While it is impossible to predict every emergency that could occur, the following information is offered as a general guide for parents to help you plan ahead, prepare your students, and know in advance how the University communicates with students and parents when emergencies and critical incidents occur.
Regional Hazard Awareness
As a University, we plan for all hazards. That planning starts with an understanding of the likely hazards we face as a community. Our student population comes from across the world, so the risks and hazards you are familiar with may be different from risks and hazards of the Charlottesville area. There is a wide range of potential hazards, but research has shown us that the most likely in this area are hurricanes and high wind storms; severe winter weather; and structure fires.
While Charlottesville enjoys a generally mild climate, the area has from time to time been affected by hurricanes, tornadoes and other forms of severe weather. University-wide cancellation of classes is rare, but if students have questions, the two best sources of information are the University's home page, www.virginia.edu, where schedule changes are posted, and the "Snow" telephone lines: 434.924.SNOW (7669) and 434.243.SNOW (7669). The snow lines are used for communication during any form of inclement weather.
The University takes fire safety very seriously. The Fire Safety Program strives to identify and minimize those conditions or actions that may encourage fires to start and spread. Through training programs, University staff, faculty, and students are educated on fire safe practices. Talk to your student about taking fire safety seriously. Students should always evacuate buildings when they hear a fire alarm; identify emergency exits in living areas, classrooms, and libraries; and keep combustibles (pictures, posters, bulletin boards) away from all heating sources (e.g., stoves, fireplaces, radiators, furnaces, hot water heaters, etc.).
Another hazard the University has focused significant planning efforts on is the pandemic flu outbreak. Like many businesses and other organizations in the United States and around the world, the University has taken a comprehensive look at how this health emergency may affect day-to-day operations. The University remains vigilant; reviewing and updating our comprehensive plan for responding to pandemics and continue to monitor the situation. We work closely with the state and local health departments and our regional partners in the City and County. If you would like to learn more on pandemic flu, a useful site is http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.
Are You Ready?
Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared and could make all the difference when seconds count. New or returning students can take actions now to minimize the impact of an emergent situation. We urge every member of the University to take the following steps to prepare for an emergency:
- Get a Kit – Gather personal emergency supplies in a portable container and include unique items you may need, such as prescription medication.
- Make a Plan – Plan in advance how your student will contact you, options for meeting; and what you will do in different situations.
- Be Informed – Learn about the potential emergencies that could happen in the UVA community, the appropriate way to respond to them, and where to get up-to-date information.
As noted above, education is a core mission for the Office of Emergency Preparedness. This begins for your student in their Summer Orientation, where the Office of Emergency Preparedness is available to answer any questions you or your student may have. At that time, students are given a notebook containing important emergency numbers as well as a copy of the Emergency Procedures Poster for their dorm room.
Once on Grounds, each dormitory has an orientation period for their residents that includes a presentation by the Office of Emergency Preparedness and the University Police Department. Hoos Ready, a special status student-run organization promotes and reinforces emergency preparedness practices on Grounds with their message of, "take a stand, start the trend, and always be prepared for any crisis or urgent situation." Hoos Ready is advised by and works with the Office of Emergency Preparedness to educate students, faculty and staff alike to embrace preparedness as a way of life. Just completing their second year on Grounds, they participated with Student Council in presenting Safe Day, a program for students to connect with representatives from safety organizations across the community. Hoos Ready also conducts safety presentations for student organizations. Hoos Ready members receive a Tip of the Month on the 11th of each month (the 11th as a memorial to 9-11-01) focusing on a specific safety topic. Such topics have included: building a communications plan; fire safety; hurricanes; personal safety; cyber security and others. Membership in Hoos Ready is free. Your student can sign up at www.hoosreadyatuva.org.
We know that practicing our plans and procedures improves our performance. The Office of Emergency Preparedness works internally with University departments and offices, and externally with our community partners to exercise against various scenarios on a frequent basis. We test our communication systems and drill our processes regularly as well. We are committed to making the University of Virginia resilient in the face of natural, man-made, and hazardous materials incidents. Your student plays an important role in this goal. We ask for your support in engaging your student in the preparedness process; a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.