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Glossary of Terms

All Northwestern community members should familiarize themselves with the following list of emergency terms. These official terms are used by the University to communicate with the community in an emergency.

Active Shooter

An individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people with the use of a firearm in a confined and/or populated area.

Active Threat

An incident that is dynamic and quickly evolving, which involves an individual(s) who presents a potential imminent danger to people by making threats, and/or shows intent to cause harm or perform violence, and/or displays a weapon or uses deadly physical force, including but not limited to firearms, bladed weapons, or a vehicle.

For example: person(s) intentionally driving a vehicle into a crowd of people.


Notice to members of the Northwestern community of an immediate or imminent life safety threat believed to be occurring on or near campus that requires immediate action, such as an active aggressor. The alert is sent via one or more communication channels (email, text, phone, digital screens, web).

All Clear

A notification that the emergency or dangerous situation has ended.


Use of an object or objects to:

  • Prevent the advance of an offender
  • Deny access to an offender (e.g., reinforcing a door)
  • Implement distance between you and an offender
  • Divert the direction of travel of an offender

Examples include: Using heavy furniture, such as desks, tables, or bookshelves, to block doors or windows; using belts, cords, or ropes to secure doors; using small devices or wedges to secure doors from the inside.

Crime Notice

Notice issued for Clery Act reportable crimes occurring on Clery Act Geography when it is determined there could be a serious or continuing threat to the safety of the campus community. The purpose of issuing a Crime Notice is to give members of the campus community information that will allow them to protect their personal safety and aid in the prevention of similar crimes. More information about the Clery Act can be found on the University Police website.


A natural, technological, or human-caused occurrence that may cause harm and that may require action.

Examples include: natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes), accidents (e.g., chemical spills, vehicle crashes), public health emergencies (e.g., pandemics), security threats (e.g., terrorism), and other crises that disrupt the normal course of affairs.

Near Campus

An area, building, or property adjacent to or within reasonable proximity to an “On Campus” location. These may include:

  • Evanston Clark Street Beach
  • 200 block of E. Chestnut St., North of the University Chestnut Parking Garage

On Campus

A building or property the University owns or controls that is in a location considered and treated by students and employees as part of the campus. This determination is made on a case-by-case basis by taking into consideration the circumstances of the campus and the location.

These may include:

  • University property (anywhere)
  • University-owned student housing
  • Public property within campus bounds
  • Public property immediately adjacent to the campus
  • Non-campus buildings and property owned or controlled by an outside organization that are used for Northwestern educational purposes and frequently used by students but not a part of the core campus, or those owned or controlled by a student organization officially recognized by the Northwestern.

Police Activity

Significant activities conducted by either uniformed or plainclothes members of law enforcement who are empowered by State statute or local ordinance to enforce laws.

Examples include: police responding to a vehicle accident with serious injury or a structural fire.

Precautionary Safety Measures

Strategies initiated and designed to reduce the risk of accidents, harm, or injury.

Examples include: avoiding walking or parking in shadowed areas, being alert to what and who is around you, being aware of the locations of the blue light emergency callboxes throughout campus.

Proper Shelter

A physical structure that provides security, personal safety, and protection from the elements or an ongoing incident.

Examples include: a building or office with a closed door, large furniture such as cabinets or desks.

Run, Hide, Fight

Three distinct tactics Northwestern community members should consider to keep themselves and others safe during an active threat, when instructed to do so by the University:

  • Run – If you decide to run, run away from the shooter, or follow your route to safety. Help others, if you can, but keep moving. When it is safe to do so, call 911 from a cell or campus phone.
  • Hide – If you cannot run, shelter in place. Lock and/or barricade doors, draw blinds, turn off lights, silence your cell phone, and remain there until you receive official notification(s) from the University. Do not huddle together; instead, spread out. If you need to plan or coordinate with other people, talk softly. Keep others calm and remain so yourself. Again, when it is safe to do so, call 911.
  • Fight – As a last resort, if running and hiding are not an option, fight when your life is in imminent danger. Assume a survival mindset and know that active violence situations are often over in a few minutes. Find objects to use as weapons – such as a fire extinguisher, bottle, or backpack. Develop a plan with others to take down the shooter. Be decisive and commit to action. After the aggressor is subdued, call 911.
Learn more about Run, Hide, Fight. Learning these principles will help prepare and empower community members to put them into practice—and survive—should an Active Violence situation occur.