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Virtual Security Office

Natural Disasters

(Taken directly from the University of Oregon website Safety Policy and Procedures Manual at
What occurs in high-rise buildings varies from building to building and from floor to floor.  Lower floors will shake rapidly, much like smaller buildings.  Unsecured books, plants, chemical bottles, etc., will fall from shelves.  Top-heavy furnishings will fall over. Unsecured light fixtures and ceiling panels may fall.  On upper floors, movement will be slower, but the building will move farther from side to side.  Unsecured furniture will slide across the floor.  Objects will topple from shelves.  Windows will break.  Whether you are at home, in a low building, or a high-rise building, there are steps you can take to lessen the threat of a major earthquake.

  1. You will experience momentary panic when your plane of reference begins to dance.  This should pass in a few moments.  If the shaking is severe—enough to cause damage—you will find it difficult to walk.
  2. Do not rush outdoors, since most injuries occur from falling glass, fixtures, plaster, bricks, debris, and electrical lines as people are leaving buildings.  STAY PUT!
  3. Sit or stand against an inside wall or doorway or take cover under a desk, table, or bench (in case a wall, ceiling, or furnishings should fall).  In high-rise buildings, doorways may not necessarily be the safest place to stand; taking cover under a heavy desk or table is preferred.
  4. Stay away from all glass surfaces (windows, mirrors, etc.)
  5. Do not attempt to restrain falling objects unless they endanger your life.
  6. If you are outdoors, remain there.  Move into the open.  Do not stand under overhangs on the outside of buildings.  Move away from power lines, and stay in the open areas away from all structures.

After an Earthquake
Aftershocks may occur at any moment with nearly the same force as the original quake. BE PREPARED.

  1. Move cautiously and observe your surroundings for hazardous situations.
  2. Check for injuries and provide first aid and CPR where necessary.
  3. Seek help by phone, if necessary, for emergency aid.  Do not tie up phone lines with unnecessary calls to home, relatives, or friends.
  4. If you detect gas or any foreign odors, do not use any matches or candles.  Open windows, shut off power, leave the building immediately, and report the problem to authorities.
  5. Do not touch downed power lines or objects touched by downed lines.
  6. If your building has obviously suffered damage, wait until the initial shake is over and then evacuate the building using proper evacuation procedures.  DO NOT USE ELEVATORS!  Go immediately to open areas, such as parking lots.  Wait until authorities announce that it is safe to enter the building.
  7. Do not spread rumors.  They often do great harm following disasters.
  8. Tune in to local radio stations for information and damage reports.
  9. Above all—remain calm! Think before you act and resist the urge to panic!

During a Hurricane

Taken liberally from the FEMA web site “Before and After a Hurricane” at
During a hurricane you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your work area, close windows, doors, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off all electrical appliances if instructed to do so.
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.

You should evacuate under the following conditions:

  • If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
  • If you are in a high-rise building—hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  • If you feel you are in danger.

If you are unable to evacuate, go to your safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:

  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm - winds will pick up again.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.


Response Actions
During a tornado warning, follow the procedure listed below.
Inside buildings:

  • Stay away from all windows and doors;
  • Move to an interior corridor away from windows;
  • Stay away from lobbies, walkways, atriums and other large glassed-in areas, and large open areas with a long roof span;
  • If available, take cell phone and flashlight;
  • Crouch down along the wall and protect your head with your hands from possible debris; and
  • Remain in sheltered area until given the all clear by the Campus Police

Outside of buildings:

  • When instructed or conditions warrant, seek shelter in the nearest building;
  • Stay away from all windows and doors;
  • Move to an interior corridor away from windows;
  • Stay away from lobbies, walkways, atriums and other large glassed-in areas, and large open areas with a long roof span;
  • If there is no shelter available, lie in a ditch or other earthen depression; and
  • Never attempt to outrun a tornado.
  • Once an all-clear has been given, follow the procedure below:
  • If the building was not affected by incident, return to your previous location; and
  • If your building was affected by the incident, attempt to safely exit the building.  If unable to do so, seek help by calling University Police at 416-287-7333. If no telephone is available, try to get the attention of outside personnel by making noise, such as yelling.
Taken from the University of Chicago Environment Health and Safety, Tornado Plan at


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