Category Archives: Emergency

*Important Video* – Close Before You Doze

People 40 years ago once had an average of 17 minutes to escape a burning home after the activation of a smoke alarm. Today, that time has dropped to 3 minutes or less due to materials used in furnishings, homes incorporating more open layouts, and lightweight construction materials—all contributing to fires spreading much quicker.

One thing you can do to protect yourself is to close your bedroom door before you fall asleep. The important 5-minute video below demonstrates how a closed bedroom door can potentially save your life during a house fire.

In the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) video above, their research reveals closed bedroom doors dramatically decrease heat and CO levels versus open doors during house fires, providing trapped occupants more time to react and escape if they can do so safely.

When a fire ignites, there’s no time to act. If you would like to learn more about closing your bedroom door at night, please visit


Plan for Your Pets, Too

Remember, during a disaster what’s good for you is good for your pet, so get them ready today.

  • Create a buddy system in case you’re not home. Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your animals.
  • Identify shelters. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets.
    • Find pet friendly hotels along your evacuation route and keep a list in your pet’s emergency kit.
    • Locate boarding facilities or animal hospitals near your evacuation shelter.
    • Consider an out-of-town friend or relative
  • Locate a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter, in case your pet needs medical care. Add the contact information to your emergency kit.
  • Have your pet microchipped and make sure that you not only keep your address and phone number up-to-date, but that you also include contact info for an emergency contact outside of your immediate area.
  • Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office to get advice and information.
  • If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Find out where pet boarding facilities are located.
  • Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet’s medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current.

If you cannot evacuate:

  • Choose a safe room for riding out the storm—an interior room without windows – and take your entire family there, including your pets.
  • Stay with pets. If crated, they depend on you for food and water. Don’t leave pets in vehicles.
  • Know your pet’s hiding places. That’s where they may run; keep them with you.
  • Secure exits and cat doors so pets can’t escape into the storm.
  • Do not tranquilize your pets. They’ll need their survival instincts should the storm require that.

For more information, please visit and

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: