on an individual, isolate the individual
    • If the weapon is in a locker or in a backpack, prevent access to that area
  • Determine whether to initiate lockdown, evacuation or other procedures
  • Notify main campus administration
  • Conduct weapon search, if needed
  • DO NOT approach the individual alone. Consider these factors:
    • Need for assistance from law enforcement
    • Best time and location to approach individual
    • Description, location and accessibility of weapon(s)
    • Safety of persons in the area
    • State of mind of the individual
  • If the individual displays or threatens with the weapon(s):
    • DO NOT try to disarm him/her
    • Avoid sudden moves or gestures
    • Use a calm, clear voice
    • Instruct the individual to place the weapon down
    • Use the individual’s name while talking to them
    • Allow for escape routes. Back away with your hands up
  • Document all actions taken by staff
  • File report according to policy

Staff members should be familiar with definitions of weapons within their institution’s policies.