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Emergency Response Guide

When calling about an emergency

  1. Give building name and room number or other specific location
  2. Describe the condition clearly and accurately
  3. Give your name. (Privacy will be respected)
  4. Give your extension or other phone number where you can be reached (cell phone)
  5. Do not hang up! You may be an important link in an emergency. Other information may be needed and special instructions may be provided. Let the person you are talking to end the conversation.

General Building Evacuation Procedures

  • Fire alarms, and verbal warnings will be used to sound a building evacuation.
  • Walk quickly; do not run.
  • Exit via stairways. Never use the elevator, as you may be trapped or let out into a danger area.
  • Seek out and give assistance to any disabled persons in the area, if you can do so safely. If you cannot, alert emergency personnel with their exact location and condition.
  • Follow instructions of Public Safety Officers and other first responders.
  • If time permits:
    - Turn off electrical appliances.
    - Close room doors behind you.
    - Bring your keys with you.
  • Go to an open outside area, away from the building. Gather with other exiting building occupants, keeping paths clear for emergency vehicles.
  • Wait for instructions from emergency personnel, and do not re-enter the building until allowed to do so by Public Safety Officers.
  • In emergencies, people tend to try to exit buildings by the same route they entered, even when that exit is blocked. Learn alternate exit routes from buildings you regularly occupy.

Shelter in Place

In severe weather events or other emergencies, the safest course may be to shelter in place within buildings. If conditions indicate, or instructed to do so:

  • Seek shelter in the lowest levels of buildings or an interior hallway, remaining clear of exterior windows and doors.
  • Keep away from overhead fixtures, filing cabinets, book shelves, and other large objects that may fall over.
  • Exit auditoriums, and gymnasiums and seek shelter elsewhere in building.
  • In general, do not leave the building until instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
  • Upon leaving building, if damage is evident, be alert for debris, power lines, gas leaks, and other safety hazards.

Fire Evacuation

Heat and toxic smoke from fire build up with surprising speed, quickly blocking escape paths. Always evacuate immediately when you hear the fire alarm.

If a fire starts in the room you're in:

  • Leave the room and close the door behind you to keep smoke and flames out of the hall.
  • Sound the fire alarm by activating the nearest pull station.
  • Leave the building by the closest exit. (Note: In residence halls, pull the alarm to alert others even if there is an individual smoke detector in the room, as the closed door will delay activation of the central alarm.)
  • Call Public Safety from a safe location.
  • Alert Public Safety to anyone who you know may be in the building who might require additional assistance leaving the area because of a disability.

If you hear a fire alarm:

  • Go to the door of your room and feel the door with your hand, if the door or the knob is hot, leave it shut and:
  • Let someone know you are in the room. If the phone works, call Public Safety.
  • If your window can be opened, hang a bed sheet or similar item out the window to signal the fire department, but close the window against smoke as necessary.
  • Seal openings around hallway doors with cloth items (towels or sheets if available). If there is a source of water, keep towels and door wet.
  • If the door is not hot, check the hall. If you can leave safely, take your keys with you, close the door behind you and go to the nearest clear exit. Use an alternate route if your path is blocked at any point.
  • Do not use the elevator so as to avoid being trapped or let out into a fire area.
  • If it is impossible to exit the building, it may be safer to return to your room, which is why taking your keys is important.
  • If smoke blocks your path, there is often cleaner, cooler air nearer the floor level. Don't stand. Smoke and deadly gases rise.
  • Fight a fire only if you believe you can put it out without risking your safety.

Evaluate the following before attempting to fight a fire on your own:

  • If the fire is small enough for you to manage
  • If an extinguisher is readily available
  • If you are familiar with the operation of the extinguisher
  • If it appears safe to do so (you can fight the fire without blocking your exit path)

Injury or illness

  • Immediately call Public Safety at x8333, or 610-328-8333
  • Note any medical alert information which may be present on medic-alert jewelry, and report it to the dispatcher.
  • Do not move an injured person unless absolutely necessary.
  • Stay with the victim and assist as necessary until help arrives.

Hazardous Material Spill/Release

  • Report hazardous material/chemical spills or releases immediately to Public Safety at x8333, or 610-328-8333. Try to describe the conditions and identify the material to the dispatcher.

Do not attempt to clean up spills of materials you believe to be hazardous. Even small spills of toxic, corrosive, flammable, or reactive materials can be dangerous. In laboratories and shops, refer to the Swarthmore College Laboratory Emergency Response Guide available in all science laboratory departments.

  • Indoors: Close doors to the spill area and turn off sources of ignition. Leave the area immediately.
  • Outdoors: If a vehicle leaks fuel or oil, turn off the engine and direct other vehicles away from the spill area, as vehicle engines may be a source of ignition. Stay upwind of any outdoor spills or releases into the air.
  • Eye or skin contact: Flush the affected area immediately with running water. If a corrosive material comes in contact with the eyes, seconds count - use any available water source to wash away the contaminant. Have someone call Public Safety at x8333, or 610-328-8333. Continue rinsing the skin or eyes until help arrives.

Power/Utility Failure

  • Call Public Safety if the outage presents an emergency requiring immediate response. For non-emergency outages email
  • Turn off appliances, tools, and computer equipment to prevent damage by voltage spikes or surges when power is restored, and to prevent accidents from unexpected restarting of equipment.
  • Candles, lighters, and other open flame devices should not be used. Keep flashlights on hand for power outages.


If you observe standing or flowing water in a building, notify Public Safety. Avoid all contact with the water, since it presents a serious risk of electric shock and may be contaminated.

Active Shooter

Swarthmore College is a safe and caring community. However, we don’t have to look far for incidents of violence that have impacted communities all over the country. It is with this in mind that we are offering ALICE (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate) workshops to educate and prepare our community in the event of an active assailant on campus.  

ALICE is an active shooter response program that consists of awareness, communication, and response strategies.

Awareness and communication strategies consist of situational awareness and alerting others.

  • Situational Awareness is your perception of your environment and how you comprehend and respond to that environment.
  • Alert is the information you are providing to others so they can choose the best strategy for their own safety.

Response strategies are how you respond upon being alerted that there is danger. These include:

  • Evacuate (removing yourself from danger)
  • Lockdown (barricading your location)
  • Counter (countering the intruder’s ability to use their weapon to give yourself and others time to evacuate)

Additionally, Swarthmore College still embraces the Program Run, Hide, Fight!

How would you defend yourself against an Active Shooter? You can RUN, HIDE or FIGHT!


  • Get out of the area through the closest exit
  • Leave your belongings behind
  • Evacuate Regardless of whether others agree or not
  • Help others escape if possible
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people
  • Prevent others from entering where the active shooter may be
  • Call Public Safety at x8333 (610-328-8333) or 911 when you are safe


  • If an evacuation is not possible find a place to hide. Look for ways to cover and conceal your presence
  • Block entry to your hiding place, lock the door if you are in a room
  • Silence your cell phone (including the vibrate mode) and remain quiet


  • Fight as a last resort and only if your life is in danger
  • Find something to use as a weapon to incapacitate the shooter
  • You have to commit to your actions in this choice, YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT


  • Remain calm and follow instructions
  • Put down any items in your hands, keep your hands visible at all times
  • Raise hands and spread fingers
  • Evacuate as directed by Police and/or Public Safety and do not stop to ask questions or otherwise distract the officers


  • Location and number of shooter(s)
  • Physical description of shooter(s)
  • Type of weapons being used
  • Number of victims, if any, and their location

View Homeland Security's Emergency Response Guide video

Bomb Threat

Anytime a Bomb Threat is received by phone or email it should be considered REAL and Legitmate.

The person receiving the call should alert someone within the office or their immediate area to listen in on the call if possible.

Here are some basic things to remember if you receive a bomb threat or report:

  1. WHERE is the bomb and what does it look like?
  2. Try to find out WHEN the bomb is going to explode
  3. Can you tell me your name, did you place the bomb?
  4. Exact wording of the threat (write it down)
  5. If the threat is received by phone note the caller's voice:
    1. Male or female?
    2. Calm, angry, excited?
    3. Was the caller loud, distinct type of voice? Accent? English speaking?
    4. Is the voice familiar? Who did it sound like?
    5. Did the caller attempt to disguise his/her voice?
  6. Threat Language:
    1. Well Spoken? Foul? Irrational? Incoherent?
    2. Was the caller reading a message?
  7. Background sounds:
    1. Street noises, machinery, animal noises, music, office equipment?
    2. Is the noise close, far away, clear, static noise?

The person receiving the call or report should call Public Safety (x8333 or 610-328-8333) immediately upon ending the phone call with all details of the call.

Public Safety staff, in conjunction with the Director of Public Safety or his/her designee and local emergency responders, will make a determination as to whether the building, area, or facility should be evacuated and appropriate notifications be made to college personnel.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a simple Mission Statement:  “Helping people before, during, and after disasters.”

For 38 years, FEMA's mission remains: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of "A Nation Prepared."

On April 1, 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed the executive order that created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  From day one, FEMA has remained committed to protecting and serving the American people. That commitment to the people that FEMA serves and the belief in the survivor centric mission will never change.

To that end FEMA has useful websites that pertain to the college’s emergency response mission:

FEMA Ready Campus -

FEMA Until Help Arrives -

FEMA Building a Disaster-Resistant University -

These are very helpful sites that will help our community better prepare for emergencies that may arise

Crisis Communication

In the event of a campus emergency, Swarthmore College follows guidelines set forth in its Emergency Response Manual, which enables College administrators to promptly and effectively alert and inform the community and the public when there is a clear and credible danger to the College community. These plans coincide with the College’s other safety and emergency plans that deal specifically with the operational implications of a crisis.

In order to ensure that the campus community is promptly notified of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health and safety of students, faculty, or staff, one or more of the following tools are used:

Alert Mechanisms


E-mail is used to send alert messages. However, the inability of the sender(s) to ensure that these messages are uniformly received by all recipients suggests that this alert function should be considered a supplement to all other alerting tools.

Fire Alarms

Alert people to an emergency and exist in every campus building. They work at all times of day, all year long, and can be building-specific.

Word of Mouth

With more than 90 percent of the student body living on campus and a manageable campus size, runners would be deployed door-to-door and/or to designated spaces on campus to post flyers and to spread the work directly.


SwatSafe is a two-way mobile safety communications platform and risk mitigation tool comprised of a mobile app and cloud-based dashboard.

It can be used to notify students, faculty, staff, and other groups en masse. Message delivery formats include cell phones, text messaging, email, voice mail (to cell, home, dorm and/or office phones) and text-telephone devices to contact persons with hearing or speech disabilities. This service includes reporting mechanisms that can confirm delivery success or failure of a message. Messages are normally initiated through a Web interface, but the system is also used from a mobile device.

Community members can download the SwatSafe safety app, which allows users to report safety concerns to DPS, invite virtual companions to accompany you to your destination, place emergency calls, and access safety resources. The app is available from both the Apple and Google app stores.


The Communications Office coordinates and responds to all media requests and creates and distributes appropriate materials to them via multiple communications and mechanisms.

Voicemail Broadcast Messages

The College’s voicemail system has the ability to send a single voicemail messages to all students, all faculty and staff, or to the full campus community. These alerts will activate the message light on all campus Cisco phones.


The Informacast System can be used to quickly provide the campus community, or portions of it, with notifications of emergencies such as severe weather information, or other important information through the use of the Cisco IP Phone system. Text messages, preceded by an alert tone, can be sent through the IP phone system and displayed on the IP phone screen.


The Web is perhaps the best tool for keeping all of the College’s constituencies informed about a crisis in a detailed, ongoing, and focused way. An emergency "space" on the front page of the College’s Web site can be activated to display brief alert-announcements. These announcements will also appear on the student and faculty/staff dashboards on the Web. This emergency tool can also be used in the context of a more urgent circumstance. The College also maintains an externally-hosted emergency website at This site, which is always live, can be updated with information about an ongoing emergency; otherwise, it will indicate that the campus is operating under normal conditions.


Emergency Notifications and Timely Warning Notices are issued through the Public Safety Department. Once aware of an immediate danger, the department decides on the proper method and timimg to notify proper authorities and initiate other communication required to safeguard the campus. This includes the use of any of the available alert mechanisms. The department is assisted in crisis communications efforts by a team of individuals known as the 24/7 Team. The 24/7 Team is available at any time, night or day.

The 24/7 Team is comprised of the Assistant Vice President for Facilities, Vice President of Finance and Administration, Vice President for Human Resources, Dean of Students, the Director of Public Safety, the Vice President of Communications, or their designees, and others as needed. Members of 24/7 take the initial lead in implementing the appropriate response plan, assessing the severity of the crisis, reviewing all available information, delegating responsibility where appropriate, and ensuring that the information needs of various constituencies are met. The Executive Assistant to the VP of facilities maintains a written record of actions and decision for after-action review and archival purposes.

A reminder that this information is available and how to access it is publicized annually to students and staff. A standing College committee meets regularly and among a variety of related tasks reviews emergency response procedures and informs key staff about effective communications skills and protocols. This committee also assures that annual training exercises are conducted that both test and train community members in emergency response and evacuation procedures.

All members of the College community are reminded that, for the system to be effective, contact information provided to the College’s databases should be up to date. To update emergency contact information, first log in to mySwarthmore at, then select the link to Update Crisis Communications (Blackboard-CONNECT) Contact Information".

Public Safety

Public Safety is open 24/7 throughout the year and is located in the Benjamin West House, off Chester Road between College Avenue and the Swarthmore train station.

officer placing bike on car rack