The Catholic University of America

How We Manage Emergencies

Emergency occurrences, perceived or actual, are communicated or reported to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) on 319-5111. In an emergency situation where the campus requires an immediate response the CUA Emergency Notification Plan will be activated.

DPS will:

  • Deploy the "All-Campus Alert" announcement system on campus with a set announcement
  • Send a set text announcement for display on the Alert DC System
  • Alert CUA Public Affairs
  • Alert CUA President

Public Affairs will:

  • Send additional notices to students, faculty and staff via e-mail lists
  • Send text to CPIT or Student Life to broadcast over the CUA cable TV channels and plasma screens
  • Alert CPIT to provide a message to faculty and staff on voicemail, if during business hours
  • Provide initial texts and updates as needed for the Safety First web page


The two basic responses in an emergency are Evacuation and Shelter in Place.

Evacuation: For an emergency that would be dangerous to your life and health if you were to stay in your building.

  • Be prepared: Before an emergency happens, find at least two emergency exits from your building.
  • Sound the fire alarm in the event of fire. For other evacuation emergencies, call the Department of Public Safety at x5111.
  • If you can't evacuate:
    • Call x 5111 and/or go to a window and signal for help
    • Go to the nearest exit or preferred area of safe refuge and await the arrival of emergency personnel.
  • Exit the building from the closest available exit. Don't use the elevator.

Shelter-in-Place: For an emergency that would put you in danger if you were to leave your building. (shelter-in-place is advised in most situations, unless the building you are in is affected by the incident).

  • Stay calm and do not panic.
  • Stay inside unless a fire alarm sounds or you have been instructed to leave by a CUA official.
  • For news bulletins, monitor the CUA Web page, e-mail and voice mail, mobile devices for "Urgent Alerts" and turn on the radio or TV.
  • If you are outside, seek shelter inside a building, do not remain outside.
  • Follow building-specific instructions from your resident assistant or the building watch captain.

Wait for further instructions from a CUA official.

Emergency Response Guidelines

The following guidelines are intended to reduce your personal risk in the unlikely event that an emergency incident should occur on campus.

In the event of an active shooter whereby someone has entered the area and started shooting, the following are a list of recommended actions:

  • Exit the building immediately.
  • Notify anyone you may encounter to exit the building immediately.
  • Notify the police by calling 911 and CUA DPS at 202-319-5111.
  • Give the 911 Operator the following information:
    • Your name
    • Location of the incident (be as specific as possible)
    • Number of shooters (if known)
    • Identification of shooter (if known)
    • Number of persons who may be involved
    • Your location
  • (Individuals not immediately impacted by the situation should take protective cover within their shelter-in-place location, staying away from windows and doors until notified otherwise.)

In the event of an active shooter whereby you are directly involved and exiting the building is not possible, the following actions are recommended:

  • Go to the nearest room or office.
  • Close the door, lock it if possible.
  • Cover the door windows.
  • Keep quiet and act as if no one is in the room.
  • DO NOT answer the door.
  • Notify the police at 911 and CUA public safety at 202-319-5111.
  • Give the 911 Operator the following information:
    • Your name
    • Your location (be as specific as possible)
    • Number of shooters (if known)
    • Identification of shooter (if known)
    • Number of persons who may be involved
  • Wait for the Police to assist you out of the building.

In the event of a fire:

  • Sound the fire alarm.
  • Feel the door handle:
    • If it is hot, don't open it. Go to a window and call for help.
    • If it is not hot, open cautiously. Check for smoke or fire before leaving.
    • If there is smoke in your room or in the hallway while you are getting out, STAY LOW to the floor.
    • If you cannot get out of the door, get someone's attention, e.g., yell and scream out a window. If you can, hang an attention-getting item on or from a window (e.g., a sheet, sign or coat) and phone x5111.
  • Once outside:
    • Call the Department of Public Safety (202-319-5111) from a safe location.
    • Report to the assembly area designated for the building (see emergency policy poster map in each building).

In the event of a bomb threat:

Take bomb threats seriously! If you have received a bomb threat:

  • Stay calm and keep your voice calm.
  • Pay close attention to details. Talk to the caller to obtain as much information as possible.
  • Take notes. Write down other data:
    • Date and time of call or written threat was received.
    • How threat was received (letter, note, telephone)
  • Call the Department of Public Safety at X5111.
  • Submit your notes from the telephone call or the bomb threat (letter or note) to public safety.
  • Follow the university officials' instructions.

Faculty and Staff Responsibilities

CUA faculty and staff should immediately document and report incidents of aberrant, dangerous or threatening behavior to the Department of Public Safety, Office of the Dean of Students and/or the Counseling Center. Reporting recommendations may be found at:

Catholic University Offers Emergency Text Message Notifications Through "Alert DC"

The Catholic University of America is one of a number of area universities that have opted to register as an institution with the "Alert DC" system. When critical alerts affecting our campus are broadcast by the "Alert DC" system, pre-registered recipients will receive a short text message to their mobile device. Several CUA administrators have authority to request that messages be sent through the alert system. These requests will quickly be approved by DC Emergency Management personnel, who also have instant access to law enforcement and homeland security information that they can disseminate, as needed.

Anyone can sign up to receive emergency notifications affecting CUA, even if you do not live in the DC area. To register, please visit the Alert DC homepage ( and create an account (click the New User link in the last paragraph). After selecting CUA and other communities/neighborhoods, you may also select the level of alerts that you wish to receive.

When is it Used?

The "Alert DC" system will only be used by authorized CUA administrators to transmit short, truly urgent messages that affect the entire campus community (not, for example, snow closings). An emergency message from the CUA administration might include a shelter-in-place message or an evacuation alert. Note that the DC government also uses this system to notify the public of government office closings, severe weather conditions, and traffic conditions.