Get Rhetty: Prepare for an Emergency

On this page:

Rhett BU MascotStudents, faculty, staff, and parents can find emergency preparedness tools, training, and information here.

Crisis Action Team members should go to the Crisis Action Team page.

Find out who to contact in the case of an emergency. In case of an emergency dial 617-353-2121 on the Charles River Campus and 617-638-4444 on the Medical Campus.

Emergency Prep for BU Students, Faculty & Staff

Carry your BU Terrier card with you at all times for identification and access to streets and buildings.

At the beginning of each semester, make sure to familiarize yourself with:

  • Your classroom, office, and/or workspace
  • The location of the closest emergency equipment (fire extinguishers, AEDs, first aid kits, etc.)
  • Two emergency exit routes out of the building
  • Evacuation routes and emergency plans
  • RACE and
  • What “shelter in place” means and the BU Shelter in Place Procedures

Staff should also familiarize themselves with their department’s Continuity of Operations plans.

Prepare Before Emergencies

The best way to stay safe during an emergency is to prepare beforehand. Take these steps to ensure you are ready for a variety of incidents you might experience while on campus.

I. Introduction

An efficient emergency response relies on everyone doing their part. The entire BU community should be familiar with basic emergency response, initial actions to take, and who to notify. Managing Emergencies training is a highly interactive training and is broken down into two courses:

  • BU Managing Emergencies: This course pertains to everyone in the BU community. It discusses each type of emergency you may encounter. It covers initial actions, proper notifications, and other useful tools. Basic emergency response phases and actions are also outlined. There is a quiz at the end of the course that may be required at the discretion of your supervisor.
  • Managing Emergencies for Command Staff and Crisis Action Teams: This course is more specific in nature and is meant for those who actually serve a defined role in emergency response. This course discusses topics such as emergency command structure and specific roles and responsibilities. It also provides links to websites, videos, etc., that are very useful for emergency response teams.
II. Accessing the Training

If you have access to any courses in Blackboard Learn, you already have access to the first course. Managing Emergencies is the featured course you will see in a box in the left upper corner of the screen.

  1. Go to learn.bu.edu, log in, and click the “All Blackboard Courses” tab.
  2. Click “Take the Course.
  3. Click “Enroll” on the bottom left of the screen.

To access the second course Managing Emergencies for Command Staff and Crisis Action Teams, you must be enrolled (see next section of this document “Enrolling in Courses”). Once you are enrolled, follow the steps below:

  1. Click the “My Blackboard Learn Courses” tab.
  2. Find and click “Managing Emergencies for Command Staff and Crisis Action Teams” from your course list.
III. Enrolling in Courses

If you do not have a Blackboard Learn account, please email ithelp@bu.edu to be enrolled for general access in the learning management system. Supervisors who would like their whole group enrolled should have the following information available for each student.

  • Last name
  • First name
  • BU login name
  • BU ID

Crisis Action Teams and Command Staff will obtain access through the Emergency Management division of Environmental Health & Safety.

IV. Problems/Concerns

If you have any issues enrolling, please contact the IT Help Desk via ithelp@bu.edu or by calling 353-HELP.

If you have questions/comments on the training content itself, please contact samorash@bu.edu.

Plan with your roommates and family: what to do, how to find each other, and how to communicate.

The Emergency Management Department urges students, faculty, and staff to make a plan during Emergency Preparedness Month. It is important to develop a Personal Emergency Plan that outlines what you will do, how you will find each other, and how you will communicate in an emergency or disaster. Taking the time before the next disaster to develop and practice your Emergency Plan will help keep you and your family safe, protect your property, and build your community’s resilience.

A Personal Emergency Plan should include:
Meeting Locations
  • Select two meeting locations. Choose one location close to your residence and another farther away in case you need to evacuate or can’t return to the area.
An Emergency Contact Plan
  • Ask an out-of-state friend or relative to serve as your emergency contact. After a disaster, it is sometimes easier to call long distance to unaffected areas.
  • Provide every roommate or family member with the name, address, and phone number of the emergency contact and make sure everyone has a cell phone or a prepaid phone card.
  • Inform your emergency contact of any roommate’s or family member’s special needs or medical issues.
  • List emergency contacts in cell phones as “ICE” (in case of emergency), which will make it easier for first responders, health workers, or emergency management personnel to contact the right person in an emergency.
  • Plan how you will communicate if cellular phones and landline phones are inoperable:
    • Teach all roommates and family members how to communicate via text messaging. Text messages often will be delivered even when cellular systems are overloaded and phone calls will not go through.
    • Learn how to communicate via social media platforms: social media can be used to let friends and family members know your location and status.
    • Use the interactive American Red Cross Safe and Well website to register yourself as “safe and well” or search for friends and family members after a disaster.
Evacuation Plans
  • Your Personal Emergency Plan should include an evacuation plan, and you should practice how you will evacuate your residence in an emergency.
  • Establish possible evacuation routes that you may use to leave your community during an emergency. Talk to your local emergency management director to learn about your community’s evacuation routes.
  • Identify available modes of transportation:
    • Make arrangements with roommates, family, neighbors, friends, or your local government if you don’t have personal transportation.
    • If you need transportation assistance, contact local emergency management or public safety officials to make arrangements.
Shelter in Place Plans

Because it may be safer to remain within your home during an emergency, your Personal Emergency Plan should include instructions for sheltering in place.

  • Designate a safe room within your home. This room should have:
    • As few windows and doors as possible
    • Access to television, radio, and telephones
  • Ensure you have necessary supplies and can access your emergency kit.
  • If you receive medical treatment or home healthcare services, work with your medical provider to determine how to maintain care and service if you are unable to leave your home for a period of time.
  • Review tips to safely shelter in place.
Considerations for Roommates and Family Members with Access and Functional Needs, and Pets

Plan for everyone in your household, including individuals with access and functional needs, seniors, children, and pets.

Find additional information about BU Emergency Management and Preparedness.


Emergency supplies will help sustain you and your family during disasters.

Having an emergency kit in your dorm room, apartment, or home is an essential component of personal and family preparedness. Emergency kits should include essential items that will help sustain you and your family for up to three days in the event you are isolated in your residence without power during a disaster.

While it is important to customize your kit to meet your unique needs and your family’s, every emergency kit should include bottled water, food, a flashlight, a radio and extra batteries, a first aid kit, sanitation items, and clothing. Depending on your family’s needs, emergency kits should also include medications, extra eyeglasses, medical equipment and supplies, children’s items such as diapers and formula, food and supplies for pets and service animals, and other items you or your family members might need during a disaster.

Key Items to Include in Your Emergency Kit
  • Water: At least a three-day supply of bottled water (one gallon per person/per day) and water purification tablets
  • Food: At least a three-day supply of nonperishable foods that do not need to be cooked or heated, such as ready-to-eat canned meats, juice, protein or granola bars, cereal, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, baby food, and comfort foods
  • Tools and Supplies: Manual can opener, radio (battery-powered or hand crank), flashlight or lantern, extra batteries, cell phone with charger, wrench, pliers, and other basic tools
  • Personal Items: Prescription and over-the-counter medications (two-week supply), personal hygiene items, eyeglasses, contact lenses, dentures, extra batteries and supplies for medical equipment, extra clothes, and sturdy shoes
  • Pets: Collar, leash, harness, crate, food, bowls, medication, current photo, and license and medical information
  • Documents: Insurance policies, bank account records, identification cards (IDs), medical information, contact information for family members and close friends, and copies of other important documents
  • Money: Extra cash and traveler’s checks (banks may not be open and ATMs may not work during a power outage)
  • Other Items: First aid kit, emergency whistle, waterproof matches/lighter, local area maps, diapers, wipes, formula, and baby food and supplies (if needed)
Also consider adding
  • A watch or clock
  • Household chlorine bleach, which can serve as an emergency disinfectant
  • Camp stove or grill with fuel or canned heat, neither of which should be used indoors
  • Disposable plates, cups, and utensils
  • Duct tape, plastic sheeting, or tarp
  • Seasonal items to protect against the elements
  • Books, games, puzzles, and other comfort items
  • Sleeping bags or blankets

A complete printer-friendly list of supplies for emergency kits is available at: Emergency Kit Checklist.

Check your kit at least annually for food, water, batteries, or other items that may need to be replaced or have expired. Also consider building a mobile “go-bag” that includes key items in your emergency kit to take with you in case you need to evacuate to a shelter or other location.

For additional information about BU Emergency Management and Preparedness, go to BU Emergency Management.

You should also be prepared for specific types of emergencies.

Introduction: This document does not replace training. Active shooter situations vary from building to building and even room to room. This document provides the basic concepts you should remember and also includes tools to assist faculty and staff to assess their areas, and self-drill its occupants.

Preparing for an Active Shooter
  • Faculty and staff should start with some type of training.
  • COME UP WITH A PLAN for each area you occupy:
    • Have an escape route in mind
    • Assess vulnerable areas in the office, such as at a photocopier
    • Look for hiding places near all locations you work during the day
    • Locate potential weapons in each location
    • Report any suspicious activity to BU Police
  • Share the PLAN with those you are responsible for
  • Periodically use the Self-Assessment/Drill Template to test occupants
During an Active Shooter Event, Remember the 3 Steps
  1. Run/Escape
    • Have an escape route in mind
    • Help and warn others
    • Leave your belongings behind
    • Get out of the area
  2. Hide/Find Shelter
    • Stay out of view
    • Lock and barricade doors
    • Silence your phone
  3. Fight/Take Action
    • Act decisively
    • Improvise weapons
    • DO NOT HESITATE! COMMIT EVERYTHING TO YOUR ACTIONS!
Self-Drill Activities

Now that you are trained you can further preparedness as a whole by using these activities with those you are responsible for. There are many things your school or office can do internally to prepare for this type of event:

Activity 1

After taking training, ask everyone to go back to their work area and find a hiding spot and a backup hiding spot. Identify one person to walk around as the assailant searching for people. Identify objects you can use to help barricade the door.

This will help you identify vulnerable areas.

Activity 2

After taking training, ask everyone to go back to their work area and meet back with a weapon of any kind that they would have access to.

Activity 3

With the overall plan in mind, set scenarios specific to everyone’s work area and vulnerable areas. Ask employees what they would do in the situation.


Boston University comprises more than 350 buildings. As such there is no single assembly location. Larger buildings have a predesignated rally point as part of their evacuation plans. 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 (CRC)

  • George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Avenue
  • Track & Tennis Center, 100 Ashford Street
  • Case Center Gyms, 285 Babcock Street
  • Agganis Arena and Fitness & Recreation Center, 925 & 915 Commonwealth Avenue

Medical Campus (BUMC)

  • Hiebert Lounge, Instructional Building, 72 East Concord Street
  • 670 Albany Street Auditorium
  • Keefer Auditorium, 75 East Newton Street, E Building
  • Bakst Auditorium, 72 East Concord Street
  • School of Public Health Auditorium, Evans Basement, 85 East Newton Street

In addition to the general fire evacuation plan (RACE), Environmental Health & Safety has created building-specific evacuation plans for many buildings on both the Charles River Campus (CRC) and the Boston University Medical Campus (BUMC).

Additional evacuation information can be found by viewing the CRC or BUMC Emergency Flip Charts.  These documents provide information on how to respond to and who to contact for specific emergency situations.

Boston University Medical Campus also provides new employees with ID-sized RACE plans that should be worn with your employee ID card. This card has important phone numbers as well as a description of the RACE steps.

For additional emergency evacuation procedures and planning, please contact Environmental Health & Safety at the Charles River Campus, 617-353-4094, or at the Boston University Medical Center, 617-638-8830.


Evacuation floor maps have been created and posted in all University and hospital buildings to act as an aid in the event of an evacuation. The floor maps show primary and secondary means of egress and the locations of fire extinguishers and fire alarm pull stations. In buildings that contain laboratories, safety showers and eyewash stations are also shown on the floor plans. On BMC inpatient floors, the maps also show smoke separations to aid in horizontal evacuation if necessary. Become familiar with the layout of your building in the event of a real emergency.

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Boston University has developed building-specific evacuation plans for larger buildings to ensure a complete understanding of procedures to follow when there is a situation leading up to the possibility of an evacuation.

Potential evacuation could be caused by, but not limited to: fire, biological threat, bomb threat, flood, gas leak, or building system malfunctions. Evacuation is mandatory when the fire alarm system for the building is activated, or initiated by the Boston University Police Department (BUPD), BUMC Public Safety, Boston Police Department (BPD), Boston Fire Department (BFD), or other recognized authorities.

An effective evacuation requires the cooperative efforts of various departments and city agencies, including Facilities Management & Planning, Boston University Police and/or BUMC Public Safety, Environmental Health & Safety, Boston Fire Department, and Boston Police Department. A cooperative effort is also necessary from the building occupants. This plan assigns duties and responsibilities to particular individuals involved with the evacuation process, which is critical to a quick and smooth evacuation.

The plan also describes the fire alarm system and egress routes to educate building occupants and those involved in emergency evacuation.

This plan contains emergency phone numbers, many of which can be found in the Safety/Emergency Instruction chart mounted on the wall in the main administrative area of each department. The emergency chart contains basic instructions for various safety scenarios including fire, bomb threat, and natural disaster.



Our world is affected, either positively or negatively, by weather. In general, we anticipate types of weather based on our climate and season of the year. Normal weather patterns produce normal weather events. However, it is the abnormal weather events, and the potential for increasing changes, that cause us concern.

Changes in our climate affect our environment and can impact our operations. We have undertaken an effort to proactively plan for our response to such changes. We have identified three main hazards associated with the changing climate and will adjust our severe weather plans accordingly:

  • Flooding from sea level rise, storm surges, and heavy rain events
  • Heat from increased intensity and duration of extreme heat events
  • Severe Weather from high winds to increased intensity of hurricanes, blizzards, snow and ice events, sustained rainstorms, or tornadoes

Most of these events will give us some warning of their onset. The Emergency Management Department monitors weather from a variety of sources and, when necessary, notifies the appropriate University officials to discuss the weather impact and associated response actions.

Boston University has been a StormReady Community since 2010 and is recognized for our commitment to preparedness, our outstanding communication systems, and for keeping Boston University students, faculty, and staff safe.

Preparing for the Seasons:

Summer & Fall


Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE ) is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Initial symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103º to 106ºF), stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy, and in severe cases can progress to confusion, disorientation, and coma. EEE is a serious disease in all ages and can even cause death.

West Nile virus (WNV) can infect people of all ages; people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. When present, WNV symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, more severe illness can occur.

Zika virus disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week, and many people do not have symptoms or will have only mild symptoms. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects. A pregnant woman can pass Zika to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Also, a person with Zika can pass it to his or her sex partners. We encourage people who have traveled to or live in places with Zika to protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.

For more information about Zika virus disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control Zika section.

People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes:

Avoid Mosquito Bites
  • Apply insect repellent when outdoors.
  • Be aware of peak mosquito hours (dusk to dawn).
  • Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. Wearing long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

EPA tips on preventing mosquito bites

CDC tips on preventing mosquito bites

Mosquito-Proof Your Home
  • Drain standing water.
  • Install or repair screens.
Protect Your Animals

Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, troughs, and wading pools—especially after heavy rains.

Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. If an animal is diagnosed with WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to the Division of Animal Health (DAR) by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800.

Winter

A winter storm in New England can range from a moderate snowfall over a few hours to a chilling Nor’easter, bringing blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow that lasts several days. People can become stranded in their automobiles or trapped at home without utilities or other services. The aftermath of a winter storm can have an impact on a community or the entire region for days, weeks, or even months. Storm effects, in New England, include large snow accumulation, extremely cold temperatures, heavy, wet snow or icing on trees and power lines, roof collapses, coastal flooding, and beach erosion.

Winter storms are also deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the actual storm. The major causes are automobile or other transportation accidents, exhaustion and heart attacks caused by overexertion, "freezing to death," and asphyxiation from improper heating sources. House fires occur more frequently in the winter due to lack of proper safety precautions when using alternate heating sources, like unattended fires and space heaters.

See winter weather safety tips on ready.gov

Get power outage safety tips on ready.gov


Always check with your local police, fire, or park department to ensure that safe ice conditions exist. However, due to the uncertainty and constant changing of ice conditions and the dangers presented, many departments will not endorse the safety of lakes, ponds, streams, or rivers. The strength and thickness of ice should be known before any activity takes place.

See ice safety tips on mass.gov

What Is Extreme Cold?

Extreme cold is generally defined as a prolonged period of excessively cold weather.

Why Prepare?

Winter in Massachusetts almost always includes periods of extreme cold weather. Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and has the potential to become life-threatening. Although anyone can suffer from cold-related health issues, some people are at greater risk than others, such as older adults, young children, those who are sick, and those without adequate shelter. To reduce the risks of extreme cold conditions, take the proper safety precautions to protect yourself and your family.

The National Weather Service issues wind chill advisories and warnings to alert the public of potential extreme temperatures.

Wind Chill Advisory

Wind chill index between -15°F and -24°F for at least three hours.

Wind Chill Warning

Wind chill index below -25°F for at least three hours.

During Extreme Cold Weather
  • Continue to monitor the media for emergency information.
  • Follow instructions from public safety officials.
  • Minimize outdoor activities for the whole family.
  • Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing instead of a single heavy layer. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat, mittens (not gloves), and sturdy waterproof boots to protect your extremities. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • Take recommended safety precautions when using space heaters, a fireplace, or a woodstove to heat your home. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Make sure emergency generators or secondary heating systems are well ventilated.
  • If you lose heating, move into a single room. Seal off unused areas by stuffing towels against the cracks under the doors, and at night cover windows with extra blankets or sheets.
  • Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of newspapers covered in plastic to prevent them from freezing. Let a trickle of warm water run from a faucet to keep water moving through your pipes.
  • If your pipes freeze, remove any insulation, pour hot water over them or wrap them with towels soaked in hot water, and completely open all faucets. You can also use a hair dryer, with caution, to thaw pipes. Never use an open flame to thaw pipes.
  • Know the symptoms of and watch out for cold-related illnesses. Call 9-1-1 to report emergencies.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, and those who may need additional assistance.

Spring

While severe weather may occur at any time of the year, there are some types of severe weather that are more commonly thought of as occurring in the spring time. They may seem unlikely to happen and affect you wherever you may be.

What Are Floods?

Flooding is an overflow of water that can range from a few inches deep to fully submerging entire buildings. Flooding can occur when rivers and lakes cannot contain excessive rain or snow melt, rain cannot be absorbed fully into the ground, waterways overflow due to debris or ice, winds from storms cause storm surge in coastal areas, or water containment systems (such as levees, dams, pipes) break.

Why Prepare?

Flooding is the most common hazard in Massachusetts. Some floods develop slowly, while flash floods can occur within minutes or hours after a storm or containment system breaks.

Flooding is a leading cause of death in many disasters. Learn how to prepare for a flood, stay safe during a flood, and protect your health when you return home after a flood.

The National Weather Service issues flood watches and warnings to alert the public of potential severe weather. It is important to understand the difference between a watch and a warning so you know what to do to stay safe:

Flood Watch or Flash Flood Watch

Flooding or flash flooding in your area is possible. Pay attention to changing weather and flood conditions, and be prepared to move to higher ground.

Flood Warning

Flooding is occurring or about to occur. Avoid low-lying areas and if necessary, evacuate.

Flash Flood Warning

A flash flood is occurring or about to occur. Seek higher ground immediately.

Before a Flood
  • Listen to alerts, warnings, and public safety information before, during, and after emergencies.
  • Find out whether your property is in a flood-prone or high-risk area. Explore the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood maps.
  • Create and review your family plan:
    • Have a plan to go to higher ground quickly if necessary.
    • If you live or work in a flood zone or an area that is prone to flooding, you should be prepared to evacuate.
  • Assemble an emergency kit; Rhett tells you how to do this on the Rhett Ready page.
  • Make a record of your personal property by taking photos or videos of your belongings. Store these records in a safe place.
  • Prepare your home for flooding.

See flood safety tips on mass.gov

Tornadoes are nature's most violent storms, with whirling winds that can reach 300 mph. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. The intensity of a tornado is measured by the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale).

Although severe tornadoes are rare in Massachusetts, in recent years we have experienced a number of tornadic events, with the 2011 Greater Springfield tornado being the most prominent. Therefore, it is important that all residents of the Commonwealth learn how to take safety precautions to avoid injury and minimize property damage if your area is impacted by a tornado.

See tornado safety tips on mass.gov

A thunderstorm comes from rain-bearing clouds that also produce thunder and lightning. All thunderstorms produce lightning and therefore are dangerous. A thunderstorm is classified as a severe thunderstorm when it contains large (at least one inch) hail and/or winds of 58 mph or greater. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be affected by lightning, which can strike up to 10 miles ahead of or trailing a storm. Thunderstorms can occur by themselves, in clusters, or in lines. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and produces heavy rain for 30 minutes to an hour.

Thunderstorms are very common in the spring and summer months throughout Massachusetts, with 10–30 days of thunderstorms each year. Thunderstorms can be extremely destructive and can produce lightning, hail, high winds, flash floods, or tornadoes.

See thunderstorm & lightning safety tips on mass.gov

Natural Disasters

Being Prepared for an Earthquake
  • Become aware of fire evacuation and safety plans for all of the buildings you occupy regularly.
  • Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace, and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you.
  • Practice “drop, cover and hold on” in each safe place. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
  • Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed in case the earthquake strikes in the middle of the night.
  • Bolt bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall studs.
  • Hang heavy items away from commonly occupied areas.
  • Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Large or heavy items should be closest to the floor.
  • Keep and maintain an emergency supplies kit. For more information, Click HERE for a complete list of supplies for your emergency kit.
During the Earthquake

If you are inside, stay inside. DO NOT run outside or to other rooms during shaking.

In most situations, you will reduce your chance of injury from falling objects and even building collapse if you immediately:

  • DROP down onto your hands and knees before the earthquake knocks you down. This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
  • COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under the shelter of a sturdy table, desk, or near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops.

Drop cover hold on Earthquake graphic

DO NOT stand in a doorway. You are safer under a table. In most situations doorways are no stronger than any other part of the building. The doorway does not protect you from the most likely source of injury−falling or flying objects. Most earthquake-related injuries and deaths are caused by falling or flying objects (e.g., TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases) or by being knocked to the ground.

Additional Actions to Reduce Risk of Injury
  • If possible, within the few seconds before shaking intensifies, quickly move away from glass and hanging objects, and bookcases, china cabinets, or other large furniture that could fall. Watch for falling objects such as bricks from fireplaces and chimneys, light fixtures, wall hangings, high shelves, and cabinets with doors that could swing open.
  • If available nearby, grab something to shield your head and face from falling debris and broken glass.

Evacuate the building when told to do so by Emergency Personnel. Report to your designated meeting area.

Additional Resources


It is important that laboratories using hazardous materials plan accordingly prior to any type of potential natural disaster. This is not always possible in cases such as earthquakes.

Laboratories should pay attention to alerts and advisories sent out by Environmental Health & Safety (EHS). This procedure outlines basic precautions that labs should take prior, during, and after a natural disaster.

Laboratory Experiments
  • Complete all running experiments and do not begin any new experiments that would require attention during an evacuation period or while a warning is in place. Important Researchers should protect all of their work prior to a natural disaster. Even with emergency generators, there is the chance of a failure in long-term events. Other than electricity, there is also the chance of other utility failures such as HVAC, potable water, sanitary sewer, etc.
Hazardous Materials (chemical, biological, radiological)
  • Ensure all hazardous material and waste containers are clearly labeled and tightly closed. Hazard warning labels may be critical during post-disaster response.
  • Materials that are volatile, toxic, infectious, or pose a respiratory hazard must be
    stored in tightly sealed impervious and impact-resistant containers that are secured.
  • Move all chemicals to appropriate storage locations.
  • Store water-reactive chemicals in tightly sealed, waterproof containers.
  • Place flammable materials in approved flammable cabinets.
  • Remove chemicals from upper shelves and limit storage on bench tops.
  • Ensure gas cylinders are capped and secured to a permanent fixture using a cylinder strap or chain.
  • Do not store any hazardous materials on the floor due to the possibility of flooding.
  • Secure research animals.
  • Secure radioisotopes.
Chemical Fume Hoods and Biosafety Cabinets
  • Remove all hazardous materials from fume hoods and BSCs and secure in appropriate storage areas.
  • Close sashes completely. If the building experiences a complete loss of power, fume hoods and BSCs will become inoperable.
Other Laboratory Equipment
  • Unplug all nonessential equipment.
  • Consider protecting sensitive equipment in the event of a power surge.
  • Move equipment as far from windows as possible.
  • Ensure essential equipment is plugged into emergency power (red outlets).
Data
  • Backup important computer files.
  • Store important documents in water-impenetrable containers, and store away from possible flooding areas.
Laboratory Security
  • Close and lock all laboratory doors.
  • Avoid obstructing egresses and hallways.
  • Ensure you have an up-to-date phone tree of all lab personnel.
  • Ensure emergency contact information is updated and posted on your laboratory door sign.
Post-Natural Disaster
  • Once notified by emergency responders you may enter the building, you should conduct an in-depth walk-through of all lab areas.
  • Report any unsafe findings to EHS.

NOTE: Similar steps should be taken to secure lab prior to vacations or anytime the lab will be vacant for extended periods of time.



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."

Shelter in place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. It does not mean sealing off your entire home or office building. If you are told to shelter in place, follow the instructions provided here, which we have formulated from the American Red Cross.

Why You Might Need to Shelter in Place: Chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants may be released accidentally or intentionally into the environment. Should this occur, information will be provided by local authorities on television and radio stations on how to protect you and your family.

Because information will most likely be provided on television and radio, it is important to keep a TV or radio on, even during the workday. The important thing is for you to follow instructions of University and/or local authorities and know what to do if they advise you to shelter in place.

Local officials on the scene are the best source of information for your particular situation. Following their instructions during and after emergencies regarding sheltering, food, water, and cleanup methods is your safest choice.

Remember that instructions to shelter in place are usually provided for durations of a few hours, not days or weeks. There is little danger that the room in which you are taking shelter will run out of oxygen and you will suffocate.


If a shelter in place order is given while you’re at school, there are some actions that you should take, which will be different based on your role. As a professor with a class in session, you may be asked to provide leadership in moving students to an interior location and communicating your situation to the administration. As a student, you may be asked to assist the professor and administration with implementing the shelter in place order and following instructions. Here are some important things to remember once a shelter in place order has been given:

  • Follow reverse evacuation procedures to bring students, faculty, and staff indoors.
  • If there are visitors in the building, provide for their safety by asking them to stay—not leave. When authorities provide directions to shelter in place, they want everyone to take those steps now, where they are, and not drive or walk outdoors.
  • If students have cell phones, allow them to use them to call a parent or guardian to let them know that they have been asked to remain in school until further notice, and that they are safe.
  • Close and lock all windows, exterior doors, and any other openings to the outside.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, direct that window shades, blinds, or curtains be closed.
  • Have employees familiar with your building’s mechanical systems turn off all fans and heating and air conditioning systems. Some systems automatically provide for exchange of inside air with outside air—these systems, in particular, need to be turned off, sealed, or disabled.
  • Select interior room(s) above the ground floor, with the fewest windows or vents. The room(s) should have adequate space for everyone to be able to sit in. Avoid overcrowding by selecting several rooms if necessary. Classrooms may be used if there are no windows or the windows are sealed and cannot be opened. Large storage closets, utility rooms, meeting rooms, and even a gymnasium without exterior windows will also work well.
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room(s) you select. Call emergency contacts and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
  • Bring everyone into the room. Shut and lock the door.
  • Write down the names of everyone in the room, and call your school’s designated emergency contact to report who is in the room with you.
  • Listen for an official announcement from school officials via the public address system, and stay where you are until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.


At work may mean different things to different people. You might be a member of the University’s staff or a Work-Study student in one of our many offices. Or you might be working in one of the many businesses around the campus. Even if you work far from Boston University or Boston Medical Center, there are some common actions you should take when a shelter in place order is given.

  • Close the office, operation, or business.
  • Bring everyone into the room(s). Shut and lock the door(s).
  • If there are students, staff, customers, clients, or visitors in the building, provide for their safety by asking them to stay—not leave. When authorities provide directions to shelter in place, they want everyone to take those steps now, where they are, and not drive or walk outdoors.
  • Unless there is an imminent threat, ask employees, customers, clients, and visitors to call their emergency contact to let them know where they are and that they are safe.
  • Turn on call-forwarding or alternative telephone answering systems or services. If the business has voice mail or an automated attendant, change the recording to indicate that the business is closed, and that staff and visitors are remaining in the building until authorities advise it is safe to leave.
  • Close and lock all windows, exterior doors, and any other openings to the outside.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
  • Have employees familiar with your building’s mechanical systems turn off all fans and heating and air conditioning systems. Some systems automatically provide for exchange of inside air with outside air—these systems, in particular, need to be turned off, sealed, or disabled.
  • Gather essential disaster supplies, such as nonperishable food, bottled water, battery-powered radios, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and plastic garbage bags.
  • Select interior room(s) above the ground floor, with the fewest windows or vents. The room(s) should have adequate space for everyone to be able to sit in. Avoid overcrowding by selecting several rooms if necessary. Large storage closets, utility rooms, pantries, and copy and conference rooms without exterior windows will work well. Avoid selecting a room with mechanical equipment like ventilation blowers or pipes, because this equipment may not be able to be sealed from the outdoors.
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room(s) you select. Call emergency contacts and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
  • Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal all cracks around the door(s) and any vents into the room.
  • Write down the names of everyone in the room, and call the University’s Command Center (or your business’ designated emergency contact) to report who is in the room with you, and their affiliation with your business (employee, visitor, client, customer).
  • Keep listening to the radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.


If you are driving a vehicle and hear advice to “shelter in place” on the radio, take these steps:

  • If you are very close to home, your office, or a public building, go there immediately and go inside. Follow the shelter in place recommendations for the place you pick described above.
  • If you are unable to get to a home or office or building quickly and safely, then pull over to the side of the road. Stop your vehicle in the safest place possible. If it is sunny outside, it is preferable to stop under a bridge or in a shady spot, to avoid being overheated.
  • Turn off the engine.
  • Close windows and vents.
  • If possible, seal the heating/air conditioning vents with duct tape.
  • Listen to the radio regularly for updated advice and instructions.
  • Stay where you are until you are told it is safe to get back on the road. Be aware that some roads may be closed or traffic detoured. Follow the directions of law enforcement officials.

  • Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
  • Turn off all fans and heating and air conditioning systems. • Close the fireplace damper.
  • Get your family disaster supplies kit and make sure the radio is working.
  • Go to an interior room without windows that's above ground level. In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.
  • Bring your pets with you, and be sure to bring additional food and water supplies for them.
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room you select. Call your emergency contact and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
  • Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.
  • Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.


Emergency Prep for Parents

Parents play an important role in the Boston University community and BU is committed to providing a safe campus environment for all members of the University community. This mission is achieved by active participation by all University members, campus resources, and our community partners. We recommend that you take this time as an opportunity to protect your family with a communication plan.

Boston University works closely with the Boston Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (BOEM) and the Boston Fire Department. University officials, including Public 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.

Response Plans