Studies and Special Reports

University of Washington Seattle Campus Report on Emergent Volunteer Management Planning (September 2007)

Evacuation Planning Initiative

Emergency Transportation Workshop
March 14, 2005

Executive Report

Summary Only

Table Of Contents

  1. Overview And Objective
    1. Background
    2. Workshop Process
    3. Participants
  2. Major Themes Discussions, Issues Raised
    1. Training And Education
    2. University Process And Responsibilities
    3. Relationships And Roles Between University And Surrounding Community/Local Authorities
    4. Planning Elements
    5. Flow Of Information
    6. Special Needs
  3. Outcomes and Next Steps


  1. List Of Registered Participants (Not Included)
  2. University Of Washington Workshop: Scenario Reference Documents (Not Included)
  3. Detailed Listing Of Issues And Discussions (Not Included)
  4. Workshop Briefing Materials (Not Included)
  5. Summary Analysis Of Crosswalk Of Other Evacuation Planning Documents Generated By Academic Institutions (Not Included)



The University of Washington has a long-history of effective preparedness in addressing the safety and protection of the vast community that resides and works on Campus. The University operates its own police force and has maintained excellent coordination and mutual relations with the broader Seattle community, and respective fire and law enforcement agencies. Historically, the University developed a pro-active program to educate and raise awareness of students, administration, employees, and faculty on matters related to evacuation planning focused on building-specific fire evacuation. Yet in the light of the attacks of September 11th, the reality facing the University is the possibility the campus may be impacted by technological and natural disasters, such as earthquakes or terrorist attack. Therefore the University proactively looks to expand the effectiveness of its overall safety and preparedness program by developing an all-hazards evacuation program and associated Seattle Main Campus Evacuation Plan.


On March 14, 2005 at 8:00 AM a workshop was held to discuss evacuation and emergency transportation issues related to the University of Washington’s (UW) Seattle campus. The workshop design brought together representatives of the Campus community, including administration, faculty, and students; with representatives from the broader community surrounding the University. The group discussed opportunities, obstacles, and potential requirements associated with establishing a viable evacuation plan for the main University Campus. Two scenarios were presented. The first dealing with the evacuation of a single building on campus and its surrounding area. The second scenario involved a major earthquake which significantly affected the University and the entire region. These two scenarios were meant to promote discussion regarding evacuating students, visitors, staff and faculty on and off campus. Using an experienced facilitator with familiarity in evacuation planning methodologies, the participants were led through the scenarios to identify existing processes, highlight opportunities for collaboration and integration amongst the various parties, and raise issues that can be addressed in the development of an Evacuation Plan for the University of Washington’s Seattle Campus. To see the full listing of issues discussed at the workshop, see Attachment C. The workshop scenarios can be found in Attachment B.


This workshop was sponsored by the UW Emergency Management and the UW Transportation Office and included representatives from departments in the University of Washington and local outside partner agencies. A list of attendees can be found at Attachment A.



Documentation and guidance currently exists to address building safety in the event of fires and other conditions that may require building evacuation. In the workshop individuals emphasized that additional training of all campus populations (i.e., faculty, employees, administration and students) would be beneficial and would raise awareness of existing evacuation plans and other existing emergency plans. Current earthquake drills have people evacuate the building after the initial shaking subsides, but there is no formal protocol on who decides when it is safe to re-enter the building. In addition, there could be a large time lapse before inspections occur, designating the buildings safe. Providing additional awareness and training to Building Coordinators would enhance their experience to make this decision.

Currently thirty staff are trained as UW Campus Emergency Response Team (UW CERT) representatives. UW Emergency Management recently established the pilot program for three buildings on campus: the Health Sciences Complex, Gerberding Hall, and the Communications Building. The Federal Emergency Management Agency promotes the CERT program, which is a nation-wide program created to train community volunteers in assisting local response agencies in responding to natural or human-caused disasters. Additional training and volunteers are needed to improve and enhance the UW CERT program. Also standard operating procedures need to be developed that integrate the CERT teams into the post-building evacuation and inspection process.


During an incident that affects campus, the University will be responsible for making several immediate decisions. The University President decides whether the campus remains open or under “suspended operations”. If the campus “suspended operations,” essential services still remain open (such as emergency services and the UW Medical Center). If the President is not available to make the policy decision, a written formal succession plan flows from the President to the Provost succeeded by the Executive Vice-President then to other Vice-Presidents.

During certain types of emergencies, such as an earthquake, there would need to be a building-by-building decision on whether to evacuate or shelter-in place on campus. Psychologically disturbing, earthquakes make it difficult to convince the campus population to stay in their buildings, even if undamaged, due to the threat of continuing aftershocks. Many occupants would simply self-evacuate to be with their families and loved ones at home.

Day-to-day 24/7 security and emergency services are provided by the UW Police Department (UWPD). However in a major event, the campus Emergency Operation Center (EOC), located in the Bryants Building, serves as the campus’s communication and coordination center. The responsibilities of the UW EOC include the following:

  • Developing the strategy to assist the entire campus, not just the specific scene of the incident which would be under control of the respective ICS commander(s).
  • Allocating incoming resources from outside agencies, including bomb dogs and bomb teams.
  • Coordinating transportation, utility, mass triage and other major issues.


Coordination and communication between the city of Seattle and the University of Washington is crucial before, during and after an incident since they will undoubtedly affect each other, regardless of the intensity of the incident. Unless there is a major regional incident necessitating their services elsewhere in the city, the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle Fire Department would respond to incidents on campus. A Police supervisor would set-up a modified Unified Command System with the Seattle Fire Department. The scene could then possibly be turned over to the Seattle Fire Department, depending on the specifics of the event. If a fire alarm was activated on campus, it would sound at the UWPD Dispatch Center and at the North Precinct Seattle Fire Department.

For a massive regional disaster, Unified Command would be overseen by both the King County Executives and the Mayor of Seattle. The President of the University should be involved in policy decisions involving regional incidents being made at the city, county and state level.


Planning prior to an incident is essential to ensure steps are taken to protect the campus population. Specifically, scenario-based checklists are needed for people in authority which would detail actions to take during particular emergency situations. Persons in critical positions need to have at least one back-up person identified that could assume their role during an incident if the need arises. Staff members, who are parents of young children or have homebound family members, may want to avoid volunteering for critical roles during an emergency because their first priority will be taking care of their families.

Pre-designated Campus Assembly Areas, preferably 4 to 5 locations, need to be identified. Some possible areas that were initially identified included:

  • Liberal Arts Quadrangle
  • Campus Green (South of Law school)
  • Denny Field
  • Denny Yard
  • Rainer Vista
  • Hub Yard
  • Archery Range
  • South of Stadium near the Montlake Cut

It may be beneficial to have pre-designated people who would go to gathering areas after an incident and make official announcements to the gathering masses. There are currently no scripted emergency messages for the campus. In addition, it may be possible to have pre-designated police areas, similar to those set-up after Husky games, to help with evacuation.

UW buildings provide multiple functions that include office, classes, residence halls, patient care or support. A tailored plan is needed for each building function. Of the approximately 200 buildings on campus, 150 have fire alarms. Also the campus community, especially students, is not aware of the small percentage of existing evacuation plans.

Response plans exist with Fire and Police to protect the radiological, chemical and biological materials used on campus that could possibly be used in a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) event. The University’s fleet of vehicles could be used to evacuate persons but a plan for deploying these vehicles does not currently exist.


The flow of information between responding agencies and to the campus population and the public will be critical during an incident. Providing correct information to the public and to the campus population ensures that rumors are not circulating. Equally important the News media plays an essential role in delivering “official” information from the EOC out to the public about the campus and the city.

An information phone line (206-547-INFO) is currently managed through UW Computing and Communications (C&C). Parents can call the line and hear a recorded message. If this phone line is oversaturated, calls can be switched to an out-of-state system in Arizona. In addition, UW C&C and News & Information have the capability to jointly develop a UW emergency website to provide status of current events.

The city is testing an outdoor Public Address (PA) system (AHAB) for all hazards, especially terrorism. They are currently evaluating and installing a pilot system along the downtown waterfront. It was suggested during the workshop that the UW should look at the possibility of expanding this system to the Seattle campus. Ideal for a campus settings and large gatherings, a PA system would help warn many at once and can give tone warning and voice instructions.


In order to ensure the safety of the special needs population on campus during an incident, the University units require more training and support. There are an estimated 2,000 individuals with special needs, including staff, students and faculty. There is a database of services provided for employees and students with disabilities but they do not track them by location on campus. Recommended during the workshop, persons with disabilities should self-identify themselves prior to any incident with the UW Disabilities Service Office.

Currently the University has available access guides for emergency events for disabled persons. However the University needs evacuation devices for individuals that use wheelchairs and are mobility-impaired. Currently, individuals in wheelchairs can not evacuate upper-level floors if a building is without power since they are dependant on elevators. They must wait for the Fire Department to help them evacuate.

There are hundreds of thousands of research animals on campus. Trained veterinarians can help in an emergency, but the animals would also require continuous power, water, and food. In addition, the university daily receives large number of visitors (i.e., patients, youth groups, tour groups) on campus who would require additional care and supervision.


The workshop served as a conduit for raising key issues regarding evacuation of the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. These issues will serve as the impetus for the creation of an evacuation plan for the campus. Detailed elements associated with the broad issues discussed in this summary are presented at Attachment B. The University encourages individuals to express ideas, opinions, or insights regarding the process and eventual development of Evacuation Plan. If you wish to provide additional comments or ideas, please forward them to the attention of Steve Charvat at the Emergency Management, at Please include UW Evacuation Plan in the “subject line” of any correspondents.


  1. List Of Registered Participants
  2. University Of Washington Workshop: Scenario Reference Documents
  3. Detailed Listing Of Issues And Discussions
  4. Workshop Briefing Materials
  5. Summary Analysis Of Crosswalk Of Other Evacuation Planning Documents Generated By Academic Institutions