Emergency Response & Evacuation Policies
The purpose of this policy is to comply with the Department of Education requirements regarding timely notice of certain events as described 20 U.S.C. s. 1092(f), known as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy, along with the Campus Crimes Statistics Act (1998). These acts along with the Higher Education Reauthorization Act (2008) require any acts which have occurred on or near campus, require campus police officers to keep the institution informed on a timely basis of crimes and other imminent threats that may require timely warning.
It is the policy of the UMass Lowell Police Department to fully comply with the provisions and intent of the “Clery Act,” in regards to the timely notification of our campus community, of any continuing threats to their safety, in order to aid in the prevention of similar occurrences.
A crisis can erupt at any time and in any form. A fire, explosion, medical epidemic, water leak, power outage, hurricane or bomb threat – the possibilities are infinite and unpredictable. Nonetheless, planning for the unpredictable does help.
University departments are responsible for developing contingency plans and continuity of operation plans for their own staff and areas of responsibility. The University conducts numerous emergency response exercises each year, such as table top exercises, field exercises and tests of the emergency notification systems on campus. These tests are designed to assess and evaluate the emergency plans and capabilities of the institution.
University Police Officers and Supervisors have received training in incident command and responding to critical incidents on campus. When a serious incident occurs that causes an immediate threat to campus, the first responders to the scene are usually University Police, EEM (Environmental and Emergency Management) and LFD (Lowell Fire Department) who typically respond and work together to manage the incident. Depending on the nature of the incident, other UMass departments and other local or federal agencies could also be involved in responding to the incident.
General information about the emergency response and evacuation procedures, the Crisis Management Plan
for UMass Lowell is publicized each year as part of the institution’s Clery Act compliance effort. The University annually reviews the Crisis Management Plan as to provide updates and ensure that the University continues to move forward and strengthen emergency response programs, policies and procedures. Please view and become familiar with UMass Lowell’s Crisis Management Plan
All members of the University community are informed on an annual basis that they are required to notify University Police of any situation or incident on campus that involves a significant emergency or dangerous situation that may involve an immediate or ongoing threat to the health and safety of students and/or employees on campus. The University Police Department has the responsibility of responding to, and summoning the necessary resources to mitigate, investigate and document any situation that may cause a significant emergency or dangerous situation. In addition, we have the responsibility to respond to such incidents to determine if the situation does in fact, pose a threat to the community. If that is the case, Federal Law requires that the institution immediately notify the campus community or the appropriate segments of the community that may be affected by the situation.
In an emergency situation, the University shall do the following:
- Determine the content of the notification and immediately notify the campus community (or a segment(s) of the campus community) upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or staff occurring on the campus, unless issuing a notification will, in the professional judgment of responsible authorities, compromise efforts to assist a victim or to contain, respond to or otherwise mitigate the emergency.
- Publicize emergency response and evacuation procedures on an annual basis in a manner designed to reach students and staff.
- Test emergency response and evacuation procedures on an annual basis.
Procedural Terms: Alert Types
There are two alert types covered by this policy, which are used to notify the campus community.
- Campus Alerts are issued to notify the campus community of imminent or ongoing threats to safety, security or health. They are disseminated with the goal of notifying as many people as possible, as rapidly as possible (i.e., active shooter, bomb threat, dangerous chemical release, etc.).
- Crime Alerts provide "timely warnings," in compliance with the Clery Act. They are issued whenever a crime or series of crimes, on campus or in the surrounding communities, is considered to pose a continuing risk to students and employees (i.e., robberies, burglary, assault, hate crime, etc.)
The safety of the students, faculty and staff is a constant priority of the UMass Lowell Police Department. The ability to quickly provide notice, accurate information and an instruction with minimum delay during an emergency is crucial. To accomplish this task, the University currently uses RaveAlert, a multi-contact communication service that allows UMass Lowell campus leaders to deliver time sensitive notifications to students, faculty and staff during unforeseen events or emergencies. These departments include:
- Chief of Police
- Deputy Chief of Police
- Director of EEM
- Director of Facilities
- Director of University Relations
This system complements the existing campus emergency response plans, which are continuously updated to be responsive to both man-made and natural disasters. University and campus leaders have integrated computer information systems with the RaveAlert system. Additionally, the University uses All Campus Alert (ACA), which is a notification portal utilizing existing emergency phones across campus for localized notification in case of an extreme emergency.
Notification to the University Community about an Immediate Threat
The decision to issue an alert shall be decided on a case-by-case basis in light of all the facts surrounding an incident or crime, including factors such as the nature of the incident/crime, the continuing threat to the campus community and the possible risk of compromising law enforcement efforts.
The UMass Lowell Police Department receives information from various offices/departments on campus. If University Police confirm that there is an emergency or dangerous situation that poses an immediate threat to the health or safety of some or all members of the University community, we will collaborate to determine the content of the message and will use some or all of the systems described below to communicate the threat to the University community or to the appropriate segment of the community, if the threat is limited to a particular building or segment of the population. The entire campus community will be notified when there is at least the potential that a very large segment of the community will be affected by a situation or when a situation threatens the operation of the campus as a whole. There will be a continuing assessment of the situation and additional segments of the campus community may be notified if a situation warrants such action. University Police will determine how much information is appropriate to disseminate at different points in time. Depending on what segments of the community the notification targets, the content may differ.
In the event of a serious incident that poses an immediate threat to members of the University community, the University has various systems in place for communicating information quickly. Some or all of these methods of communication may be activated in the event of an immediate threat to the University campus community. These methods of communication include network emails, phone trees, bulletins posted on building entrances and exits, emergency text messages that can be sent to a phone or PDA and outdoor sirens and PA system. In the event a situation requires the activation of the University’s emergency notification system, updates will be available on the University website.
Students should take responsibility for regularly checking their email. In order to receive campus-wide email announcements, students must have a University email account, which may be obtained from the IT Office located in Olsen Hall. Instructions for automatic forwarding of email messages from a University account to another account are available from IT.
Procedure for Testing Emergency Response and Evacuation Procedures
The purpose of evacuation drills is to prepare building occupants for an organized evacuation in case of an emergency. At UMass Lowell, evacuation drills are used as a way to educate and train occupants on issues specific to their building. During the drill, occupants "practice" drill procedures and familiarize themselves with the location of exits and the sound of the fire alarm. In addition to educating the occupants of each building about the evacuation procedures during the drills, the process also provides the University the opportunity to test the operation of fire alarm system components.
Evacuation drills are coordinated by Environmental and Emergency Management (EEM) each semester for all residence halls, academic, research and business buildings on campus. Thus, the emergency response and evacuation procedures are tested at least twice each year. Students, faculty and staff learn the locations of the emergency exits in the buildings and are provided guidance about the direction they should travel when exiting each building for a short-term building evacuation. EEM does not tell individuals in advance about the designated locations for long-term evacuations because those decisions are affected by time of day, location of the building being evacuated, the availability of the various designated emergency gathering locations on campus and other factors such as the location and nature of the threat. EEM and staff on the scene will communicate information to individuals regarding the developing situation or any evacuation status changes. Fire drills are typically scheduled during the first 30 days of each semester (spring and fall).
Students receive information about evacuation and shelter-in-place procedures during their first floor meetings and during other educational sessions that they can participate in throughout the year. Residence Life staff members are trained in these procedures as well and act as an on-going resource for the students living in residential facilities.
EEM conducts announced and unannounced drills and exercises each year and conducts follow-through activities designed for assessment and evaluation of emergency plans and capabilities. They also coordinate announced and unannounced evacuation drills each semester, as described above, to test the emergency response and evacuation procedures, and to assess and evaluate the emergency evacuation plans and capabilities. UMass Lowell will publish a summary of its emergency response and evacuation procedures in conjunction with at least one drill or exercise each calendar year.
University Police perform active threat drills. An active threat refers to any incident that creates an immediate threat or presents an imminent danger to the campus community, such as a shooter or hostage situation. Although encountering an active threat on campus remains remote, we encourage members of the campus community to review the guidelines in the event of an emergency.
The University conducts table top and real time exercises as to test emergency preparedness, business continuity and disaster recovery plans. The city of Lowell and other UMass campuses are encouraged to participate and/or observe during these exercises.
Shelter-in-Place Procedures - What it means to “Shelter-in-Place”
If an incident occurs and the buildings or areas around you become unstable, or if the air outdoors becomes dangerous due to toxic or irritating substances, it is usually safer to stay indoors, because leaving the area may expose you to that danger. Thus, to "shelter-in-place" means to make a shelter of the building that you are in, and with a few adjustments this location can be made even safer and more comfortable until it is safe to go outside.
Basic “Shelter-in-Place” Guidance
If an incident occurs and the building you are in is not damaged, stay inside - seeking an interior room - until you are told it is safe to come out. If your building is damaged, take your personal belongings (purse, wallet, etc.) and follow the evacuation procedures for your building (close your door, proceed to the nearest exit and use the stairs instead of the elevators). Once you have evacuated, seek shelter at the nearest University building quickly. If police or fire department personnel are on the scene, follow their directions.
How You Will Know to “Shelter-in-Place”
A shelter-in-place notification may come from several sources, including University Police, EEM, Residence Life staff members, other University employees, the federal or local government, LPD or other authorities utilizing the University’s emergency communications tools.
How to “Shelter-in-Place”
No matter where you are, the basic steps of shelter-in-place will generally remain the same. Should the need ever arise, follow these steps, unless instructed otherwise by local emergency personnel:
- If you are inside, stay where you are. Collect any emergency shelter-in-place supplies and a telephone to be used in case of emergency. If you are outdoors, proceed into the closest building quickly or follow instructions from emergency personnel on the scene.
- Locate a room to shelter inside. It should be:
An interior room;
Above ground level; and
Without windows or with the least number of windows (If there is a large group of people inside a particular building, several rooms maybe necessary).
- Shut and lock all windows (tighter seal) and close exterior doors.
- Turn off air conditioners, heaters and fans.
- Close vents to ventilation systems as you are able. (University staff will turn off ventilation as quickly as possible.)
- Make a list of the people with you and ask someone (Residence Life staff, faculty or other staff) to call the list in to UMass Lowell Police Department so they know where you are sheltering. If only students are present, one of the students should call in the list.
- Turn on a radio or TV and listen for further instructions.
- Make yourself comfortable.