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 UVA Emergency Management. This begins for your student in his or her Summer Orientation and Resource Fair.
Once on Grounds, students are required to participated in their residence hall's orientation. Throughout the year, several university departments, including UVA Emergency Management, will communicate with your student regarding safety measures and alerts.
The University uses multiple means to communicate emergency hazards that pose imminent danger:
- UVA 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 UVA 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.
- Alerts are tweeted to these Twitter handles: @UVA_EM and @UVAPolice
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.
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. UVA Emergency Management 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 exercise on our emergency procedures 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.
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. A key element of personal preparedness is the creation of a disaster supplies kit. Having a few supplies on hand can make the wait for those services to be restored more tolerable. Basic items to include are a flashlight (with spare batteries), first aid kit, pre-paid calling card, and a blanket. A bottle of water and non-perishable snacks are also recommended. Remind your student to keep personal needs items in their kit such as a supply of medications for a minimum of three days or an extra pair of eyeglasses. The federal government offers many more resources online to help you and your student build an emergency kit.
Items for your student's emergency kit:
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Water (one gallon of water per person per day; unopened commercially bottled water is recommended)
- Non-perishable snacks (three-day supply)
- Prescription medications (three-day supply)
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask
- Copy of important documents, such as driver’s license and your family's emergency plan
- Moist towelettes
- Rain poncho or large garbage bag
As responsible members of the University community, students should plan for the unexpected by creating personal emergency plans. It is a good idea to talk with your student about what to do in the event of an emergency while at UVA. Students should be prepared to put their personal plans into action if the need arises. Preparation can be a valuable defense in such situations. The University will respond quickly in an event, but your student will be best served by having a plan 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.
Ready.gov has a simple template to help you record your emergency plan. http://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan
- Communications Plan - Work with your student to create a communications plan that outlines how you will contact each other.
- Technology does have limitations; therefore, we ask students to contact home as soon as possible following a critical incident and advise you of their status; after that, we ask students 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, for those times when it is not possible to communicate with family in close proximity. In emergencies it is often easier to make a long distance telephone call than a local call.
- Create a list of all important family contact information to keep in emergency kit
- Include a prepaid phone calling card or coins to use to call the emergency contact
- Add 'In Case of Emergency' (ICE) numbers to your student's 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's most needed.
- Emergency Procedures – Knowing what to do in specific emergency situations is important. UVA Emergency Management created a quick reference poster that outlines incident-specific instructions for sheltering in place and evacuation.
- Critical Incident Management Plan – The University acts immediately in response to emergency situations using the Critical Incident Management Plan (CIMP) to guide response actions. 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.
Accurate information about impending or actual threats or emergencies can literally mean the difference between life and death.
The Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer also communicates with parents on emergency-related topics. These communications occur on an as needed basis. In addition, the Division of Student Affairs through its Parents as Partners program maintains a Web site with news and information for parents and family members. The site includes links to health and safety notices sent to students by Office of Student Affairs and the UVA Police Department. Among these are timely notices about criminal activity that has occurred on or near the University Grounds. Many common safety reminders are incorporated into these messages. You can help reinforce these reminders with your student.
- Emergency Notification –The University employs a range of technological solutions to assist us in alerting 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 University community. Your student may be alerted in several ways.
- Situation Updates – During an emergency, the best source of official information will be the University's Emergency Homepage. Local television and radio stations should also be relied on in severe weather situations. High-level emergencies and related schedule information will be posted on the University's home page. Key staff and student leaders, such as the Resident Staff, will also be equipped to communicate directly with students. All available forms of communication will be used to convey needed information to students.