University community reminded of steps to take during an emergency evacuation

September 02, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — No matter if it’s a fire alarm activation, the discovery of a suspicious package, or the unexpected release of a hazardous chemical, knowing how to quickly and safely evacuate a building during a campus emergency is a necessity.

“What may seem like an exercise in common sense can often lead to confusion and chaos in an actual emergency,” said Pam Soule, Penn State’s emergency planning manager. “Having a plan in place and knowing what to do ahead of time can make all the difference when confronted with a real-life crisis.”

September is National Preparedness Month, and in the spirit of being prepared, Penn State emergency officials are reminding faculty, staff and students of the steps to take to safely evacuate a building when necessary.

“In advance of an emergency, be familiar with the evacuation routes shown on the building evacuation map found on your floor, and determine the nearest exits to your location and the best route to follow,” said Maurine Claver, director of Environmental Health and Safety at Penn State. “It’s also a good idea to identify the location of at least two exit routes ahead of time.”

Once an evacuation has been declared or the need to evacuate becomes apparent, keep these steps in mind:

  • Exit the building as calmly and quickly as possible using the nearest safe exit. Walk, do not run.
  • Do not use the elevator.
  • Direct others, including students in classrooms and those in the immediate area, to evacuate.
  • Quickly shut down operating equipment, if it is safe to do so.
  • Gather your personal belongings, if it is safe to do so.
  • If safe, close the door once all occupants have exited, but do not lock.
  • Help others in need of assistance.
  • Move to a safe location away from the building or to your building’s designated meeting site, and wait for further instructions from safety officials or PSU Alert.
  • Advise designated public safety officials if you suspect that someone is missing, injured or needs assistance to evacuate.
  • Do not re-enter the building or work area until you have been instructed to do so by designated public safety officials. Silencing of alarms does not mean the emergency is over.

Helping others who may need assistance in exiting the building is especially important. When assisting those with functional disabilities during an emergency, keep the following in mind:

For a blind or visually impaired individual:

  • Clearly announce the emergency.
  • Offer your arm for guidance.
  • Lead the person and alert them to obstacles.

Deaf or hard of hearing:

  • Turn lights on and off to gain the person’s attention.
  • Indicate directions with gestures or a written note.


  • Guide the person to the nearest exit stairwell, designated safe area, or assisted evacuation staging area.
  • Never use elevators.
  • Call 911 or campus police (814-863-1111 at University Park) to report your location.
  • Stay with the person if it can be done without unreasonable personal risk.

“While no one plans to be confronted with an emergency situation, preparation is paramount to ensuring both our own safety and the safety of those around us,” said Soule. “Taking a moment to reflect on our own roles and responsibilities if such a situation arises is a good first step.”

Perhaps most importantly, don’t overlook the obvious.

“Always follow the instructions from public safety officials, without delay,” said Claver. “If no safety officials are present, be sure to call 911, and don’t assume someone else will do so.”

For additional information on emergency evacuations and other emergency guidelines, visit Penn State Emergency Management and Penn State Environmental Health and Safety online.

Last Updated September 02, 2016