The Catholic University of America maintains an emergency response plan designed to address the issues of preparation, response and recovery for all emergencies. During university emergencies the Department of Public Safety provides for the safety of students, staff, faculty and visitors as well as the security of property. The university has identified emergency support functions (ESFs) to handle emergencies in a manner consistent with the District of Columbia's response plan. The Department of Public Safety manages and coordinates law enforcement activities and provides personnel, equipment and security in support of the university ESFs. Each ESF is managed by a professional level staff member. Mitigation, preparedness and training for emergencies are ongoing activities.

In the event of an emergency, survival is your top priority. There are two basic types of emergencies, Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place. Each calls for its own distinctive set of responses. The following information is provided in accordance with District of Columbia and OSHA Regulations:

3.1 Evacuation Emergency

For an emergency that would be dangerous to your life and health if you were to stay in your building.

  • Be prepared: Before an emergency happens, find at least two emergency exits from your building.
  • Sound the fire alarm in event of fire. For other evacuation emergencies, call the Department of Public Safety at x5111.
  • Exit the building from the closest available exit. Keep in mind an alternate route. Don't use the elevator.
  • If you can't evacuate:
    1. Call x 5111 and/or go to a window and signal for help
    2. Go to the nearest exit or preferred area of safe refuge and await the arrival of emergency personnel.

Once outside:

  • Report to the assembly area designated for the building (see emergency policy poster map in each building). For details on assembly area locations, download the Campus assembly area map PDF file.
  • Call the Department of Public Safety 202-319-5111 to convey pertinent information regarding the evacuation emergency.
  • You may notify immediate family that you are in a safe location while you await further instructions.

3.2 Shelter-in-Place Emergency

For an emergency that would put you in danger if you were to leave your building.

  • Stay calm and do not panic.
  • Stay inside unless a fire alarm sounds or you have been instructed to leave by a University official.
  • For news bulletins, monitor the University website, e-mail and voice mail, and turn on the radio or TV.
  • If you are outside, seek shelter inside a building - do not remain outside.
  • Follow building-specific instructions from your Resident Assistant or the building Watch Captain.
  • Wait for further instructions from a University official.


3.3.1 Preparation

It is strongly recommended that individuals develop and practice their own Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) for evacuation during an emergency. Practice will help to identify gaps or problems and ensure that it can be implemented as expected. Although the process of developing a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan is optional for students, faculty, and staff, the University encourages proactive planning on the part of the entire campus community for emergency conditions. For further information on developing your own plan, visit the following link from FEMA and the US Fire Administration on Developing a Personal Emergency Plan.

Individuals with disabilities may require additional assistance with alerting, evacuating, and sheltering in the event of an emergency. When developing a PEEP for disabled individuals, one should include strategies such as storing extra equipment or medications, specific evacuation procedures, sheltering procedures, volunteer rescue assistants, and designating means of communication in the event of an emergency. Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to identify their concerns about evacuation in case of an emergency and develop a PEEP that is effective for them.

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans for disabled persons should include:

  • Provision to notify Public Safety via extension 5111 and await assistance if you are unable to evacuate.
  • Identification of the safest area(s) located on each floor within the building(s) where a person with disabilities can await assistance from emergency response personnel.
  • A means to inform emergency response personnel (e.g., police, fire) of the locations of any person(s) requiring assistance. It is strongly recommended that individuals acquire additional alerting devices to draw attention to them during an emergency. Cell phones, loud whistles and flashing lights are effective tools for drawing attention or for contacting emergency personnel.
  • Identification of volunteer Rescue Assistants and location of back-up medical or assistive equipment and medications.
  • Training in transfer techniques, if needed, for use of specialized evacuation equipment.
  • Practice/drill opportunities. Individuals should keep a copy of their PEEP and share it with volunteer rescue assistants.  PEEPs should be reviewed and updated periodically.

 Included here also is a link to the National Fire Protection Association’s 2016 Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities. It was developed in response to the emphasis that has been placed on the need to properly address the emergency procedure needs of the disability community. This Guide addresses the needs, criteria, and minimum information necessary to integrate the proper planning components for the disabled community into a comprehensive evacuation planning strategy. This Guide is available to everyone in a free, downloadable format from the NFPA website at http://www.nfpa.org/disabilities.

In addition to providing information on the five general categories of disabilities (mobility impairments, visual impairments, hearing impairments, speech impairments, and cognitive impairments), the Guide outlines the four elements of evacuation information that occupants need: notification, way finding, use of the way, and assistance. Also included is a  that building services managers and people with disabilities can use to design a personalized evacuation plan.

 All members of the campus community are asked to be aware that some individuals, including persons with disabilities, may need assistance in the event of an emergency. In addition to those with mobility impairments, people with hearing and visual impairments may need to be alerted and given further instruction in emergency situations. People with visual impairments and campus visitors will likely need additional assistance as buildings and evacuation routes will be unfamiliar.

 The Good Samaritan Statutes would apply in situations such as these. Therefore, if someone is willing to assist someone in evacuating, they would not be held liable in the event something happened. The Good Samaritan Statutes say that a person who renders emergency care at or near the scene of, or during an emergency, gratuitously and in good faith, is not liable for any civil damages or penalties as a result of any act or omission by the person rendering emergency care, unless the person is grossly negligent or caused the emergency.

 3.3.2 Response

Should you discover a fire, smell smoke or suspect a fire, no matter how insignificant you think it is, follow the evacuation procedure listed in section 3.1.

The following information is designed to help save your life in case you find yourself in an actual emergency evacuation situation.

If you are caught in a fire evacuation situation, SURVIVAL is your top priority.

  1. Feel the Door Handle
  • If the door handle is hot, don't open it
  • Go to a window and call for help
  • If the handle is not hot, open cautiously
  • Check for smoke or fire before going out and close the door behind you.
  1. Get out of the building before phoning for help
  • Don't take time to phone before leaving
  • Use stairwells and corridors to exit. Do not use elevators
  • Get out and use an emergency "blue light" phone
  1. Pull the fire alarm on your way out
  2. Don't look for other people or gather up your stuff
  • Knock on doors as you leave
  • Yell "FIRE!" as you leave
  • Don't hesitate or stray from your path as you leave
  1. Stay low to the floor & crawl close to a wall
  • Thick smoke can make it impossible to see
  • Toxic chemicals from smoke can be deadly in minutes
  1. Close the door behind you
  • You may help keep the fire from spreading
  • You may protect your possessions from fire and smoke damage
  1. If you can't get out, get someone's attention
  • Call x 5111 and/or go to a window and signal for help
  • Go to the nearest exit or preferred area of safe refuge and await the arrival of emergency personnel.

Assisting persons who cannot evacuate will be a priority for responding emergency personnel.

In addition to the basic fire survival tips listed above, the following guidelines are provided for those who may not be able to evacuate on their own.

  1. It is strongly recommended that individuals develop their own personal escape plan.
  2. Evacuate to the outside if able.
  • Individuals know their abilities and limitations best (e.g. limited mobility)
  • Attempts by others to assist or carry someone down stairs may result in injury to the person receiving or providing assistance
  • Make decisions to accept or refuse assistance accordingly.
  1. If you cannot evacuate
  • Request that others (once they can evacuate outside) notify emergency personnel of your location in the building
  • If possible, move to an enclosed exit stairwell landing - These structures are intended to keep out smoke and fire and serve as a primary area of refuge.
  • Ensure you have enough space as not to obstruct others evacuating. Not all exit stairwells were constructed to accommodate adequate space for refuge.
  • Call Public Safety at 202-319-5111 to verify your location and confirm you are still present inside the building awaiting assistance.
  • If you can't get out the door, get someone's attention, e.g., yell and scream out a window. If you can, hang an attention-getting item on or from a window
  1. Rescue Assistants - Some people with disabilities may choose to identify personal rescue assistants who will volunteer to do some or all of the following for them:
  • Know his/her likely schedule, keep back-up medication, equipment, or mobility devices
  • Stay with them while awaiting rescue assistance as long as they are not in danger themselves
  • Report the location of the person awaiting rescue assistance


Take Responsibility for Fire Prevention

Fires can be prevented from starting if you take some simple precautions: Electrical Safety

  • Use UL approved power strips and surge protectors.
  • A power strip/surge protector is a variation of an extension cord, where the cord terminates in a row or grouping of receptacles. Power strips/surge protectors are the preferred devices commonly used to provide multiple receptacles to equipment.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets -DO NOT USE EXTENSION CORDS.
  • Observe the following restrictions to avoid misuse of Power Strips/Surge Protectors:
  • Do not use extension cords in place of permanent facility wiring.
  • Avoid running cords through doors, ceilings, windows, or holes in the walls.
  • Do not "daisy chain" Power Strips/Surge Protectors (i.e., plug one strip into another strip).
  • Do not cut off the ground pin or compromise the ground protection in any way.
  • Do not use frayed or damaged electrical equipment. Cooking Safety

  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Keep things that burn away from the cooking area & appliances in your kitchen. Don't place towels, potholders, pizza boxes, or paper bags on the stove or near hot appliances.
  • Clean any grease build-up from the stove, oven & exhaust fan regularly.
  • Cooking grease & oil ignite easily & burn rapidly.
  • Use a lid, large pan or baking soda to smother a small pan fire.
  • Do not use water or flour on a grease fire. It will make the fire bigger.
  • Do not try to carry a burning pan outside or to the sink. You could accidentally spread the fire.
  • Avoid reaching over the stove for anything while cooking. Store frequently needed items in other areas of the kitchen.
  • Keep pot handles turned inward.
  • Keep appliance cords up on counter tops. Check those cords regularly for frayed or broken spots. Replace damaged cords or appliances.
  • Dress for fire safety in the kitchen. Don't wear loose fitting clothing, like nightgowns & bathrobes while cooking. General Fire Prevention & Safety

  • Ensure that egress and exit doors remain unencumbered and operational
  • Storage inside stairwells is strictly prohibited inside University properties 
  • Fuel and electric powered vehicles are strictly prohibited inside University properties. See the transportation and parking website for acceptable parking locations. 
  • Do not use space heaters and halogen lamps
  • Candles and incense are prohibited except for religious/worship purposes.
  • Smoking is prohibited in all campus facilities
  • Assign a non-impaired "event monitor"
  • Clean up immediately after parties and take all trash outside

General Housekeeping:

  • Office spaces should be maintained in an orderly manner with care to store combustible items in file cabinets or other suitable storage. 
  • Food and drink items should be refrigerated or disposed of to help minimize pest issues. 
  • Storage areas and supply rooms must be kept neat and orderly. Empty cartons, old decorations, and other items should not be allowed to accumulate.  Stored items must not be located near heat sources. 
  • Maintain storage height to 24 inches or more below the ceiling in unsprinkled buildings, or a minimum of 18 inches below sprinkler heads in buildings equipped with a sprinkler system. 

You can also protect yourself from becoming trapped in a fire situation by following these important guidelines:

Take Fire Alarms Seriously

  • Don't ignore fire alarms
  • Do not wait to see fire or smoke before evacuating
  • Do not worry about grabbing your stuff

Don't tamper with Fire Alarms/Smoke Detectors

  • Do not cover, remove or alter fire protection equipment
  • Tampering with smoke alarms, pulling false alarms or misusing fire protection equipment is a criminal offense
  • Multiple false alarms create a sense of complacency, which may prove deadly in the event of a real fire. These are dangerous pranks and known actors should be reported immediately - you may save a life, even your own 

Plan escape routes

  • Know where all exits are located in the building
  • Practice your escape by participating in the University sponsored fire drills Fire Sprinkler Systems

Many University facilities are equipped with a Fire Sprinkler System, including all campus Residence Halls. Please note the following information on these systems.

What are sprinklers?

An automatic fire sprinkler system is one of the most effective methods of controlling or suppressing a fire.

Sprinkler systems are made up of a network of pipes in the walls and ceilings that have a sprinkler heads providing protection to hallways, rooms, stairways and other areas of a building. In most systems, the pipes are always filled with water, under pressure and the system is ready to do its job of putting out a fire quickly.

Sometimes sprinklers are concealed behind small metal plates in the walls and ceiling. Even though you can't see the sprinkler head, they are still there and able to spray water on a fire.

How do sprinklers work?

Sprinklers are generally located at the ceiling level of a building. They are equipped with a fusible link that melts when the heat given off by a fire heats the sprinkler.

When the sprinkler opens, water flows out in a spray pattern. The sprinkler system is designed to flow a specific amount of water based upon the type of hazard it is trying to protect.

How many sprinklers activate in a fire?

Despite what many people think, generally only one or two sprinklers open up and flow water during a fire -- all of them do NOT go off at once.

How much water flows out of a sprinkler head?

A single sprinkler head will generally flow about 15-20 gallons per minute. This is not much at all when compared to a fire hose, which will flow 150 gallons a minute or more.

How much water damage will a sprinkler head cause?

Since the amount of water coming out of a sprinkler head is significantly less than that in a fire hose, the water damage will be considerable less.

After a fire is put out by a sprinkler head there are often comments about "all of the water damage that the sprinkler caused." What people often don't realize is how much fire AND water damage there would be if the sprinkler head had not activated and controlled the fire.

Can sprinklers be damaged?

While sprinkler are very rugged devices, they should not be tampered with, misused or vandalized. For example, nothing should be hung from a sprinkler head because the object may accidentally strike the fusible link element and cause the sprinkler head to open. In this case, the same water damage would occur if there were a small fire, but this damage was avoidable. In addition, if a sprinkler head is covered with clothing, this may reduce the heat getting to the sprinkler and delay its opening. Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers, compatible with the fire hazards present, must be available per local code requirements. University Community members (students and visitors) may NOT be trained in the use of fire extinguishers unless required by regulation. Evacuate the building in the event of an emergency. Fire extinguishers are provided for fire department use and as a last resort to facilitate an emergency means of escape. The Department of Public Safety, Facilities Maintenance, and designated staff receive basic fire extinguisher training annually in the event of an extreme state of emergency.