Emergency Evacuation Plan: Risk Management - Northwestern University

Northwestern University is committed to providing the highest level of preparedness and emergency response for faculty, students, staff, and visitors. To obtain our goal, a number of organizations are involved in emergency planning and response for the Northwestern community. Each organization has a different focus and role, but all work together as a team to reach the same goal: Protecting the lives and safety of faculty, students, staff and visitors and providing for the continuity of essential functions when faced with a crisis. University Police and Risk Management have developed plans to assist your office in safety preparation for an evacuation, controlled evacuation, shelter-in-place or lock-down. This document should be used as a refresher on how to establish sound emergency planning and effective response practices for your office or department. In high hazard buildings where several departments co-exist, there are Safety Committees to ensure that all departments work together during an emergency.

Safety Awareness

This section provides information relating to the steps your office or department should take to ensure a safe and secure work place. Emergency Action Planning (EAP) includes four major life safety procedures: evacuation, controlled evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lock down. The Office of Risk Management is responsible for coordination of evacuation and shelter-in–place used during fire and environmental events. University Police is responsible for the coordination of lock down and controlled evacuation procedures primarily used during armed intruder threats. Please review the procedures to ensure your staff is aware of their responsibilities, when called upon to act.


It is required of all departments to have an evacuation plan, which explains the emergency systems and evacuation procedures. This document is to be readily available and provide information such as emergency telephone numbers, evacuation personnel duties, designated meeting points, and building information, such as whether the building has an automatic sprinkler system, smoke detection, and manual alarm pull stations. There is a designated building manager for all buildings on campus who serves as the key contact during an emergency.


Buildings on both campuses have a notification system for emergency evacuation. In most buildings this is a fire alarm system. The systems are different depending on the building. Some systems sound only an alarm while others give voice evacuation directions or announcements about the situation. At all times, when the alarm system sounds and or voice command for evacuation is sounded everyone must leave the building or move to a safe location.

In addition, University Police may use the University mass notification system to send emergency notifications to community members. The notifications will be dependent on risk evaluations and response level assessed by first responders, and may vary based on the situation. If notified of an emergency via Blackboard Connect, please respond adequately and appropriately. Members of the community are advised to follow emergency action plan procedures, unless instructed otherwise via emergency notification.

During a controlled evacuation, members of the community will receive one or multiple notifications based on the threat and response level. Please take all emergency notifications seriously as the threat may be within or outside the building.


Evacuation is total building or partial building evacuation due to conditions making it no longer safe to remain inside a building or a specific area in a building. This level of evacuation requires occupants to move out and away from the building being evacuated.

Controlled Evacuation

Controlled evacuation is total building or partial building evacuation due to safety conditions or an armed intruder making it no longer safe to remain inside a building or a specific area in a building. This level of evacuation requires occupants to move out and away from the building once notified by University Police via the Blackboard Connect mass notification system.


Shelter-in-place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there; it does not mean sealing off your entire office. Shelter-in-place is used in emergency situations where hazardous materials have been released into the atmosphere or in emergencies related to civil unrest or violent demonstrations.

Lock Down

Lockdown is the temporary sheltering technique utilized to limit exposure to an "Armed Intruder" or similar incident. When alerted, occupants of a building within the area of concern will lock all doors and windows, not allowing entry or exit to anyone until the all clear have been sounded. If you are in a ground floor office or common area, take precautions and move away from glass windows or doors and seek shelter in a locked room or office.

As a facility or office manager, you are responsible for numerous daily tasks as well as emergency planning and preparedness activities. The Office of Risk Management, upon request, will provide technical planning assistance or answer any questions regarding emergency action plans. Please call 847- 491-3266 if you have any questions. If you have any questions regarding lock down procedures, please call University Police at 312-503-8314 for consultation.

Below are template evacuation plans. These should be customized to the individual building and department. Also review the Evacuation Personnel Duties webpage. For assistance or any questions about the fire safety systems in the buildings call or e-mail Risk Management.

Evacuation drills should be conducted annually to ensure that all elements of the plan could be conducted. The Office of Risk Management will coordinate and evaluate the evacuation drill per request. Call 491-3266 or e-mail: j-perkins@northwestern.edu.

Use the Template Evacuation Plan to coordinate emergency procedures for your office: