Safety is a shared responsibility. This guide is intended to help you understand how to respond to various emergencies that could impact you during your time on campus.

The University of Iowa takes a layered approach to share information with campus and the community during an emergency. You may learn about a campus emergency via one of the following notification systems:

  • Emergency Notifications: Hawk Alert is the campus emergency notification system. Hawk Alerts notify the campus community of immediate threats to health or physical safety using phone call, email, text message, and Alertus Desktop.
  • Outdoor Emergency Notification System: This system includes outdoor sirens and a public address system that may be used for campus-wide critical incidents, such as a tornado or applicable severe thunderstorm warning.
  • Building Notification Systems: These systems – NOAA weather radios, digital signage, fire alarms and/or other building-specific equipment – may be used to share information with occupants of a specific building impacted by an emergency.

Emergency Response Guide

Fire and evacuation alarms/notifications are intended to alert building occupants that a fire or other dangerous situation exists.

  • Upon hearing an alarm or receiving alternate notification to evacuate, everyone should leave the building immediately through the nearest available exit.
  • When you’ve reached safety, dial 911 to report the emergency and/or provide critical information.
  • Follow the instructions of emergency responders when they arrive on scene.
  • DO NOT re-enter the building until authorized to do so by emergency personnel.

To report a fire, smoke, or odor of something burning, dial 911. Only use a fire extinguisher if it is safe to do so.

  • Leave the immediate area.
  • Close door behind you if you can safely do so. Most doors are fire rated and this may help contain the fire.
  • Activate the building’s fire alarm using a manual pull station if the system is not already activated.
  • Evacuate the building immediately and alert others to the emergency while evacuating if you can safely do so. Do not use the elevators.
  • DO NOT stay in the building. If you are unable to evacuate, find an area of refuge and notify 911 of your location.
  • Stay low if confronted with smoke and check closed doors for heat before opening.
  • Help those who may need assistance if you can.
  • Call 911 from your cell phone or a campus phone. Give the dispatcher as much information as possible (location, what is on fire, etc.).
  • DO NOT re-enter the building until authorized to do so by emergency personnel.

Severe Thunderstorm/Tornado

  • Take shelter on the lowest level of your building, in the inner most room or portion of your building.
    • Move to an interior hallway or room and assume a safe position low to the ground.
    • Stay away from windows, above grade exterior walls, and areas with broad-spanned roofs.
  • Monitor emergency notifications, local media reports, NOAA weather radio, etc.
  • If you are outside and shelter is not available/there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area and protect your head with your arms.


When thunder roars, go indoors.

  • Stop all outdoor activities.
  • Seek shelter in a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle.
  • Avoid open high ground and isolated large trees.
  • Avoid water (such as swimming pools, lakes, and rivers) beaches, and boats.
  • Stay away from doors, windows, and metal objects such as pipes or faucets.

If someone is struck by lightning:

  • Call 911. Provide direction and information about the lightning strike and victim(s).
  • Give first aid. Obtain an automated external defibrillator (AED) from a nearby building / facility. Do not delay CPR if the person is unresponsive or not breathing.
  • If possible, move the person to a safer place. Lighting can strike twice. Don’t become a victim.

Winter Weather/Extreme Cold

  • Limit time outdoors. Stay inside during the worst part of the extreme cold. If that is not an option, limit your time outdoors as much as possible.
  • Dress for the weather. Monitor the forecast for updates. Wear plenty of layers, a warm hat, gloves, socks, scarf to cover your face, and waterproof boots.
  • Keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle if you must travel. Include a shovel, salt, food, flashlight, water, blankets, warm clothing, and a flashlight with extra batteries. Try to keep a full tank of gas.
  • Stay updated on weather and road conditions using local resources such as and Iowa 511.
  • Use campus services such as NITE RIDE, CAMBUS, and motorist assistance.

  • Call 911. Provide your name, location, number of people injured, and description of the medical emergency.
  • Have someone obtain a nearby automated external defibrillator (AED), first aid kit, or bleeding control kit for traumatic injuries.
  • Administer first aid/CPR/AED, as appropriate.
  • Stay on the phone so a dispatcher can provide you with instructions on how to assist.
  • Have someone meet the first responders and direct them to the location of the incident, if possible.

  • Call 911.
  • Provide information on the type of chemicals (if known), the size of the spill, and possible exposures.
  • Evacuate the area if there is any possibility that dangerous or noxious fumes are present.

To learn more about preventing and responding to spills and emergencies, review the guidelines from UI Environmental Health and Safety.

  • Seek safety and call 911.
  • Be prepared to take actions necessary to protect your life – Run, Hide, Fight.
    • Run: Get away from danger if you can safely do so. Keep your hands empty and visible and follow all instructions from emergency responders.
    • Hide: If leaving the area is not a safe option, secure in place. Lock and barricade doors with heavy furniture. Stay away from doors or windows. Silence your phone. Remain quiet and keep yourself out of sight.
    • Fight: As a last resort and only if your life is in imminent danger, protect yourself. Work as a group if possible. Attempt to incapacitate the assailant by improvising weapons/throwing items/using physical aggression. Commit to your actions.

If you feel you or someone you know is in imminent danger, a danger to others, or experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911.

  • If you are in distress and think you may harm yourself, call 988. This service offers 24/7 call, text, and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal thoughts, substance use, a mental health crisis or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
  • For non-life-threatening situations, explore campus and community mental health resources.
  • If you see or experience troubling or suspicious behavior that is not an emergency or a criminal matter contact the Threat Assessment Team (TAT). TAT does not provide on-call therapeutic intervention or crisis management services.

If found, do not touch or handle a suspicious package or item containing the threat; move away and call 911.

If you receive a bomb threat via phone call, DO NOT hang up. Speak calmly and obtain as much information as possible:

  • Write down the incoming phone number from caller ID.
  • If another person is close by, notify them and tell them to call 911.
  • Keep the caller on the line and politely ask:
    • Where is the bomb located? (building, floor, room etc.)
    • When will the bomb detonate
    • What kind of bomb is it
    • What will cause it to explode?
    • What does it look like?
    • Who placed the bomb
    • Why did they place the bomb?
    • Name and address of the person reporting the bomb?
  • Attempt to identify characteristics of the caller and their location (age, gender, accent, slurring, key words, background noise, etc.)

If you encounter a flooded road or sidewalk – turn around, don’t drown.

  • Avoid flooded roads, paths, sidewalks, and areas that could be damaged.
  • Turn around and go the other way.
  • Be particularly careful at night when it is harder to recognize flooding.

Emergency Response Guide

Download a printable version of this guide to hang in your office space, break room, or other location on campus.