While it is impossible to predict every emergency that could occur, the following information offers a general guide to help you plan ahead and understand how the University communicates with students and parents when emergencies and critical incidents occur. The Parent FAQ provides an important overview.
The University of Virginia has compiled this Student Safety Guide which lists numerous resources that the University and community make available to help keep students safe. It is important that you talk to your student about the increased responsibility for personal safety that she or he will assume while living in Charlottesville.
Education is a core mission of the Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness. This begins for your student in his or her Summer Orientation and Resource Fair, where the Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness is available to answer any questions you or your student may have. At that time, students are given a list of items to consider compiling or purchasing to stock their Emergency Go Bags. These "Go Bags" are distributed to every first year resident upon their arrival in the fall.
Once on Grounds, students are required to participated in their residence hall's orientation. This orientation session includes a presentation by the Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the University Police Department. Throughout the year, several university departments including the Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Vice President for Student Affairs, and the Chief of Police will communicate with your student regarding safety measures and alerts.
The University uses multiple means to communicate emergency hazards that pose imminent danger:
- U.Va. Alerts distributes SMS text message or email. You may be added to your student's alert account, but he or she must sign you up. Ask your son or daughter to do so.
- Alertus Desktop Notification software has been installed on all classroom computers and is available for students and others on the U.Va. network to install on their personal desktop/laptop.
- An outdoor siren and public address system reaches persons outside through areas of central Grounds.
- LED and LCD screens display alert messages in the larger classrooms and in common areas.
- The University's Emergency Page (this website; www.virginia.edu/emergency) will display the most official, detailed, and current information regarding an emergency. The University's homepage (www.virginia.edu) will display only high level emergency information. Schedule changes will be posted on the Operations Status Board.
Regional Hazard Awareness
As a University, we plan for all hazards. That planning starts with an understanding of the likely hazards we face as a community. Our student population comes from across the world, so the risks and hazards you are familiar with may be different from risks and hazards of the Charlottesville area. There is a wide range of potential hazards, but research has shown us that the most likely in this area are severe thunderstorms, winter weather, earthquakes, or other "man made" hazards such as fires or hazardous materials spills.
While Charlottesville enjoys a generally mild climate, the area has from time to time been affected by hurricanes, tornadoes, winter storms, and other forms of severe weather. University-wide cancelation of classes is rare, but if students have questions, the two best sources of information are the Operations Status Board, where schedule changes are posted, and the inclement weather telephone lines: 434.924.SNOW (7669) and 434.243.SNOW (7669). While these phone numbers are based on snow, they will be updated with any changes due to inclement weather.
The University takes fire safety very seriously. The Fire Safety Program strives to identify and minimize those conditions or actions that may encourage fires to start and spread. 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, radiators, furnaces, hot water heaters, etc.). The University also works closely with the Charlottesville Fire Department, which provides 24/7 paid fire and advanced emergency medical response to the university from three stations located strategically throughout the city.
Another hazard the University has focused significant planning efforts on is the pandemic flu outbreak. Like many businesses and other organizations in the United States and around the world, the University has taken a comprehensive look at how this health emergency may affect day-to-day operations. The University remains vigilant; reviewing and updating our comprehensive plan for responding to pandemics and continue to monitor the situation. We work closely with the state and local health departments and our regional partners in the City and County. If you would like to learn more on pandemic flu, the Centers for Disease Control offer a useful site.
Are You Ready?
Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared and could make all the difference when seconds count. New or returning students can take actions now to minimize the impact of an emergent situation. We urge every member of the University to take the following steps to prepare for an emergency:
- Get a Kit – Gather personal emergency supplies in a portable container and include unique items you may need, such as prescription medication.
- Make a Plan – Plan in advance how your student will contact you, options for meeting; and what you will do in different situations.
- Be Informed – Learn about the potential emergencies that could happen in the U.Va. community, the appropriate way to respond to them, and where to get up-to-date information.
Practicing our plans and procedures improves our performance. The Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness works internally with University departments and offices, and externally with our community partners to exercise against various scenarios on a frequent basis. We test our communication systems and drill our processes regularly as well. We are committed to making the University of Virginia resilient in the face of natural, man-made, and hazardous materials incidents. Your student plays an important role in this goal. We ask for your support in engaging your student in the preparedness process; a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.