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Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Working closely with University Police, the Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness (OSEP) champions a strong commitment to personal preparedness planning and education. The University enjoys a close partnership with the city of Charlottesville and county of Albemarle in the emergency preparedness arena, together assessing vulnerabilities to natural, human, epidemic, and terrorist hazards, assuring an appropriate response is planned for such events.

It is impossible to predict every emergency that could occur. The following information is offered as a general guide for you to plan ahead, prepare your student, and know in advance how the University communicates with students and parents when emergencies and critical incidents occur.

Regional Hazard Awareness

The University plans for all hazards. With a student population that comes from across the world, the risks and hazards familiar to some parents may be different from those of the Charlottesville area. A wide range of potential hazards exists, but the most likely are hurricanes and high wind storms, severe winter weather, and structure fires.

Severe Weather

While Charlottesville enjoys a generally mild climate, the area from time to time has been affected by hurricanes, tornadoes, and other forms of severe weather.

University-wide cancellation of classes is rare, but if students have questions, the best source of information is the University's Emergency home page at www.virginia.edu/emergency. The University Hotlines also are used for communication during any form of inclement weather. Those numbers are 434.924.7669 (SNOW) and 434.243.7669 (SNOW). Notices about a change in operating schedule will be sent to University email accounts.

Structure Fires

Through training programs, University staff, faculty, and students are educated on fire-safe practices. Talk to your student about taking fire safety seriously. Students should always evacuate buildings when they hear a fire alarm; identify emergency exits in living areas, classrooms, and libraries; and keep combustibles (pictures, posters, bulletin boards) away from all heating sources (e.g., stoves, fireplaces, furnaces, hot water heaters, etc.).

Are You Ready?

Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared. New or returning students should take the following actions to minimize the impact of an emergent situation:

Get a Kit

While the University plans to maintain essential support services for students following a disaster, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may take time to be restored. An emergency kit can make the wait for those services to be restored more tolerable. See the sidebar for supplies to include.

Items for Your Student's Emergency Kit

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask
  • Moist towelettes
  • Rain poncho or large garbage bag
  • Prescription medications (at least a three-day supply)
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses, if applicable
  • Copies of important documents, such as the communications plan and driver's license
  • Bottle of water and non-perishable snacks
  • Some cash

Make a Plan

Students and parents should plan for the unexpected by creating personal emergency plans. The University will respond quickly in an event, but students will be best served by having individual plans to take care of themselves for a brief period of time.

All students, especially international students, should think about what their alternatives are if the University were forced to evacuate during a hurricane, or if a pandemic were to lead to the cancellation of classes and closure of the University. Staying with friends or relatives in another part of the country may be an option to explore in advance, especially if travel abroad is restricted during a large-scale crisis.

  • Communication Plan: Work with your student to create a plan that outlines how you will contact each other.
  • Technology does have limitations. Students are asked to contact home as soon as possible following a critical incident and advise you of their status. After that, they are asked to minimize the use of their phones to allow for telecommunication system use by emergency responders.
  • Identify an out-of-state contact to receive and relay messages among family members, since it may be easier to make a long-distance telephone call.
  • Add a list of important family contact information to keep in the emergency kit.
  • Include a prepaid phone calling card to use to call the emergency contact. Identify landline phones. Emergency landlines are located within each residential area.
  • Have your student add "In Case of Emergency" (ICE) numbers to her or his cell phone; for example, ICE Mom or ICE Dad. Medical professionals often look for ICE contacts in patient cell phones to assist in contacting family members when it is most needed.

Ready.gov provides a simple template to help you record your communications plan at www.ready.gov/make-a-plan.

  • Emergency Procedures: Knowing what to do in specific emergency situations is important. A quick reference poster, available on the Emergency Preparedness website, lists basic steps to shelter-in-place and evacuate, as well as incident-specific instructions.
  • Critical Incident Management Plan: The University acts immediately in response to emergency situations using the Critical Incident Management Plan (CIMP). The CIMP is activated when an emergency affecting the University reaches proportions that cannot be handled by established measures. The CIMP is flexible to accommodate contingencies of all types, magnitude, and duration.

Stay Informed

Accurate information about impending or actual threats or emergencies can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Emergency Notification: The University employs a range of technologies to help alert the community to emergency situations as quickly as possible. Emergency alerts are reserved for critical incidents that pose an imminent threat to the health and safety of the UVA community. Your student may be alerted in several ways:

  • Fire alarm
  • Siren
  • UVA Alerts (text and email notification, if registered)
  • University email
  • LCD, LED, and desktop displays
  • Public address system annoucements (where available)
  • Altertus desktop notifications, available with registration by student

Encourage your student to sign up for UVA Alerts (see the website for how parents can be signed up).

Situation Updates: During an emergency, the best action is to check the University’s emergency website, www.virginia.edu/emergency, where you will see the most up-to-date information. The University's home page will be accessible at www.virginia.edu if the emergency website is disrupted for any reason.

Key staff and student leaders, such as the Resident Staff, also will be equipped to communicate directly with students. All available forms of communication will be used to convey needed information to students.

To keep parents informed, the vice president and chief student affairs officer will communicate with you on health and emergency issues.

UVA Alerts

Sign up at www.virginia.edu/uvaalerts. All students are encouraged to sign up. Students can add a parent phone number and multiple email addresses as additional message recipients.

Student Involvement

After Move-In Day, each residence hall holds an orientation period, which includes a discussion of emergency preparedness and safety topics. Copies of the Emergency Procedures poster are posted in every residence hall. The Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness offers additional guidance and suggestions throughout the year on the Emergency Preparedness website.

Several student groups are engaged in areas of emergency preparedness and response, both on Grounds and in the community. Students interested in becoming involved will have ample opportunities to learn more about these groups at the beginning of the school year.