UW Emergency Management

President’s message

Disasters can happen anytime — anywhere. The UW is not immune from threats. All we have to do is recall the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake, the Urban Horticulture and Educational Outreach fire and the pandemic flu outbreaks that hit the UW and globe. To its credit, the UW has in place a number of innovative programs and plans developed to protect our unique community from these threats. They are designed to save lives, protect property and safeguard our environment in the event of a disaster.  As a team effort, this is a shared responsibility between members of the UW Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses as we all prepare for any emergency or crisis that can impact our normal operations.

Emergency planning at the University of Washington

Ongoing attention to national security and catastrophic natural disasters leaves many of us wondering about the potential for an emergency to touch our lives. While the UW always has the potential to be threatened by a natural disaster, accident or terrorist event, it is important for our students, faculty and staff to know that our campus receives the most up-to-date information available on risks as well as threats and is well prepared to respond to all emergencies.

If the campuses ever are threatened or are impacted by a disaster or major emergency, the University’s all-hazard Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) may be activated.  In 2020, as par tof our regular plan update, we moved from the old format that focused almost exclusively on the Seattle campus, to a more institution-wide plan.  The CEMP is designed to protect life and property in the event of a major disaster like an earthquake, terrorist attack or pandemic flu outbreak. During an emergency affecting the campuses, the University’s plans provide for coordination of emergency support functions such as police aid and response, medical assistance, damage assessment, facility repairs, student services and care and shelter. An essential part of the University’s responses to any emergency is close coordination with appropriate federal, state and local agencies to provide the most effective response possible. We utilize the most comprehensive incident management procedures to ensure we can effectively work with our community partners.

Emergency planning for all three of University of Washington’s main campuses has developed over many years and the community benefits from several recent improvements to campus preparedness:

  • Creation of an independent Emergency Management Office
  • Identification and documentation of potential hazards, including earthquakefire and terrorism
  • Planning to mitigate identified hazards through such measures as seismic retrofitting of buildings, training of staff in emergency response and operations, emergency communications improvements, and additional security measures
  • Extensive revision and regular update of the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan
  • Formation of hazardous materials assessment teams
  • Annual disaster drills with community partners
  • Establishment of a university-wide business, academic and research continuity planning program
  • Establishment, testing and regular use of the UW Alert mass notification system.

During an emergency the University will provide direction and instructions about specific situations and actions to take, such as evacuation or sheltering inside campus buildings. This information will be available immediately via social media platforms and SMS messaging, on the Web and also by telephone. Computer systems and the telephone network have plans in place for emergency backup.

For more information



Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology and American Ethnic Studies