Category Archives: Emergency

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:

NOVA Safety Video

Today is the start of the third week of classes! By now, everyone should be settled in and feeling prepared for the great semester ahead–but do not forget to prepare yourself for emergencies as well!

At the beginning of every semester, the Office of Emergency Management and Safety challenges the entire NOVA community to watch the NOVA Safety Video and refresh yourself on emergency procedures and resources. If you have not watched the video yet, or shared it with your class, please take 10 minutes to do so now.

NOVA Alert

When was the last time you logged into NOVA Alert? At the beginning of the semester? Years ago? Never?

To receive NOVA Alerts, you must register for them! This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised of the number of students (and faculty/staff too) who show up to campus long after a NOVA Alert was sent closing a campus or entire College.

At the beginning of every semester, take a few minutes to follow the following three steps that will help ensure you receive alerts when timely and accurate information is vital.

  1. Log into with your MyNOVA account.
  2. Ensure your contact information is complete and accurate.
    • Note: By default you already have your NOVA email added to your account, but the College strongly recommends you add your personal cell phone and personal email address to ensure you receive alerts. You can even add a family member’s number/email as well!
  3. Test your ability to receive alerts by clicking the “Test” button next to each contact number and email address. This will ensure NOVA’s alert system can send you an alert.

Remember to keep your phone on and with you while on campus or in a classroom. Also, visit to learn about other methods alerts may be sent.

Be Prepared in the Heat! Know Heat-Related Illnesses

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for the NOVA service area today.  This advisory means that heat indexes will be at-or above 100 degrees for two hours or more.  People can be affected by this type of heat and it is important to know heat-related symptoms before it’s too late.

The National Weather Service has great information on their website to help keep you prepared in this hot weather –

Fire Prevention Month

Most home fires occur in the kitchen while cooking and are the leading cause of injuries from fire. Common causes of fires at night are carelessly discarded cigarettes, sparks from fireplaces without spark screens or glass doors, and heating appliances left too close to furniture or other combustibles. These fires can be particularly dangerous because they may smolder for a long period before being discovered by sleeping residents.

Home fires are preventable! The following are simple steps that each of us can take to prevent a tragedy. More information can be found at



·     Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.

·     Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.

·     Do not cook if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.

·     Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the stove.

·     Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.



·     If you smoke, smoke outside. Most home fires caused by smoking materials start inside the home. Put your cigarettes out in a can filled with sand.

·     Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out. Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.

·     Check for cigarette butts. Chairs and sofas catch on fire fast and burn fast. Don’t put ashtrays on them. Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used, even if it is turned off. Oxygen can be explosive and makes fire burn hotter and faster.

·     Be alert – don’t smoke in bed! If you are sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy, put your cigarette out first.

Electrical and Appliance Safety

·     Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.

·     Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

·     If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.

·     Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.

·     Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.

Portable Space Heaters

·     Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices.

·     Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

·     Check to make the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.

·     Check with your local fire department on the legality of kerosene heater use in your community.

·     Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene in kerosene heaters. Never overfill it. Use the heater in a well-ventilated room.


Fireplaces and Woodstoves

·     Inspect and clean woodstove pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions.

·     Never burn trash, paper, or green wood.

·     Use a fireplace screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks.

·     Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.

·     Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.



·     Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching children that fire is a tool, not a toy.

·     Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, preferably in a locked cabinet.

·     Teach children not to pick up matches or lighters they may find. Instead, they should tell an adult immediately.

·     Never leave children unattended near operating stoves or burning candles, even for a short time.

·     Check under beds and in closets for burned matches, evidence your child may be playing with fire.