Emergency Response FAQs

What emergency response plans are in place at Boston University?

The Boston University (BU) Emergency Response Plan (Plan) establishes a procedure for mobilizing the university’s resources and communicating with the university and external community in the event of a large-scale emergency. The plan was developed by the Emergency Response Planning Division of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) in cooperation with over a dozen departments, colleges, and offices as well as public safety agencies. It is updated annually and a campus-wide emergency response drill is conducted every 18 months to test and improve upon the plan. The plan describes three phases of emergency situations. These situations are as follows: Phase A is the initial response to a potential emergency situation or an actual event when the impact is uncertain. Phase B is an actual emergency that impacts the university and cannot be handled by on-site personnel in a routine fashion. At this phase, the Command Center may be established to bring key department representatives together to coordinate a response from a single location. Phase C is a large-scale emergency that requires the reassignment of on-duty and/or recall of off-duty personnel or contractors and transfers overall university coordination to the Command Center.

What is the best way to stay informed during an emergency?

During an emergency, periodic updates will be provided to the university community primarily through: Boston University’s home page, the main Medical Campus home page, BU Today’s web page, and Boston University’s Emergency Information Lines:

  • Charles River Campus: (617) 358-SAFE (7233)
  • Medical Campus: (617) 638-6886

For the convenience of faculty, staff, students, and parents, each line leads to a recorded message regarding status of an emergency.

Pertinent information may also be broadcast on WBUR 90.9 FM, WBZ 1030 AM, WRKO 680 AM, and WBMX 98.5 FM, as well as by TV news and internet news sites.

How would Boston University coordinate with police, fire and other local authorities during an emergency?

Boston University works closely with the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (MOEM) and the Boston Fire Department. University officials, including Pubic Safety, have participated in joint emergency response exercises and local emergency planning meetings. Boston University provides copies of the BU Emergency Response Plan to local authorities and has hosted emergency management meetings on campus. During an emergency, the BU Command Center will be in direct contact with the Boston Emergency Operations Center.

What planning has been done with respect to chemical, biological, or radiation emergencies that could impact the campus?

Boston University’s Emergency Response Plan has been designed to respond to all types of hazards and large-scale emergencies. The Plan establishes clear procedures to mobilize and coordinate university resources in all emergency situations. Emergency Response Planning division is responsible for coordinating the response to chemical, biological, or radiation releases on campus. EHS has specialists on staff with expertise in biological, chemical, and radiation safety and industrial hygiene. EHS carefully monitors new information on related types of threats and works closely with BU Public Safety, on both the Charles River Campus (CRC) and the Medical Campus (BUMC),  and the Emergency Response Team to ensure an appropriate and timely response. Local, regional, and state public safety authorities response will complement the university’s response as necessary.

What is Shelter-in-Place, and are there plans at Boston University?

Shelter-in-Place refers to a safety measure where building occupants remain inside rather than evacuating. This is sometimes the best approach to take if there is an exterior hazard, such as a weather emergency or hazardous contaminant in the air. In this type of emergency, building occupants will be advised of the risks outside and asked to remain indoors. Shelter-in-place is included in the Emergency Response Plan and the Office of Residence Life staff is familiar with the procedure. During a Shelter-in-Place event, you will be given instructions via BU Alert. BU Alert should be monitored carefully to determine when the hazard has passed and it is safe to exit the building. More detailed procedures for evacuations and Shelter-in-Place may be found on this web page under the heading Evacuation.

In an emergency that calls for evacuation, is there a location or building for students, faculty, and staff to congregate?

Boston University comprised of over 350 buildings; as such there is no single assembly location. Larger buildings have a pre-designated rally point as part of their evacuation plan. In the event of an emergency, specific information about evacuation and relocation will be provided via BU Alert, if necessary.

In certain emergencies, students, faculty, and staff may need to be temporarily relocated or provided with an assembly area. The following areas should be considered as possible emergency assembly areas:

Charles River Campus:

  • George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Avenue
  • Track & Tennis Center, 100 Ashford Street
  • Case Center Gyms, 285 Babcock Street
  • Agganis Arena & Recreation Center, 925 Commonwealth Avenue

Medical Campus:

  • Hiebert Lounge, Instructional Building
  • 670 Albany Street Auditorium
  • Keefer Auditorium

What plans are in place if a dorm or other building on campus needs to be evacuated?

Evacuation maps are posted in every building on campus. Larger buildings have a building-specific evacuation plan and smaller buildings follow the general evacuation procedures described in Emergency Flip-Charts posted in each building. The Office of Residence Life conducts fire safety awareness training for staff at the beginning of each semester. During new employee orientation, faculty and staff are familiarized with evacuation and emergency procedures. All building occupants are responsible for familiarizing themselves with evacuation procedures and identifying the routes of egress.

How have students, faculty, and staff been informed about emergency response on campus?

General information on Emergency Preparedness and Response is posted on this web site. This information includes links to key emergency planning organizations such as the Red Cross and the Department of Homeland Security. EHS makes presentations to student and faculty safety committees as well as to Residence Life staff. An Emergency Response Planning Team, consisting of over a dozen departments, meets regularly to review and update information.