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Know What to Do


There are three main protective actions that you may be required to perform during an emergency: secure-in-place, shelter-in-place, and evacuation. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with these protective actions, making sure you know how and when to perform each:

You should also discuss how you would perform all three protective actions with your household, coworkers, family, and friends. Finally, take time to periodically practice what you would need to do to carry out each.

Protective Action Icons


When it is necessary to secure-in-place, you will be the safest by placing a locked door or other barricade between you and the associated violence or danger.

What to do:

  • If you are outside during a secure-in-place emergency you should seek cover in the nearest unlocked building.
  • If the buildings in the immediate area have exterior doors that have been locked, continue to move away from the danger, seek cover, move to another building, or leave campus if it is safe to do so.
  • Once inside, find an interior room and lock or barricade the doors.
  • To minimize vulnerability, turn off lights, silence phones, draw blinds, and move away from windows.
  • Await further instruction from VT Alerts and emergency personnel.
  • Do not leave until an "All Clear" is received.

If there is any doubt about the safety of the individuals inside the room or building, the area needs to remain secure. Allowing someone to enter a secure location may endanger you and others. Use good judgement. If there are individuals outside the secured door who wish to get in, several factors should be considered to determine if it is safe:

  • Can you see the area outside the door to determine that someone is not lying in wait? Is it a trap?
  • If a physical description of the subject was given in the secure-in-place alert, consider similarities such as age, race, clothing description, height, weight, sex, and hair and eye color.

If the decision is made to let a person in, consider the following:

  • Have the person leave anything he or she is carrying (a backpack, laptop case, package, etc.) on the ground, outside of the secure area.
  • Have the subject lift up his or her shirt, coat, and/or jacket until the waistline is visible and rotate 360 degrees to see if he or she is concealing a weapon.

Remember, always use good judgement. There are exceptions to all guidance and prescribed directions.


Shelter-in-place events are usually weather related emergencies. When it is necessary to shelter-in-place, you will be safest by moving inside to a building space that protects you from the danger. Do not lock doors behind you as others may also need to shelter-in-place.

What to do:

  • Remain calm
  • Immediately seek shelter inside the closest sturdy building. Do not wait until you physically see a tornado or severe weather event to react.
  • Resist the temptation to go outside and check the weather conditions yourself.
  • Once inside, stay away from windows, glass, and unsecured objects that may fall.
  • Seek shelter in interior rooms and corridors.
  • Avoid large free-standing expanses such as auditoriums and gymnasiums.
  • Do not use elevators.
  • Await further instruction from VT Alerts and emergency personnel.
  • Do not leave until an “All Clear” is received.

During a tornado, seek shelter on the lowest level possible. If warranted, consider crouching near the floor and seeking additional shelter under a sturdy desk or table, or cover your head with your hands.

Remember, always use good judgement. There are exceptions to all guidance and prescribed directions.


Determine in advance your nearest exit and emergency evacuation route. Establish an alternative way out in case the nearest exit is blocked or unsafe.

What to do:

  • If time and conditions permit, secure your workplace and take with you important personal items such as your keys, purse, medication, or eye glasses.
  • Follow instructions from emergency personnel.
  • Check doors for heat before opening. Do not open a door if it feels hot.
  • Walk – do not run. Do not push or crowd.
  • Keep noise to a minimum, so you can hear emergency instructions.
  • Use handrails in stairwells, and stay to the right.
  • Assist people with disabilities.
  • Move quickly away from the building.
  • Head to your assembly point, unless otherwise instructed.
  • Watch for falling glass and other debris.
  • Keep roadways and walkways clear for emergency vehicles.
  • If you have relocated away from the building, do not return until notified that it is safe to do so.

Note that it may or may not be wise to exit during an emergency. If the hazard is outdoors, it may be safer to shelter-in-place or just move to another part of the building. If there is a fire, leave immediately. Emergency response personnel may advise you which to do — evacuate or shelter-in-place — but if they don’t, let common sense be your guide.

Evacuate individuals with special needs

To help prepare for emergencies, consult the Checklist for Planning Help in an Evacuation

  • Students with limitations that should be accommodated in an evacuation should contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 540-231-3788 (V) or 540-231-1740 (TTY). 
  • Employees with limitations that should be accommodated in an evacuation should contact Human Resources at 540-231-9331(V) or 540-231-7227 (TTY).

Most individuals with visual impairment will be familiar with their immediate work area. In an emergency situation:

  • Announce the type of emergency.
  • Offer your arm for guidance.
  • Tell the person where you are going, obstacles you encounter.
  • When you reach safety, ask if further help is needed.

Because individuals with hearing impairment may not perceive emergency alarms, an alternative way to warn them is required:

  • Turn lights on/off to gain the person’s attention, or
  • Indicate through gestures what is happening and what to do.
  • Write a note with evacuation directions, such as: "Fire. Go out rear door to the right and down, NOW!"

To evacuate persons using crutches, canes, or walkers:

  • Evacuate these individuals as injured persons.
  • Assist and accompany to evacuation site if possible, or
  • Use a sturdy chair (or one with wheels) to move the person, or
  • Help carry the individual to safety.

If immediate evacuation is necessary, be aware of the following considerations:

  • Non-ambulatory persons’ needs and preferences vary. Individuals at ground-floor locations may exit without help. Others have minimal ability to move. Remember: lifting may be dangerous to you or to them.
  • Non-ambulatory persons may have respiratory complications. Remove them from smoke or fumes immediately and determine their needs and preferences. Those with electrical respirators should get priority assistance.
  • In a life-threatening emergency, it may be necessary to remove an individual from the wheelchair. Lifting a person with minimal ability to move may be dangerous.
  • Normally, wheelchairs should not be taken down stairs. Consult with the person to determine the best carry options, and reunite the person with the chair as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Wheelchairs are awkward and have movable parts. Some of them are not designed to withstand stress or lifting.

Do not put yourself or others in danger. If you cannot safely evacuate people, get them to a stairwell or other easily identified “protected” location and notify emergency responders as soon as possible of the individuals’ situations and location.