Category Archives: Drills

Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill Tomorrow

Don’t forget that tomorrow, October 18th at 10:18 AM, NOVA will participate in The Great SouthEast ShakeOut Regional Earthquake Drill.

What do I do?

An announcement will be made on October 18th at 10:18 AM to kickoff this drill.  Once the announcement is made, you should DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON!

The Timeline will be as follows:

10:18   An announcement will be made that the Drill is starting: “This is the start of the Regional Earthquake Drill, please DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON!”

At this time, you should:

  • DROP down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down.
  • COVER your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.
    • If you are in danger from falling objects, and you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table.
    • If there is low furniture or an interior wall or corner nearby, and the path is clear, these may also provide some additional cover.
  • HOLD ON to any sturdy covering so you can move with it until the shaking stops. Stay where you are 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 comer of the building.
    • If getting safely to the floor to take cover won’t be possible: identify an inside comer of the room away from windows and objects that could fall on you.
    • The Earthquake Alliance advises getting as low as possible to the floor. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.

10:24   An announcement will be made that the Earthquake Drill is over:  “The Earthquake Drill is over, please evacuate your building.”  At this time, evacuate the building and report to your assembly point.  Persons with disabilities should seek assistance in evacuations.

10:40   No announcement will be made, but the Drill has officially concluded.  You should re-enter your building and go back to your office or continue class as scheduled.

Note: Mobility challenged individuals are encouraged to do the following:

  • If you are in a wheelchair: Lock your wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops and always protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, book, or whatever may be available.
  • Practice your Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan during the evacuation phase of this Drill.
  • Relocate to an Area of Assistance (if you are on a floor that does not exit directly outdoors) and wait there until the Drill is complete.
  • Please refer to the Emergency Action Plan for more information.

Make a Fire Escape Plan

Your ability to get out of your home during a fire depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning.

Plan Ahead! If a fire breaks out in your home, you may have only a few minutes to get out safely once the smoke alarm sounds. Everyone needs to know what to do and where to go if there is a fire.

  • Draw a map of your home. Show all doors and windows. Download a grid here.
  • Visit each room. Find two ways out.
  • All windows and doors should open easily. You should be able to use them to get outside.
  • Make sure your home has smoke alarms. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Push the test button to make sure each alarm is working.
  • Choose a meeting place outside in front of your home. This is where everyone can meet once they’ve escaped and where firefighters can see you and know you are out.
  • Make sure your house or building number can be seen from the street.
  • Talk about your plan with everyone in your home.
  • Close doors behind you as you escape. This may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire.
  • Practice your home fire drill twice a year at night and during the day with everyone in your home. Practice using different ways out and teach children how to escape on their own in case an adult can’t help them.

For more detailed information on creating a home fire escape plan, please visit

Make a Family Emergency Communications Plan

Creating your Family Emergency Communication Plan starts with one simple question: “What if?”

“What if something happens and I’m not with my family?” “Will I be able to reach them?” “How will I know they are safe?” “How can I let them know I’m OK?” During a disaster, you will need to send and receive information from your family.

Communication networks, such as mobile phones and computers, could be unreliable during disasters, and electricity could be disrupted. Planning in advance will help ensure that all the members of your household know how to reach each other and where to meet up in an emergency. Planning starts with three easy steps:

Step 1: Collect – Create a paper copy of the contact information for your family and other important people/offices, such as medical facilities, doctors, schools, or service providers.

Step 2: Share – Download and fill out the Family Emergency Communication Plan Fillable Card Template. When printed, it folds in a wallet-sized card for everyone in your family to carry in his or her backpack, purse, or wallet. You should also post a copy in a central location in your home, such as your refrigerator. First responders are actually trained to look on your refrigerator for this information!

Step 3: Practice – Have regular household meetings to review and practice your plan.

For more detailed information and tips for completing these steps, download the Family Emergency Communication Guide and learn how to keep your family prepared.

NOVA Warden Program

Did you know NOVA has a warden program that assists you with evacuation and shelter coordination during emergencies?

The NOVA warden program is made up of dedicated faculty and staff who receive specialized training to assist building occupants—you— through emergency evacuation and sheltering. They have a designated command structure for clear communication and state-of-the-art radios assist them with communicating directly so information is not delayed. In the event of an emergency situation, students, faculty, and staff should follow their directions. You will see the wardens wearing orange safety vests.

Are you a faculty or staff member who wants to help contribute to a safe NOVA community? If so, think about joining your campus warden team. Wardens are appointed by the Provost of each campus and trained through the Office of Emergency Management and Safety.

Wardens serve as a valuable resource and contribute to the overall safety and emergency preparedness of the NOVA community.  Although they play an important role in the safe evacuation and sheltering, they are not expected to replace or act as first response emergency services personnel, or jeopardize their own personal safety at any time.

Evacuate or Shelter

Many different types of emergencies may occur here at the College, such as fire, power failure, tornado warnings, hazardous material spills, earthquakes, and many more. While the College lists procedures you should take in each of those scenarios, you may initially be unsure whether to evacuate or shelter in place.

Despite what emergency that may occur, knowing when to evacuate and shelter can help you though most emergencies on campus.


Evacuation means to leave the space where you are presently located because something potential dangerous is occurring. An alarm or alert may instruct you to evacuate a building, an area, or the entire campus. Examples of situations where you may need to evacuate are: fire or suspected fire, hazardous material spill, after an earthquake, extended power outage, and as instructed by authorities.

When there is an order to evacuate the building or a fire alarm is sounding:

  • Immediately stop what you are doing. Remain calm.
  • If time, conditions and safety permit, take important personal items with you (i.e. car keys, purse, medication, glasses, etc.). Leave everything else and close the door behind you.
  • Walk directly to the nearest exit. Always know at least two exits out of a building in case one is obstructed. Move quickly; however, do not run, push or crowd.
  • If smoke is present, stay low and crawl to your exit. Do NOT use elevators. Do NOT open a hot door.
  • Once outside, move quickly away from the building and to an Assembly Area, unless otherwise instructed. Follow directions from College Police, wardens, and first responders.


For some emergencies, evacuating the building can put you at greater risk than staying put. In these situations, you should shelter in place. Examples of situations where you may need to shelter are: tornado warning, exterior hazardous materials, severe weather or flooding, and as instructed by authorities.

In general, when there’s an order to shelter in place:

  • Go immediately to:
    • The nearest Severe Weather Shelter Area
    • An appropriate area that will provide protection – harden structure, interior rooms or hallways, areas free of windows or glass, at the lowest level possible in the building
  • Go to the center of the room, away from corners, doors and outside walls.
  • If possible, get under a sturdy table. Use your arms to protect your head and neck. Protect your body from flying debris with any available furniture or sturdy equipment.
  • Wait for an “all clear” to exit the room or building.

Some emergencies (such as active shooter and bomb threats) are dependent on the situation and may include both evacuation and shelter orders. It is strongly recommended you read the College Emergency Action Plan (EAP) to become familiar with detailed emergency procedures for different scenarios that will require you to evacuate or shelter. The EAP can be found at: