Evacuation Plan and Procedures

The purpose of this plan is to ensure the safe and orderly evacuation of a building during emergency situations such as fire, chemical spills, natural disasters, bomb threats, etc.

Evacuation of all or part of the campus will be announced by Public Safety and Service or appropriate agency via the Emergency Notification System.

All persons (students and staff and their visitors) are to vacate immediately the area of campus in question and assemble in the designated assembly location for the building or off campus as directed.

Emergency personnel

Here you will find descriptions of evacuation team members and their duties.

Responsible team member: Director of Public Safety and Service or designee

During an evacuation, the evacuation coordinator will oversee all operations and make all critical decisions regarding life, safety, and property. He or she will also determine if the incident is serious enough to invoke the college's emergency response plan.

Responsible team member: each building has a designated safety liaison

The building liaisons are responsible for maintaining a roster of people with offices in the building and conducting a roll call at the designated assembly area. If any person is known to be or suspected of still being in the building, the building liaison will immediately notify the evacuation coordinator. The building liaisons will determine ahead of time if special arrangements need to be made for mobility-impaired individuals during an evacuation.

At the beginning of each course or semester, faculty and instructors will inform students of the designated assembly area for the building. In the event of an alarm, the faculty or instructor will conduct a roll call at the designated assembly area. If any person is known to be or suspected of still being in the building, the building liaison will immediately notify the evacuation coordinator. The faculty or instructor will determine ahead of time if special arrangements need to be made for mobility-impaired individuals during an evacuation.

Responsible team member: Director of Public Safety and Service or designee

The security coordinator is responsible for greeting and directing municipal or contract responders to emergency locations and restricting access to unauthorized individuals.

Responsible team members: Public Safety and Service Dispatcher and Director of Communications or designee

The Public Safety and Service dispatcher will call in additional personnel as directed by the evacuation coordinator. The Dispatch Center maintains a call list of internal and external emergency personnel. A pre-recorded message may be placed on the Mount Holyoke College message line 413-538-2330.

The director of communications or designee will coordinate communication systems (telephone, e-mail, television, radio, Intranet) on campus for disseminating information and maintain information on the college website.

Responsible team member: Director of news and media relations

If the situation warrants media coverage, the director of news and media relations or designee will coordinate all press releases and establish a press area a safe distance from the site for all press that arrive on campus.

Responsible team member: Director of facilities and grounds

The utility coordinator is responsible for assessing the impact on utilities and shutting down utilities as necessary.

Public Safety and Service personnel will respond to all medical situations, dispatch EMTs as necessary, and call for any off-site emergency assistance.

Reporting emergencies

Fire alarms

Fire alarms and smoke detectors are signaled to Public Safety and Service, which is staffed 24/7. Upon receiving an alarm, they notify the fire department and send an officer to the alarm locations. If a person has knowledge about the cause of the alarm, he or she should exit the building and call Public Safety and Service to relate the details.

Other emergencies

All other on-campus emergencies should be phoned into the Public Safety and Service emergency line at 413.538.2304 or 1-911 (campus phone).

Evacuation procedures

Every person in the building, including staff, faculty, students, visitors, and contractors where the fire alarm is sounding, regardless of known or suspected cause, is required to evacuate immediately. Persons evacuating must leave via the closest exit. Any equipment that could cause a fire should be turned off before exiting if it can be done quickly and safely. Exits are posted throughout each building.

Do not use the elevators during an evacuation

Elevators cannot be used by any person as a means of emergency evacuation. Elevators in most buildings are pre-set to return automatically to the bottom floor. Use of an elevator can result in opening on the fire floor, exposure to life-threatening levels of fire or gases, and being trapped in a malfunctioning elevator.

Persons with mobility impairment may be allowed to "defend in place" and not be required to evacuate if they are:

  1. Located above or below the level of building exit, and
  2. Physically cannot exit without assistance.

Definition of mobility impaired

Persons who use a wheelchair, crutches, canes, walkers, etc. Persons who are able to walk should exit if possible, but need to decide if they can safely descend the stairs. Those with emphysema, asthma, heart disease, and arthritis, depending on the situation, may also follow the guidelines for defending in place.

Visually impaired

Persons who are visually impaired should, with the assistance of others, evacuate the building using the stairs, if they are familiar with their immediate surroundings and frequently traveled routes. If visually impaired persons are unfamiliar with the emergency evacuation route and assistance is not available, they should defend in place. To assist visually impaired persons:

  • Announce the type of emergency.
  • Offer your arm for guidance.
  • Tell the person where you are going, obstacles you encounter.
  • When you reach safety, ask if further help is needed.

Hearing impaired

To alert people with hearing limitations:

  • Turn lights on/off to gain the person's attention, or
  • Indicate directions with gestures, or
  • Write a note with evacuation directions.
  • Personal Emergency Plans (PEPs) for Persons with Disabilities

Although the process of developing a Personal Emergency Plan is optional for students and staff, the College encourages proactive planning on the part of the entire college community for emergency conditions. Individuals with disabilities may require additional assistance with alerting, evacuating, and sheltering in the event of an emergency.

The College offers the opportunity, through a confidential process, to develop a PEP that could include such strategies as storing extra equipment or medications, providing Campus Police with your class and personal schedule, specific evacuation procedures, sheltering procedures, volunteer rescue assistants, and designating means of communication in the event of an emergency.

Although not required, faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to identify their concerns about evacuation in case of an emergency, and to develop a PEP that is effective for them.

Even without a PEP in place, having a cell phone on you at all times and programming the Public Safety and Service phone number into your phone can allow you to alert Public Safety and Service if an emergency occurs and you have concerns about evacuating.

Students wishing to create a PEP for themselves, or those with questions about evacuations can contact Public Safety and Service.

Defend in Place

Unless the fire or other hazard is life threatening to a mobility-impaired person, or the person is on the ground floor (exit level of the building), then it may be advisable for that person to remain in her or his currently occupied room. If the individual decides to defend in place, he or she must immediately:

  • Notify others evacuating that you are remaining in your room and ask them to contact campus police with that information immediately upon exiting the building.
  • If a phone is available, call Public Safety and Service to inform them that you are defending in place, and your exact location.
  • Close the door to prevent smoke entry, and, if necessary, put towels or any other available fabric at the crack at bottom of the door.
  • If possible, move to a window with a brightly colored cloth to wave to the fire department. Do not break the window unless absolutely necessary. (Breaking the window could allow smoke to enter the room from the floor below or injure a person below).

Once outside the building, all occupants should proceed to the designated assembly areas for a roll call. Each organization is responsible for determining the assembly areas for all buildings that their participants and staff may be using, especially the housing areas. These areas should be at least 25 feet away from the building and should leave access for emergency personnel to enter the building. 

The building liaison and/or faculty/instructor will take the roll call and report back to the evacuation coordinator. The roll call is an important function as town emergency personnel responding to the incident need to determine if anyone is missing and may be in the building. If employees are missing, do not re-enter the building! Notify emergency response personnel and/or the evacuation coordinator and inform them of the missing person's name and last known location. 

Re-entry into the area will be made only after clearance is given by the evacuation coordinator or their designee.

Each building liaison keeps a list of people who live or have offices in the building. Examples include mod lists, residence hall lists, and staff rosters.

Because the college is a public place, all people in the building may not be on a roster. The evacuated groups should be polled by the building liaison as to who may be left in the building.

Information and drills

Fire Emergency Procedures are posted in each building and provided to new employees at orientation.

All Mount Holyoke College residential buildings have two evacuation drills each semester. All other buildings are drilled on a periodic basis. 

Related policies and procedures

Fire Evacuation Procedure for Residence Halls