Emergency Management Framework and Evacuations

Emergency Management Framework

Harvard University’s schools, departments, and senior leadership maintain a variety of emergency management plans that are designed to provide the framework for managing incidents, no matter the type, scale or complexity. While these plans do not cover every conceivable contingency situation, they do supply guidelines and procedures to cope with most campus emergencies.

Harvard’s emergency management structure is designed to be scalable to the needs of the emergency, consisting of school and department emergency management teams and a university-wide Crisis Management Team. School and department teams are called upon in all emergency situations to provide local leadership and implement University policies, where necessary. In the event of a campus-wide emergency, executive leadership is provided by the Crisis Management Team.

Emergency Evacuations

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.

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. For each test, the University documents a description of the exercise, the date and time, and whether it was announced or unannounced. General information about the emergency response and evacuation procedures is publicized each year in conjunction with at least one test per calendar 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.harvard.edu/emergency and www.ehs.harvard.edu.