Emergency Plan

The safety of our students, faculty, staff and guests is our highest priority. In the event of an emergency, please:

  • remain calm,
  • listen for announcements,
  • evacuate to a safe location, if necessary.

Emergency Numbers

To receive emergency text alerts regarding commencement, text VCCOMMENCEMENT to 226787.

Weather Related Emergency

Commencement takes place rain or shine. Decisions to cancel/delay commencement due to severe, potentially life-threatening weather will be made as early as possible in the day, preferably prior to 6:00 a.m. or as soon as possible. The campus community is then notified through various means, including:

  • A message will be sent to the campus community via email.
  • Announcements will be placed on the Commencement homepage.

If we experience a severe weather emergency, you will be instructed to evacuate the Commencement site to designated buildings based on where you are seated. 

  • There is a problem in the Amphitheatre, which necessitates evacuation of the area. Please remain seated and listen carefully to my instructions.
  • Event staff will initiate evacuation to your designated assembly points.
  • Please remain calm and move orderly and quietly with your seating section. Do not reenter until instructions are issued through the emergency alert system or a Campus Safety officer.
  • Graduates and faculty proceed to Walker Field House by way of the gravel path you entered on.
  • Those seated at stage right proceed to the College Center.
  • Those seated on the bleachers and stage left, proceed to Olmsted hall, the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences and the Chapel.
  • Those seated in the special needs tent will be assisted by event staff assigned to their section and proceed to Sanders Classroom.

Once the situation has been resolved an all clear message will be sent via the emergency communication system advising you it is now safe to reenter the site.

Weather Emergencies

For up-to-date information on the status of operations on campus, go to the Commencement homepage.


There are two types of advisories, a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning.

  • If you are under a tornado warning seek shelter immediately.
  • Stay tuned to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio, radio, television, or the internet for information.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. 
  • Look for approaching storms. 
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky and large hail.
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating).
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
If you are outdoors:

Try to get inside and seek shelter.

If you are unable to get inside:

  • Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
  • Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris causes most fatalities and injuries.
If you are indoors:

Move to a basement or storm cellar. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

If you are in a vehicle:

Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or storm shelter.

Bomb Threat

Responding to a Bomb Threat

Remain calm; do not panic.

If you are told to evacuate, walk to the nearest exit, and tell other people to exit.

Move to a safe area at least 150 feet from the location of the threat.

Active Shooter

How to Respond to an Active Shooter

While the likelihood of a shooter on campus is remote, it is best to be prepared for any situation. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with the active shooter situation until law enforcement arrives on the scene.

The general principle of Run, Hide, Fight applies for indoor and outdoor spaces (i.e. if outside one would run/evacuate to a safe location, away from the shooter’s location). Please read through the following and adapt them to your location/situation.

Run / evacuate

If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • If possible, you should identify a second escape route.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether or not others agree to follow.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Generally, do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Prevent individuals from entering the area where the active shooter may be.
  • Go to a safe place.
  • Call 911 and be prepared to give:
    • Number, location, and description of assailants 
    • Quantity of weapons
    • Number of victims visible

Hide out

If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you. Your hiding place should:

  • Be out of the active shooter’s view (move away from windows and close blinds).
  • Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.
  • Not trap you or restrict your options for movement (if possible).

If safe to do so, watch for updates from the college’s emergency notification system.

If injured, take measures to stop or slow blood loss until appropriate medical care is available.

To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place:

  • Lock the door (if possible) and blockade the door with heavy furniture.
  • Turn off lights, close blinds, and stay away from windows.
  • Remain quiet and silence your cell phone.
  • Prepare an action plan in the event the shooter enters your hiding place:
    • Develop an action plan with others in your hiding place.
    • If possible, spread out within the hiding place.

Fight / take action against the active shooter

As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by: 

  • Acting as aggressively as possible.
  • Throw items.
  • Utilize improvised weapons (fire extinguishers, chairs, large objects, sharp objects).
  • Be decisive and believe you will survive.

When law enforcement arrives

  • Keep your hands visible (put objects down and raise hands).
  • Don’t run toward or grab officers or make sudden movements.
  • Don’t scream.
  • Follow the officer’s directions.
  • If known, advise officers of the number of shooters and their location.
  • Don’t expect help, officers are going to the source.
  • Stay in a safe area until the situation is under control and you’ve given your information to officers.
  • Do not leave the safe area unless approved by officers.

Post-event activities

  • Ensure police have your contact information.
  • Assist in accounting for missing people.
  • Volunteer your services through your supervisor.
  • Give your supervisor a contact number.
  • Inform them of any special skills you have.

For more information, watch the Run, Hide, Fight video.

Rave Emergency Alerts

In the event of a severe weather emergency or an active threat of violence on campus, the College could send out a Rave alert to notify the campus community of such a threat. Students and employees should already be registered in Rave to receive alerts. Our visitors and guests on campus can opt in to receive emergency Rave alerts on Commencement Day by texting “VCCOMMENCEMENT” to “226787”.

If a Rave alert is sent, you can expect the following to occur:

  • The audible campus sirens will be sounded from the Library and Walker Field House, which are at the front and back of campus.
  • A text message will be sent to your cell phone on file.
  • A message will appear on the campus’s digital signs and webpage.
  • If you are a student or college employee, additionally you will receive an automated phone call to your number on file and an email will be sent to your Vassar email account.