Campus Emergency Procedures

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Campus Emergency Procedures

Providing a safe environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors is a primary concern of NOVA. Being knowledgeable about what to do in the event of an emergency is critical. Planning and being prepared is our shared responsibility.

Emergency Plans

NOVA Police Officers are usually the first responders to incidents along with law enforcement and fire/EMS personnel from the municipality. When multiple agencies respond, the agencies work together to manage the event. The Crisis Communication Protocols provide specific information concerning the details of how NOVA manages communications during the emergency. 

Faculty and staff also provide leadership for students’ safe and efficient reaction to an emergency. The NOVA Emergency Action Plan provides faculty and staff with needed information in case of an emergency. It provides details on who to contact in the event of an emergency and the procedures to follow for a variety of incidents.

To review the specifics of NOVA’s Emergency Action Plan or Crisis Communication Protocols, click on the links to these documents:


  • Determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life and call 911 or NOVA Police at 703.764.5000.
  • Activate fire alarms. If there are no fire alarms, knock on doors and yell “FIRE” as you exit the building.
  • Call 911 if possible.
  • Feel doors with the back of your hand before opening. DO NOT open if doors are hot.
  • DO NOT use elevators.
  • If time, conditions and safety permit take your personal belongings with you.
  • Evacuate the building.
  • If clothing catches fire, STOP...DROP...ROLL.
  • Once outside, move away from the building and to a designated Assembly Area.
  • DO NOT re-enter buildings until instructed to do so.

If someone requires immediate medical attention:

  • Call or have someone else call 911 right away and report the emergency.
  • Provide first aid and medical assistance as necessary, if trained.
  • Follow instructions of the Emergency Dispatcher. DO NOT hang up until the Dispatcher ends the call.
  • DO NOT move the victim, unless they are in immediate danger.
  • If the victim is conscious, try to comfort him/her and obtain medical information (ex. medical problems, medications, etc.). Any medical information will assist medical personnel if the victim loses consciousness.
  • Have someone meet the ambulance at the building entrance or at a safe location, and direct emergency personnel to the victim.
  • Contact NOVA Police at 703.764.5000 to advise them of the situation.

Suspicious Person

  • DO NOT physically confront the person.
  • DO NOT let anyone into a locked building/office.
  • DO NOT block the person's access to an exit.
  • Call 911 or 703.764.5000. Provide as much information as possible about the person and his or her direction of travel.

Suspicious Package

  • DO NOT handle or touch the suspicious item/package.
  • DO NOT use a cell phone, radio or other transmitter.
  • Persons should be evacuated from around the item.
  • Retreat to a safe location and call Campus Police at 703.764.5000.
  • Be prepared to evacuate and take your personal belongings with you.
  • It is important that employees and students are always cognizant and do not leave brief cases, backpacks, handbags, etc. unattended. These items could be construed as suspicious and cause undue time, energy and expense to determine that the item is “safe”. They may be destroyed. 

  • Call 911 or NOVA Police at 703.764.5000.
  • DO NOT use cellular phones or two-way radios.
  • DO NOT activate the fire alarm system to evacuate.
  • Shelter in place or evacuate the building as directed.
  • DO NOT re-enter the building until cleared by authorized personnel.
  • Untrained persons should not try to rescue people.


  • If you are indoors, DROP to the floor. Stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.
  • COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture.
  • HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Don’t use a doorway except if you know that it’s a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it’s close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and don’t offer protection.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use elevators.
  • If you are outdoors, stay there. Move away from buildings, overhangs, trees and power lines to a clear area such as a large open public area or field.
  • If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings or trees.

After the Earthquake

Once the shaking stops:

  • Exit the building when safety permits and move to the designated assembly area.
  • Use emergency exit route information posted throughout the building to determine the quickest route out.
  • Expect aftershocks.
  • Only use the telephone for emergency calls.
  • Be aware that utilities such as gas, power and water lines may be damaged. If you know of damaged utilities, report the issue.
  • Wait for instructions from wardens, officials and police.

  • Move away from the site of the hazard to a safe location (up wind if possible).
  • Call 911.
  • Follow instructions of Emergency Personnel.
  • Alert others to stay clear of the area.
  • Notify Emergency Personnel if you have been exposed to the hazard or have information about its release.

  • Remain Calm.
  • Move cautiously to a lighted area. Exits may be indicated by lighted signs, if the emergency power is operating.
  • Provide assistance to others.
  • Evacuate the building only if directed to do so.
  • Exit calmly and carefully.
  • DO NOT re-enter building until authorized.
  • Monitor NOVA Alert and Media Outlets for campus closings, delays or updates.

If the area is under a Severe Weather or Tornado WARNING, seek shelter immediately. 

  • Go immediately to:
    • The nearest Severe Weather Shelter Area
    • An appropriate area that will provide protection -- closets, interior rooms, interior hallways, areas free of windows or glass.
  • Stay away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.
  • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck. Protect your body from flying debris with any available furniture or sturdy equipment.
  • If you are outside with no shelter, consider these options:
    • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If you are unable to get to a sturdy shelter, stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion, if possible.
    • If you are outside and unable to get to a car or a building for protection, move away from the tornado’s path at a right angle. If there is no time to escape, lie flat in the nearest depression (ex. ditch or ravine). Cover your head with your arms.