Important Information About Emergency Preparedness

Posted: October 6, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Dear Patriots,

Safety is a top priority at George Mason University. The Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHS) and the Department of Police and Public Safety are committed to creating an environment where everyone in our community can thrive. It is important to remember that everyone can play a role in sustaining a safe and secure campus.

With this in mind, we encourage you to become familiar with the institution’s recommended procedures on how to respond to various emergencies that may occur on campus. There are no current threats at this time, but as many of you know there has been an increase in acts of violence and severe weather throughout the nation that may impact George Mason University campuses. We want everyone in our community to have the resources they need in the unlikely event that we encounter a dangerous situation.

Emergency Notification: Mason Alert is the university’s official emergency notification system. Mason Alert is used to issue emergency notifications and other important announcements that may affect your safety. All George Mason students and employees are automatically enrolled in Mason Alert when assigned a university email address. Students and employees are strongly encouraged to register cell phones with Mason Alert to receive text messages about emergency situations. Please visit to register your cell phone.

Violence on Campus: Mason Police and public safety officials are actively working to prevent violence on campus. However, in the unfortunate instance where a person with a weapon strikes, we want everyone to be prepared to stay safe by knowing the best procedures.

In situations involving violent actors, such as active shooters, seconds count so be decisive. Have a plan in advance for how you would get out of your building or hide.

Below are some basic guidelines for staying safe in such circumstances.

Get Out – If safety permits, exit the area/building immediately and move as far away from the scene of violence as possible. Additionally:

  1. Notify others to exit the building and seek protection elsewhere.
  2. Call 911 and relay as much information as possible (e.g., location, description of the individual(s), and type of weapon used).

Hide – If you can’t safely exit the building or the attacker is nearby:

  1. Proceed to the nearest room or a room in the nearest building and lock the door. If you cannot lock the door:
    1. Block the door with furniture or equipment
    2. Take cover behind equipment or furnishings
  2. Turn off the lights.
  3. Cover door windows.
  4. Remain quiet and act as if the room is empty.
  5. Place cell phones and other electronic devices on silent or vibrate mode.
  6. If you are with a group of people, try to hide in multiple locations in the room. It is best not to hide as one large group.
  7. When law enforcement arrives follow their instructions, keep your hands visible and raised, and avoid pointing or gestures that may be mistaken for holding or firing a weapon.

Defend Yourself – If you are confronted by an individual with a weapon in a life-or-death situation, defend yourself and others by whatever means are necessary. This should be reserved for situations where your life or the life of others is at risk and you feel there are no other options. In these cases, do not relent until the aggressor is restrained or law enforcement arrives.

If you suspect that a person is capable of causing harm to themselves or others, or observe a suspicious incident or person, report your observation to Mason Police immediately by dialing 911 or 703-993-2810.  Remember if you see something, say something; take the challenge.

The university also offers training that helps people deal with violent situations, and we strongly recommend you participate in these sessions. Contact the Mason Police’s Active Threat Resource Officer at ( or EHS.

Building Evacuation:  In the event a building must be evacuated due to a fire or other emergency (e.g., utility failure, after an earthquake, or hazardous materials incident):

  1. Proceed to the nearest exit and warn others to evacuate the building as you exit.
  2. Pull the manual pull station to active the fire alarm if there is a fire in the building.
  3. If you are unable to exit the building, notify a person that is exiting the building to alert emergency response personnel of your location, or notify police by dialing 911 or 703- 993-2810 and seek shelter in a safe area.
  4. Immediately report the emergency to police by dialing 911 or 703-993-2810.
  5. Do not reenter the building until told to do so by Mason Police or university official.
  6. Notify emergency response personnel if you suspect that someone is missing or remained in the building.

Building Evacuation Plans are posted throughout university buildings and on residence hall room doors. Evacuation Plans display the building name and address, indicate primary and alternate exit routes, and provide the location of fire extinguishers, pull stations, and designated assembly areas.

Severe Weather:  In the event of severe weather (i.e., tornadoes, lightning, and severe thunderstorms):

  1. Seek shelter in the nearest building or remain in the building and do not leave until the storm has passed.
  2. Move to an interior space such as a conference room, hallway, or office space that is free from windows and skylights.
  3. Do not exit the shelter until the storm has passed.
  4. Report any injuries or damages to University Police by dialing 911 or 703-993-2810.

Although rare, hurricanes occasionally cause flooding, power outages, road closures, or wind damage throughout our region. In advance of a hurricane, prepare by having extra medication, food, a flashlight, bottled water, and weather radio.  If you must drive during a storm, do not attempt to travel through standing or moving water.  Remember to turn around; don’t drown.

Register your cell phone to receive severe weather warning text messages through Mason Alert, your preferred weather mobile application, or local weather stations.

Mason’s Emergency Preparedness Resources: The following resources are free and available to all university students and employees:

  • Mason’s Emergency Preparedness App: Download the university’s Emergency Preparedness App. It contains information about how to respond to various emergencies on campus including on-campus violence, earthquakes, fires, severe weather, and medical emergencies.  You can also report crimes or suspicious incidents to Mason Police anonymously.
  • Emergency Preparedness Guides: EHS provides detailed information how prepare and respond to various emergencies that may occur on campus. This information is available in Emergency Preparedness Guides available online.
  • Mason Police: Mason Police provides information and resources regarding campus violence awareness, prevention, and response. Mason Police also provide training and links to addition resources. Please visit the webpage.

If you have any questions or concerns about Mason’s readiness for potential emergencies on campus, please contact Environmental Health and Safety at or 703-993-8448.


David Farris, PhD
Executive Director of Safety & Emergency Management
Environmental Health and Safety Office
George Mason University