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Emergency Procedures

Simple and decisive actions taken in response to an evolving emergency can mean the difference between serious injury and staying safe.

The basic concepts used to keep people safe in an emergency are knowing how to Evacuate, Shelter-In-Place, and Lockdown.

When an emergency event unfolds on or off-campus, will you be ready to take the appropriate actions to remain free from harm? Fire, severe weather conditions, hazardous material spill, finding a suspicious package, or a person intent on doing harm to others are all realistic scenarios that occur in public and private spaces around the world.

The video below describes three key emergency procedures: Evacuate, Shelter-in-Place, and Lockdown. This short animated film will illustrate each of these procedures, and it includes what to do in the event of someone trying to harm others, inside or outside of buildings. This may be unsettling for some, take care of yourself in watching and connect with support if needed.

We thank you for engaging in being a prepared member of the Penn community.

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An evacuation is implemented under conditions when it is no longer safe for students, faculty and staff to remain in a building or a specific area in a building. This requires occupants to move out and away from a building to a designated building area of refuge or out and away from a specific area within a building. Most commonly used when there is a suspected fire or hazardous material spill in a building.


  • Notify occupants and help those needing assistance in the immediate area.
  • Activate the nearest fire alarm pull station
    Confine the fire by closing doors as you exit
  • Evacuate the building at the nearest exit and call the Penn Police at 215-573-3333.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, enter the building until authorized to do so by emergency personnel.


A Lockdown is a procedure used when there is an immediate threat to the building occupants. In the event of a Lockdown, students, faculty and staff would be instructed to secure themselves in the room they are in and not to leave until the situation has been curtailed. This allows emergency responders to secure the students and staff in place, address the immediate threat and remove any innocent bystanders from immediate danger to an area of safe refuge.

  • Stay in your room or office and barricade the door.
  • Remain quiet.
  • Do not attempt to leave the building or room.
  • Wait until emergency personnel give you an “all clear!”

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Shelter-In-Place is a procedure where the entire building population is moved to a single or multiple location(s) in a building. Most commonly used during weather emergencies or when an extremely hazardous substance is released into the outside atmosphere.


  • Stay inside your building, or immediately go into the nearest building.
  • Close all windows.
  • Immediately go to your designated shelter area.
    • If you do not know where your designated shelter area is located, look for the Emergency Preparedness Bulletin in your building. This bulletin is usually located on the first floor, near or inside of the elevators. View the bulletin for your building.
  • Await further instructions from emergency personnel or your Emergency Team Member.
  • DO NOT evacuate the building until you receive an “all clear” from emergency personnel.

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If faced with an active shooter incident, there are THREE things you can do that make a difference. RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.

Active Threat

Although rare, there have been a growing number of active threat incidents across our nation. An active threat incident is a dynamic, quickly evolving situation involving an individual or actively attempting to harm people inside or outside of a building by using firearms, bladed weapons, or a vehicle.

Sadly, active threat incidents, including mass shootings, can occur anywhere, at any time. Knowing what to do if you are ever faced with an active threat, and acting quickly, can save your life and the lives of others.


If faced with an active shooter/active threat incident, there are THREE things you can do that make a difference. RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.

RUN – When an active shooter is in your vicinity:

  • If there is a way out, and you can get out, GET OUT!  This is your first and best option.
  • Get out whether others agree to or not.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help prevent others from entering the danger zone.
  • Call Penn Police at 215-573-3333, or 511 from a campus phone or at any blue light phone as soon as it is safe to do so.

HIDE – If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide.

  • Lock and/or barricade the door.
  • Silence your cell phone, including the vibrate feature.
  • Hide behind large objects if possible.
  • Remain very quiet and do not leave until directed by law enforcement officers.
  • Your hiding place should:
    • Be out of the shooter’s view.
    • Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.
    • Do Not trap or restrict your options for movement

FIGHT – AS A LAST RESORT, and only if your life is in danger:

  • Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.
  • Act with physical aggression.
  • Improvise weapons.
  • Commit to your actions.
  • Once the shooter is incapacitated, call Penn Police at 215-573-3333, or 511 from a campus phone or at any blue light phone.

POLICE RESPONSE – When law enforcement officers arrive:

  • Keep your EMPTY hands raised and visible, with your fingers spread apart.
  • Remain calm and follow instructions.
  • Avoid pointing or yelling.
  • The first police officers to arrive will not respond to or aid those who are injured.  They will go directly to the shooter.
  • Know that help for the injured is on its way.  Rescue team officers and emergency personnel will care for the injured as soon as possible.
  • The area is a crime scene.  Police officers may secure all witnesses until identified and questioned.

Watch the short video below to learn about key emergency procedures: Evacuate, Shelter-in-Place and Lockdown, and how to respond in an active threat situation.


The following video includes a simulated active shooter situation, and guides viewers on how to best respond in the given scenario. This video was produced by the Houston Mayor’s Office and funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant.

Keep in mind that active shooter incidents can happen anywhere.

Warning: The following video contains realistic depictions of an active shooter incident in an office building which are disturbing.


Fires are extremely dangerous, deadly and can spread very fast. If you encounter a fire in your building or residence get out and away from the danger and follow the below procedures.


  • Activate the nearest fire alarm pull station.
  • Notify occupants and help those needing assistance in the immediate area.Confine the fire by closing doors as you exit.
  • Evacuate the building at the nearest exit and call the Penn Police at 215-573-3333.
  • Go to the designated Building Area of Refuge (BAR).
  • Do not, under any circumstances, enter the building until authorized to do so by emergency personnel.

Suspicious Package, Bomb Threat or Threatening Phone Call Procedures

Bomb threats are taken very seriously by the Division of Public Safety. If you receive a call from anyone making such a threat, please act immediately.


  • Remain calm.
  • If the threat is received by phone, try to remember as much information about the phone call as possible.
  • Immediately call Penn Police at 215-573-3333. Use a cell phone if possible, in case you are required to evacuate. If you do not have one, then call 511 from a campus phone.
  • Follow the instructions from emergency personnel.

Acts of Terrorism

The Department of Homeland Security maintains important resource information on terrorism. Their website on Counterterrorism is a useful resource in understanding the mission of Homeland Security, preventing terrorism and the roles and responsibilities you can have in helping to prevent acts of terrorism. Visit  for more information.

Reporting Terrorism

If you have information regarding suspicious activity that may be related to terrorism you can contact the Penn Police at 215-573-3333 or 511 from a campus phone. You can also fill out a silent witness form on the Division of Public Safety’s website.