Emergency Management Plan and Evacuations

Emergency Management Plan

Harvard University’s Emergency Management Plan (the “Plan”) is designed to provide a resource for our faculty, students and staff.  While the Plan does not cover every conceivable contingency situation, it does supply basic guidelines to cope with most campus emergencies.


All administrators, including those with responsibilities for and over the operational areas specified in the Plan, are expected to adhere to these guidelines.  University officials responsible for directing and/or coordinating emergency operations may approve exception(s) to these crisis management procedures as required for a particular emergency response.

Emergency evacuation plans have been created for buildings on campus as well as for major outdoor areas of campus such as the Harvard Yard and the Business School campus.  Building evacuation drills are conducted throughout campus annually in dormitories, academic, and office buildings. Evacuation drills are both announced and unannounced based on building occupancy.  Each drill is documented including its date, time, location and any pertinent information that will help improve future evacuations.  Building evacuation maps are posted prominently within each building.


Emergency Evacuations

During the Evacuation:

When a fire alarm is activated, everyone must evacuate.  Stop what you are doing immediately and head toward an emergency exit. Do not delay evacuation. Occupants should shut their doors behind them as they leave. Follow exit signs to nearest fire stairwell or exit discharge; do not use elevators. Once outside, occupants are required to report to their emergency evacuation meeting location to be accounted for. Occupants must follow instructions of HUPD and the Fire Department, as they are legally in charge of the building during their response to the alarm. Occupants with disabilities or other special needs who require additional assistance may shelter in place if in a fully sprinkled building, conduct a horizontal evacuation to a safer area on the same floor, or shelter in a fire-rated stair well.  First responders should be informed as to the location within the building of any occupants in need of assistance.  Once the building has been cleared, occupants will be permitted to re-enter.


When Evacuation is Not Possible

In a fire or fire alarm situation, always check doors to see if they are hot or warm to the touch before you open them. If heat or smoke prevents you from evacuating, return to your room and use towels or other cloth items to seal around the door. Hang a white object in the window and reclose the window (if it opens) as much as possible. Do not reopen your window (if it opens) unless forced to do so by smoke. After you have sealed your door, immediately call 911 and advise emergency responders of your location and situation. Wait for help to arrive.


Sheltering In Place

Because sheltering in place may be the protective action recommendation for several emergencies with differing risks, and because sometimes the initial recommendation is to shelter in place followed by relocation, there is no single set of shelter in place procedures. Based on the type of emergency, such as Tornado, Hostile Intruder, or Hazardous Material Release Outside, you should consult each relevant section for guidance.

Emergencies change as they progress. The questions to ask yourself are:

Am I safer inside or outside? Where am I safest inside? Where am I safest outside?


Post Incident:

At the completion of the incident, the Fire/Rescue Department or other appropriate emergency official(s) should release the building to the facility leadership. The facility should be pronounced all clear, or clear with conditions for re-occupancy. The facility leadership should then communicate the all clear or the clear with conditions to the area entrance monitors in person. It is recommended that facility managers also communicate the reason the fire alarm/emergency evacuation occurred to help increase occupant awareness in the building. 


Additional Drills and Exercises

In conjunction with other emergency agencies, the University conducts numerous emergency response exercises each year, including table top and field exercises.  Monthly testing of the Emergency Notification System is also conducted.  These tests are designed to assess and evaluate the emergency response plans and capabilities of the institution.  These tests may be announced or unannounced.  General information about the emergency response and evacuation procedures is publicized each year as part of the University’s Clery Act compliance efforts.  More information on the University’s emergency preparedness and response efforts as well as evacuation guidance can be found at www.ehs.harvard.edu.