Employee Safety Handbook: Risk Management - Northwestern University

This web page provides a quick reference to important safety information. For more detailed safety information concerning your workplace, consult your supervisor or contact the Office of Risk Management.

Emergency contacts:

A printable version of the handbook is also available.

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Emergency Procedures

Northwestern University's ability to address emergencies depends on the cooperation and participation of all members of the community. Three key components of the University's efforts to better prepare for an emergency have been reviewed and updated since September 11, 2001.

The first of these components is the Emergency Response Framework, which identifies key decision makers and their roles during a campus emergency. The plan also describes procedures that will be utilized during specifically identified severities of emergency. The plan is available at:


The second component is the Building Emergency Plan. Each building on both campuses has a designated building manager who is responsible for developing an emergency plan and making sure that all employees working in the building have a complete understanding of the evacuation process. The building manager is also responsible for coordinating an evacuation drill with the Office of Risk Management.

The final component is this document. The Emergency Response Framework calls upon all employees to be familiar with the Employee Safety Handbook.

Before an Emergency Occurs:

Emergency Evacuation Plan

Each department is required to develop an individual emergency evacuation plan. This plan is supplemental to this handbook and provides building specific information. The evacuation plan must contain the following information:

For every building on campus there is a designated building manager who serves as the key communication contact during an emergency.

In high-hazard buildings, where several departments coexist, there are safety committees to ensure that all departments work together during an emergency evacuation.


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 has 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.

Facility or office managers 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.


If you discover a fire, an explosion, or smoke in a building, activate the fire alarm system immediately at the nearest fire alarm pull station to evacuate the building (see “Evacuation Procedures” below).

After sounding the fire alarm, call 911 from a safe location. Provide the building name, address, floor, room number, and any known special hazards at the location. Do not assume that someone else has called.

If the fire is in an unoccupied room, try to close the door to retard the spread of smoke and heat; do not take any unnecessary risks in doing this.

Only if the fire is small and you have received University training in fire extinguisher operation should you attempt to extinguish the fire; do not take any unnecessary risks in doing this.

When University Police and/or fire fighters arrive, direct them to the fire.

Evacuation Procedures

Evacuation of Persons with Disabilities

Fire Extinguishers

Fire Doors and Stairways

Clothing Fires

Gas Leaks

Gas leaks can be very dangerous, possibly resulting in a deadly fire or explosion, so be sure to know the signs of a gas leak and what to do in an emergency. There are three ways in which you can detect a gas leak:

  1. Smell: Natural gas is injected with a distinct odor, which many people equate to that of rotten eggs. Contact Nicor Gas for a scratch 'n' sniff card with this scent.
  2. Sight: Visible blowing dirt, bubbling water or discolored vegetation near a buried natural gas line.
  3. Sound: A hissing or blowing sound near the gas meter or gas appliances.

If you suspect that gas is leaking, follow these steps:

Emergency Procedures

  1. Exit the building or area immediately, leaving doors and windows open as you exit. Do not open windows if they are not already open. Do not use your telephone or cell phone, operate any appliance, light a match or turn light switches on or off.
  2. Call 911 from a neighboring location.
  3. Wait at the neighboring location until Univeraity Police determines it is safe to return.

Hazardous Materials Release

If you discover a hazardous biological, chemical, or radioactive release or spill, immediately evacuate the area. If the spill creates a risk of or causes fire, explosion, or injury, call 911. All hazardous material releases should be reported to University Police by calling 456 and asking them to contact the Office of Research Safety.

Power Outage

In the event of a power outage most University buildings have generators or batteries that will provide power for the fire alarm system and emergency lighting. However, it may be difficult to see well enough to maneuver. Consider keeping a flashlight where it can be easily found in the dark or using a plug-in battery-operated emergency light.


Each elevator is equipped with an emergency telephone, which is directly connected to University Police. If you are trapped in an elevator, use the emergency telephone. You do not need to dial; it will ring automatically at University Police. To help locate you and restart the elevator, some elevator cabs have been numbered; the number is located on the panel above the telephone. If you become trapped in an elevator, notify University Police and tell them the number of your elevator cab or describe your location as clearly as possible.

If an elevator does not seem to be operating properly, call Facilities Management during business hours. For emergency problems and after business hours, call University Police, and they will page the engineer on duty.

Tornadoes and Severe Thunderstorms

A tornado watch is when conditions are favorable for tornadoes. You may continue normal activities, but supervisors should assign someone to monitor the situation and notify others in the building if storm conditions deteriorate.

A tornado warning is when a tornado is occurring in the area. Seek shelter immediately! If you are inside a building, go to an interior hallway or other enclosed area on a lower floor and away from windows. Avoid auditoriums, gymnasiums, or other large rooms where roof collapse may be more likely. Seek shelter if you are outside or in a vehicle.

A severe thunderstorm watch is when conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms. You may continue normal activities, but supervisors should assign someone to monitor the situation.

A severe thunderstorm warning is when severe thunderstorms are occurring in the area. Be prepared to move to a place of shelter if threatening weather approaches. Stay indoors away from windows until the storm passes. If large hail begins to fall, seek shelter.


In the event of an earthquake there is little time to react. When you first feel shaking, immediately take cover under something sturdy — your desk, for example. If you cannot reach cover, brace yourself in an interior doorway or crouch in an interior corner away from windows, shelves, or cabinets. Do not try to get outside. If you are outside at the time of the earthquake, move away from the sides of buildings, overhead wires, or other hazards. If you are driving, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses and power lines. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. Be prepared for aftershocks.

Bomb Threat

Take any bomb threat seriously, and report it immediately to University Police. University Police will determine what corrective action to take.

If you receive a written bomb threat, do not handle it any more than necessary. Place it in an envelope to preserve possible fingerprints. If you receive a telephoned threat, note the exact time of the call and attempt to write down the exact words of the caller. Ask the caller to repeat information. Get as much information as possible by asking when the bomb is set to explode, what kind of bomb it is, where it is located, and what it looks like. If possible, signal another person and write a note explaining the call is a bomb threat. The other person can then alert University Police. Keep a “Bomb Threat Documentation Log” (http://northwestern.edu/up/crime/awareness/bomb-threats-suspicious-packages.html ) handy in your work area and utilize it to make specific notes of the threat. Give all of the information you obtain to University Police when you talk with them.

Theft and Missing Property

Theft or missing property should be reported immediately to University Police. An officer will take a report of the loss and of the circumstances surrounding the loss.

Suspicious Activity

If you see suspicious activity in your building or on/in the vicinity of campus, IMMEDIATELY report it to University Police. Don't assume someone else has called. When in doubt, call.

When contacting University Police, provide the following information:

In addition, provide a description of person(s) including:

If person(s) involved in suspicious activity are in a vehicle, provide the:

University Police will respond and investigate the reported circumstances and take action as appropriate.

Campus Security Authority (CSA) - Crime Reporting

For information on who qualifies as a CSA, see:


As part of the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Act (Clery Act), CSA's have an obligation to promptly report Clery Act qualifying crimes.

The intent of including non-law enforcement personnel in the CSA role is to acknowledge that some community members and students in particular may be hesitant about reporting crimes to the police, but may be more inclined to report incidents to other campus affiliated individuals. For more information on CSA's, including crime reporting responsibilities or to report a crime using the CSA Crime Report form, see:


The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) requires institutions of higher education to annually provide information on campus crime, safety and security policies. The Evanston/Chicago report includes fire safety information, which is required for academic institutions with residential facilities.

Crime Alerts

Crime alerts are issued in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) by Northwestern University Police. A Campus Crime Alert is posted when a Clery Act crime is reported to University Police and the crime is considered to be a serious or continuing threat to the campus community. These crimes must have occurred within those areas of the campus that are specifically defined in the Clery Act (on campus property, non-campus property owned or controlled by the University or public property bordering campus). This information is typically disseminated to campus community members via e-mail and notification on the University homepage and the University Police web site.


Sex Offender Registry

The federal Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act requires institutions of higher education to issue a statement advising campus community members where information concerning registered sex offenders may be obtained.

Persons convicted of certain sex offenses are required by law to register with the State. Information on registered sex offenders is available, for locations where Northwestern University has an established campus (excluding Qatar), at the following websites:

Illinois State Police http://www.isp.state.il.us/sor/

Illinois Child Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry Database http://www.isp.state.il.us/cmvo/

The Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website is also a source for sex offender information.


For information on registered sex offenders attending or employed at Northwestern University, on the Chicago or Evanston campus, contact the University Police Criminal Investigations and Residence Hall Security / Problem Solving Team at 847-467-0654. Information may also be obtained by contacting the local police department near the campus of interest.

Police Blotter

The Blotter, an archive of criminal and non-criminal incidents reported to University Police, is updated and published Monday - Friday. The information in the Blotter typically includes the nature, date, time, general location, and disposition of each incident, if known. An electronic copy of the Blotter is also accessible from a kiosk located in the Chicago (211 E. Superior Street) and Evanston (1819 Hinman Avenue) University Police stations. To review Blotter incidents older than the rotating 1 year period posted online, please email University Police or make your request in person at the listed Chicago or Evanston University Police station. University Police will provide requested information within 2 business days.

The Evanston Police Department Daily Crime Report is published Monday - Friday and contains information on selected criminal incidents and arrests.

Evanston Blotter: http://www.northwestern.edu/up/blotter/blotter_ev.html

Chicago Blotter: http://www.northwestern.edu/up/blotter/blotter_ch.html

Emergency Telephones

Emergency Police “Blue Light” telephones (call boxes) are situated in strategic locations on both the Chicago and Evanston campuses to quickly reach University Police to report crimes, suspicious activity, medical emergencies or concerns about your personal safety. When a person activates an emergency telephone, the location of the emergency telephone is displayed to the UP Communications Officer and a police officer is dispatched to that location. Maps of emergency telephones are available at:

Evanston Campus: http://www.northwestern.edu/up/docs/EvCampusMapCurrent.pdf

Chicago Campus: http://www.northwestern.edu/up/docs/ChCampusMapCurrent.pdf

Emergency Communications

Northwestern has several different means of communications that may be used in the event of an emergency that affects one or all of the Northwestern University campuses. These systems include an Emergency Notification System that combines phone calls, text messaging and e-mails; an outdoor alert system (Evanston campus); a bulk e-mail system; posting messages on the University's web site; and other methods of disseminating information, including but not limited to, posting fliers in public places, faxes and notifying local media. All communication /notification methods identified herein shall be considered available on all Northwestern University campuses (Chicago, Evanston, Miami, Qatar and Washington, DC) unless otherwise specifically identified as being limited to a particular campus.

Emergency Notification System

Blackboard Connect is a service provided by an outside vendor that can call, send text message and e-mail information rapidly when activated to alert community members. Because Northwestern might need to contact you before you arrive on campus in an urgent emergency situation, it is important that all possible means of contacting you at home and at work are current in the Blackboard Connect database. For instructions on how University community members can enter or update their emergency contact information: http://www.registrar.northwestern.edu/academic_records/CAESAR_emergency_contact_tips.html for students or http://www.northwestern.edu/hr/policies-forms/how-do-i/employee-self-service.html for employees. Students can also separately register Missing Person contact information at the student site noted above. Recipients are limited to those persons with a netID. The contact information is derived from the SES and HRIS systems.

Bulk Email System

Bulk Email is a service provided by Northwestern University Information Technology that can send messages to University email accounts during emergency situations.

Main Website “Breaking News”

Breaking News at http://www.northwestern.edu is a web page on the Northwestern web site that can be activated in the event of an emergency. The page will provide emergency notification information and protective action to be taken if needed.

Outdoor Alert System (Evanston campus)

The Outdoor Alert System provides the ability to broadcast live voice, emergency tones and pre-recorded voice messages to all siren locations simultaneously or to any select siren location(s). The outdoor system is designed to enable the University to communicate with those people who may be outside on the Evanston campus. It is not expected that messages broadcast via this method will be audible inside buildings on campus. The Outdoor siren system is tested on the first Tuesday of each month at 10:00 am. Installation of an outdoor alert system on the Chicago campus is not feasible at this time.

Crime Alerts

University Police issues Crime Alerts, in a timely manner, to notify community members about Clery Act qualifying crimes that pose a serious or continuing threat to Northwestern community members. Community members who know of or are advised of the occurrence of a crime or other serious incident should report that incident as soon as possible to University Police so a Crime Alert can be issued, if warranted.


All employees should heed the following steps to ensure their personal safety.

While working

While working after hours

When walking at night

Laboratory Security

Laboratory security is related to but different from laboratory safety. Security refers to measures used to control access to the laboratory in order to prevent theft of materials or equipment from the lab. Take specific actions to prevent unauthorized entry to your lab. Secure highly hazardous materials such as infectious agents, toxins, radioactive materials, acutely toxic chemicals, carcinogens, teratogens, explosive or reactive chemicals, and compressed gases against theft. Diversion of even small quantities of hazardous materials can have serious consequences when they are used for criminal or terrorist purposes. Bioterrorism regulations require compliance with stringent risk-based security requirements. One easy way to increase security is to make sure that your laboratory door is locked whenever the lab is left unattended, even for a few minutes.

Security Suggestions

Safety Inspections

Periodic and annual inspections are made by the Office of Risk Management, the Office of Research Safety, and the Evanston or Chicago Fire Departments for compliance with safety regulations. Keep your space orderly.

Medical Treatment Procedure

Whenever you encounter a person who is ill or injured, follow these steps:

Life-Threatening Injuries and Illnesses

Life-threatening conditions include severe chest pains, gunshot wounds, severe burns, hemorrhaging, severe head injuries, and open (compound) fractures, among others.

In the event of a life-threatening medical situation, call 911. Fire department paramedics will respond for treatment and transportation to a hospital emergency room.

Other Injuries and Illnesses

In you encounter an injured or ill person, help that person seek medical attention, and notify your supervisor of the incident.


For some occupations at Northwestern University, potential exposure to human blood or body fluids is predictable, almost routine—for example, health care and law enforcement personnel. For these positions, individuals are “occupationally exposed” to human blood and body fluids and therefore included within the scope of worker safety laws.

Similarly, life scientists who work with human blood, body fluids and associated pathogens (Hepatitis, Human Immunodeficiency Virus) are also occupationally exposed. Either by design, or in the course of a day's work, all “occupationally exposed” personnel at NU are entitled to training, personal protective equipment and the opportunity to receive (at no cost) the Hepatitis B vaccine (if not already vaccinated).

Northwestern University provides training and information to occupationally exposed workers based on their responsibilities and work environment.

For a cut, splash or spray, wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water. For exposures involving the eyes, flush the eyes immediately with plenty of water, holding the eyes open to allow adequate flushing. Seek immediate medical attention. For all employees, whether anticipated or accidental, provide first aid and report all exposures to human blood or body fluids to Risk Management.

If exposure should occur, the following steps should be taken:

• Employees on the Evanston campus should seek prompt evaluation from Occupational Medicine Evanston/Glenbrook Association (OMEGA) at 847-657-1700; after normal working hours, they should seek attention at the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare emergency room and identify themselves as OMEGA patients.

• Employees on the Chicago campus should call the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Employee Health HOT-LINE pager at 6-8282. Employees who are off campus can call 312-926-8282.

• If the exposed individual is an employee, the claims manager in the Office of Risk Management should be notified at 1-5582.

• Report all exposures immediately to the employee's supervisor and to the Office of Research Safety for review through an incident report form.


Chemicals play an important role in the maintenance and operation of Northwestern. These include adhesives, paints, lubricants, coolants, and a variety of cleaning products. As in our homes, these chemicals help keep Northwestern clean, warm or cool and working as we expect.

A chemical is considered “hazardous” it is inherently harmful to individuals, the environment or public health. A chemical is considered hazardous if it meets specific scientific definitions and is formally listed by a government agency. Day-to-day, any chemical labeled “caution”, “warning” or “danger” is hazardous to a lesser or greater extent.

Since the 1980's, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has required that workplaces where chemicals are used, handled or stored provide information, training and procedures to ensure that individuals, the environment and public health are adequately protected. OSHA refers to this requirement as Hazard Communication (sometimes called HazCom) as described in the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR 1910.1200).

Today, the HazCom standard has been harmonized with international requirements for chemical labeling and information. Northwestern has a HazCom program that provides information and resources to the entire NU community. The NU program includes a written program, training and assistance in chemical safety to supervisors and employees. This program is being updated in 2013.

Hazard Communication Basics

  1. Supervisors must ensure that every chemical on campus must have a manufacturer supplied label and a supplemental “Safety Data Sheet”. Safety Data Sheets may come with an order and must be kept on file. Many manufacturers keep an electronic library of sheets on their web sites.
  2. NU has a generic Safety Data Sheet system that is linked for easy use by the NU community on the Office for Research Safety Web Site.
  3. Supervisors must ensure that employees are familiar with the chemicals they work with, have appropriate personal protective equipment and can safely collect any hazardous waste they generate. This also includes how to manage spills.
  4. The Office for Research Safety can provide assistance with the University''s HazCom Program including advice, guidance and training.

The Hazard Communication Program consists of the following elements:

Safety and Crime Resources

University Police - 847-491-3456 - link

University Police has the primary responsibility for crime prevention, law enforcement, parking control, emergency response, policing of special events, and various community services on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses. University Police officers are on duty 24 hours every day, year round.

Office of Risk Management - 847-491-3253 - link

The Office of Risk Management is committed to protecting the University's physical, human, and financial assets through the procurement of insurance products, the prevention of injuries and accidents, and the advising of senior management on how best to provide future protection against key risks given the University's strategic plans.

The Office of Risk Management oversees the University's various insurance coverages, including automobile, general and professional liability, property, workers' compensation, student hospitalization, visiting scholars' health, and special events. The office also specializes in employee safety, emergency preparedness, and business continuity planning. Staffing and management of the University's insurance captive, Rubicon Insurance Company, is also provided by the Office of Risk Management.

Office of Research Safety - 847-491-5581 - link

The Office of Research Safety develops, implements, and coordinates the radiation, chemical, and biological safety programs for all research laboratories and all other areas of the University where hazardous chemicals, human blood, or other potentially infectious human materials are used. In addition to providing health and safety services, the Office of Research Safety is responsible for assuring University compliance with federal, state, and local regulations.

Facilities Management - 847-491-5201 - link

Facilities Management is a service organization committed to providing and maintaining a superior physical environment in which to further the pursuit of academic excellence in teaching and research. Facilities Management staff is responsible for the planning, construction, and renovation of University facilities and for the day-to-day operations and maintenance of buildings, grounds, and utility systems. Maintenance of buildings' infrastructure includes — but is not limited to — fire extinguishers, fire hoses, fire alarms, and fire suppression systems and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Facilities Management personnel respond to emergencies, assisting as required with building services, equipment, and evacuation.

Crime, Security and Fire Safety Reports

Annual Crime & Safety Web Page


Annual Security and Fire Safety Report: Evanston/Chicago


Annual Security Report: Miami


Annual Security Report: Qatar


Annual Security Report: Washington, DC


Annual Campus Fire Safety Report