Emergency Situations and How to Respond

Active shooter

This situation includes the presence of an individual on campus who is actively firing a firearm at people. In many cases, there is no pattern to the selection of victims. These situations happen quickly and will draw immediate responses from campus and city police. How you react will depend on the circumstances, and keep in mind that there could be more than one attacker.

  • Call 911 on a campus phone or call 336.758.5911 with a cell phone. If with a group, designate one person to call for help.
  • Provide as much detail as possible about the situation and the shooter.
  • If the shooter is in your building, avoid the attacker and find a location that offers some safety.
  • If you are in a room, lock the door or block it using anything available.
  • Tell anyone with you to stay out of sight and hide behind anything that offers additional protection, such as a desk or book cabinet, or lie on the floor and out of view from windows.
  • Turn off the lights, close blinds or otherwise try to block windows. If you can, place signs in exterior windows to identify the location of injured people.
  • Make sure cell phones are in silent mode.
  • If possible, stay where you are until notified by a police office or other emergency personnel that it is safe to move to another location.
  • Do not carry anything with you.
  • Verify that voice commands are issued by police, not the shooter.
  • If you encounter police, follow their instructions precisely.
  • Police will help the injured only when it is safe to do so.
  • In such an emergency, it is likely that phone service capacity — campus phone and cell phone — will be overwhelmed by heavy usage. It is advised that people use phones only for safety and emergency calls.

Hazardous weather

Violent weather can develop quickly, but the conditions that create it are often predicted in advance. The U.S. National Weather Service issues watches and warnings about specific types of threatening weather. A watch means that severe weather could develop. A warning means that severe weather is imminent,


  • If you are outside, immediately move indoors. A sturdy building is the safest shelter.
  • Move to an interior hallway or the lowest level of the building if time allows.
  • Take shelter under a desk or sturdy table.
  • Avoid upper floors, glassed areas and windows.
  • Stay out of parking garages and buildings with large open spaces inside.

Severe thunderstorms

  • Powerful thunderstorms can bring hail, lightning and damaging winds.
  • If you hear thunder, then a storm is close enough to put you in danger of a lightning strike.
  • Take shelter in the lowest level of a building.

Ice Storms, freezing rain and snow

  • Remain inside as much as possible
  • Stay clear of icy trees, rooftops and power lines as falling ice is dangerous.
  • Do not walk near ice and snow removal equipment.
  • Watch for slick spots as you walk.
  • Driving on ice is dangerous, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.


  • Although Wake Forest University is more than 200 miles from the North Carolina coast, a hurricane landing in the southeastern United States potentially could affect weather in Winston-Salem. For instance, effects could range from rainy and breezy conditions to damaging wind and rain.
  • Weather conditions could prompt students, faculty and staff to be advised by the University to take steps, at least for a short time, along the lines of those recommended for other severe weather, such as tornadoes. The University will provide recommendations for safety precautions if a hurricane were to cause hazardous weather conditions.
  • The National Hurricane Center website offers around-the-clock information on hurricanes, tropical storms and similar weather situations. The website also provides extensive information regarding hurricane preparedness, hazards and much more.

Bomb threat

Bomb threats must be considered as real threats until proven otherwise, but only campus authorities will decide whether to evacuate a building.

If you receive a bomb threat, note the time and ask the caller:

  • When is the bomb going to explode?
  • Where is the bomb located?
  • What kind of bomb is it? What does it look like?
  • Why did the caller place the bomb?
  • What is the caller’s name? Is the caller an employee/student?
  • What did the caller specifically say?

Keep the caller talking and try to determine:

  • Sex and age of caller.
  • Speech pattern, such as accents or other notable traits.
  • Emotional state of caller.
  • Background noise.

Call 911 on a campus phone or call 336.758.5911

If you find a suspicious object:

  • Don’t touch it and leave the area.
  • Call 911 on a campus phone or call 336.758.5911 with a mobile phone.
  • Note the exact location and appearance of the object.

Chemical spills

  • Call 911 on a campus or call 336.758.5911 with a mobile phone. Be ready to identify the spilled substance.
  • Tell people to evacuate, if necessary.
  • Anyone who is affected by the spill should avoid contact with others and go to a safe area for emergency treatment.
  • Do not try to contain or clean up a spill if you are not qualified.
  • If spilled material is flammable, turn off any source of ignition and close doors.
  • Close doors and turn off ventilation systems.

Fire or smoke

Never assume that a fire alarm is false. Evacuate.

  • Clear the area and close doors to restrict the smoke and fire.
  • Pull fire alarms as you leave.
  • Call 911 on a campus phone or call 336.758.5911 with a mobile phone after you are out of danger.
  • Help people get out of the building. Watch for people with disabilities or restricted mobility.
  • Use a fire extinguisher only if you are trained to use it and the fire is small.
  • Close as many doors as possible between you and the fire.
  • Before opening a door, feel it to check for heat.
  • Stay low in smoke.
  • Do not try to save personal belongings.
  • Use stairs to reach an exit floor. Do not use elevators.
  • Use anything at hand to block the cracks around doors to keep smoke out.
  • If you are trapped and need fresh air, break a window as a last resort. Smoke from outside could be drawn in.


Natural gas leak

  • Natural gas smells like rotting cabbage. If you notice the distinct smell, stop what you are doing and leave the area immediately.
  • Warn others as you leave.
  • Call University Police at 911 from a campus phone or call 336.758.5911 from a cell phone. Tell the dispatcher where the leak was noticed.
  • Leave all electrical equipment as is.

Power outage

  • Call the Department of Facilities and Campus Services at 336.758.4255.
  • Some buildings are not equipped with emergency lighting or emergency lighting may not provide sufficient illumination. Keep a flashlight handy.

Downed power lines

  • Call University Police at 911 from a campus phone or call 336.758.5911 from a cell phone and report the location.
  • Downed power lines should always be treated as if they are live.
  • Other wires touching a down line can become live.
  • Stay clear of downed trees because they could be tangled with live power lines.

Water leaks

  • Call the Department of Facilities and Campus Services at 336.758.4255.
  • Do not use electrical equipment around water.
  • Turn off electrical equipment if safe to do.
  • Secure valuables and personal belongings, and leave the building if necessary.

Medical emergency

Report injuries to the University Police Department by calling 911 on a campus phone or call 336.758.5911 with a mobile phone.

Tell the dispatcher:

  • The exact location of the injured.
  • Describe the injury or problem and how it happened.
  • The phone number you are calling from.
  • Stay on the phone with the dispatcher.
  • Do not move a victim unless there is an immediate danger.
  • Use CPR if the injured person has no pulse and is not breathing.
  • Defibrillators are located in some campus buildings. Use a defibrillator and follow instructions if someone has a heart attack.

Disruptive or Troubling Behaviors

If any person (student, faculty/staff, others) is behaving in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or concerned for someone’s safety, please reach out and ask for help. Numerous resources exist on campus and in the local community to assist those in need of help.

  • Never handle a potentially dangerous situation by yourself. Call University Police by dialing 911 on a campus phone or calling 336.758.5911 with a mobile phone. To ensure everyone’s safety, concerns about persons who may be a danger to themselves or others, including knowledge of a suicide attempt or suicide threats, should be reported to University Police.
  • The professional staff of the University Counseling Center (Room 117 in Reynolda Hall) are trained in crisis intervention and may be called on to respond to campus crises. UCC staff can be reached at 336.758.5273 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. During the fall and spring semesters, the counselor-on-call can be reached after-hours by calling the Student Health Service at 336.758.5218.
  • For non-crisis situations, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides counseling for WFU faculty and staff and can be reached at 336.716.5493.

Threatening Behaviors

  • Call 911 on a campus phone or call 336.758.5911 with a mobile phone.
  • If confronted by a potentially dangerous person:
    • Call 911, report your exact location, whether weapons are involved, injuries and a description of the attacker.
    • Get someone else to call for help if you cannot.
    • Try to move to a safer location.
    • If caught in a potentially dangerous situation and cannot separate yourself:
      • Try to call 911 or have someone else call.
      • Use positive body signals and maintain eye contact.
      • Do not touch or closely approach a someone about whom you are concerned.
      • Don’t get angry and keep the person talking using a quiet voice and a passive body posture.
      • Show concern by reflecting the content of what they are saying.