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Emergency Communications

Accurate information about impending or actual threats or emergencies can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Emergency Notification

The University employs a range of technological solutions to assist us in alerting the community to emergency situations as quickly as possible. Emergency alerts are reserved for critical incidents that pose an imminent threat to the health and safety of the University community. You may be notified of an emergency in several ways.

  • Fire alarm – indicates the need to evacuate the building immediately.
  • Siren – indicates that there is an imminent threat to the University community. If you are outside and hear the siren and audible announcement, follow the announced instructions. If the audible announcement cannot be understood, immediately check your cell phone and email for a U.Va. Alert message or go to for information on the emergency. For those without access to electronic communication devices, follow your department’s emergency protocols.
  • U.Va. Alerts – notifies registered users via text message and email notification when the University population faces imminent threat from a hazard.
  • University email – notifies anyone with an account of emergency situations; this is a stand-alone email system that you cannot opt-out of.
  • LCD and LED displays – displays U.Va. Alerts text messages on the OnAlert notice boards located in large classrooms and on LCD screens located across Grounds.
  • Public address system announcements – announces emergency information in locations where public address systems are available.
  • Desktop Alerts - The alert information appears on an individual’s desktop or laptop computer as a pop-up window overlaying all other open windows on the computer.


Whenever you receive an emergency notification, act quickly and decisively. Evacuate or seek shelter, as directed by the notice.


Emergency Notification System Tests

The University tests the emergency notification system components once every term as well as during the state’s March Tornado Drill.  During these tests, the siren/public address system, text messaging, email, LED and LCD screens, Health System paging system and U.Va. Home Page is activated. When the test is completed, an "all clear" message is issued.

What You Can Expect

  • If you are outside, you should hear a siren followed by a public address message:  "This is a test of the U.Va. emergency notification system. This is a test."  To preview the sounds of the siren and all-clear horn, go to (see Emergency Horns and Sirens on the right-hand side of the page).
  • If you have signed up for U.Va. Alerts text messaging system you should receive a test text message.  If you added email addresses to your account, you will also receive an email test message sent from U.Va. Alerts.  If you have not signed up for U.Va. Alerts, go to to do so.
  • If you have an email account, you should receive a test email message from the Office of Emergency Preparedness.
  • If you are in a large classroom, you may hear a tone and see the message on an LED screen; if you are in a common area, you may see the message on an LCD screen.
  • If you carry a Simon In-house pager, you will receive a test message.
  • A number of computers in the public areas of the libraries have desktop alerting software installed that we are presently assessing.  Should you be on one of these during the test, it will interrupt whatever you are doing and flash a notice on the desktop. 
  • If you are on the University Home Page (, you will see a black popup box with the test message. In an emergency, the information in this popup box refreshes every minute.


All Clear

  • The siren will sound with three blasts followed by the message: "This concludes the test of the UVa emergency notification system."
  • Text messaging, email, LEDs, LCDs, Simon In-house pagers, and the Home Page will also display the "all clear" message.


Typically, no action is required on your part during these tests. If you have questions or feedback regarding testing of the Emergency Notification System, please contact the Office of Emergency Preparedness or 434-982-0565.


Situation Updates

During an emergency, the best source of official information will be the University’s Web site at High-level emergencies and related schedule information will be posted on the University’s home page. Local television and radio stations should also be relied on in severe weather situations. Key staff and student leaders, such as the Resident Staff, will also be equipped to communicate directly with students. All available forms of communication will be used to convey needed information to the University community.