Crisis Response

How to Respond to a Crisis 

If you or someone you know is experiencing a personal crisis, please contact one of the following:

Public Safety 314-968-6911
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255

Additional Crisis Response Information

Each building will have posted site specific maps, for the purpose of evacuation and relocation of people that are affected by the incident. These maps will identify evacuation routes and locations for safe areas and assembly areas within the building and outside of the building. If necessary, people will be instructed on where shelter and assembly may be obtained if the primary shelter/assembly points are inaccessible.

If an area is absent of these evacuation maps, please exit the building via posted exit signs. If a evacuation is called for that requires people to evacuate to a safe area within the building, look for lower level areas away from windows and doors. Such areas might include bathrooms and stairwells.

Tornadoes usually occur during the spring and summer months, but may occur anytime, provided the conditions are right. Tornadoes can sweep through an area, causing severe damage and destruction, serious physical injury and death. They can change direction and strike again. Other potential hazards that can occur in the wake of a tornado may include, fire, electrical damage, structure damage and gas leaks.

There are two types of Tornado Alerts:

Tornado Watch

Weather conditions are considered favorable for creating a tornado and all employees should be alert to weather conditions.

Tornado Warning

A tornado funnel has been sighted or identified by radar. It is imperative that everyone takes shelter immediately. Tornadoes can and will move quickly. Therefore, time is of the essence. Keep in mind that since tornadoes can spring up in a moments notice, there may not be time for ample warning. It is therefore recommended that if severe thunderstorms occur, be alert to the fact that these storms may trigger a tornado.

Tornado Procedures

If the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning or watch, a Webster Alert will be issued and St. Louis County will activate a Tornado Warning System that utilizes exterior sirens. If the announcement is made that a tornado warning has been issued, a tornado has touched down or we are in the path of a tornado, all personnel will move to the nearest designated safe area/shelter for that area.

  • GET IN — If you are outside, get inside.
  • GET DOWN — Get to the lowest floor possible.
  • COVER UP — Be aware of flying debris. Use pillows, blankets, coats, etc. to cover up and protect your head.

Be Safe and Survive DURING

  • Immediately go to the lowest level of any building on campus.
  • If the building does not have a basement, seek shelter in a small interior room on the lowest level.
  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.
  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • If you are caught outdoors, lay face down in a low lying area and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • Do not attempt to outrun a tornado — seek shelter.


  • Monitor Webster Alerts and listen for information from local authorities.
  • If you are trapped, cover your mouth with a cloth or mask to avoid breathing dust. Attempt to send text messages or bang on a pipe or wall so rescuers may locate you.
  • Stay clear of fallen power lines or broken utility lines.
  • Do not enter damaged buildings until you are told by authorities that they are safe.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messaging or social media to communicate with family and friends.

Fire in a building can occur for a variety of reasons and can occur at anytime and spread very quickly.

Fire Procedure

  1. Anyone seeing a fire, observing or smelling smoke should immediately go to the nearest fire alarm pull station and activate the fire alarm. Extinguish the fire only if you can do so safely and quickly.
  2. They should then notify public safety at Ext 6911.
  3. Faculty members and department heads shall assume responsibility for those people in their charge and evacuate their classrooms and offices in an orderly manner to the nearest designated evacuation route and assembly point.
  4. Faculty and department heads are responsible for keeping all students in the assembly area until recalled to the building or advised by emergency personnel of where to go.
  5. If students want to leave, or are dismissed, it is the responsibility of the instructor to obtain their name and log it down.

Department heads are also responsible for keeping a head-count of their employees.

Fire Safety Tips

  • If clothes are on fire:
    • Stop, drop, and roll to extinguish fire.
  • If trapped in a room:
    1. Place cloth material around the bottom of the door to prevent smoke from entering.
    2. Close as many doors as possible between you and the fire.
    3. Do not break glass unless necessary. Outside smoke may enter.
    4. Signal from a window if possible.
  • If caught in smoke:
    1. Drop to your hands and knees, and crawl.
    2. Hold your breath as long as possible.
    3. Breathe shallowly through your nose and use clothing as a filter
  • If forced to advance through flames:
    1. Hold your breath.
    2. Move quickly.
    3. Cover your head and hair.

A bomb threat may come to our attention in a variety of ways. It is important to compile as much information as possible. In the case of a written threat, it is vital that the document be handled by as few people as possible. This evidence should be turned over to the campus police department. If the threat comes through email;: save the information on the computer. If the threat is obtained by voice mail: save the message. In all cases of bomb threats, notify Public Safety immediately. Most bomb threats, however, are made over the telephone. Therefore, the following instructions are provided.

  • Remain calm and immediately refer to the bomb threat checklist. Pay attention to your telephone display (if applicable) and record the information shown in the display window.
  • Keep the caller on the line as long as possible to attempt to gather as much information as possible. Try not to anger the caller at any time. Pay attention to background noises and distinctive sounds, such as machinery, traffic, other voices, music, television, etc.
  • Note any characteristics of the caller's voice (race, gender, age, sexuality, education, accent, etc).
  • Attempt to obtain a location of advice (building, floor, room, etc). Attempt to obtain information on the time and type of detonator.

*Immediately after the call has ended, notify Public Safety and keep the information confidential.

Once Public Safety is notified, they will notify the VP of Finance and Administration and/or the senior administrator on duty and advise them of the situation.

If the location of the bomb is known, Public Safety, along with members of physical plant and staff most familiar with the location's normal appearance, will conduct a search of the area quietly and without fanfare.

Teams will be assigned to search designated areas. If suspicious packages or items are found, they will not be moved or touched. St. Louis County Bomb and Arson will be notified to investigate.

Decision to Evacuate

The decision to evacuate a building and/or the campus shall be made after a thorough evaluation of the information that is available. That information shall include, but is not limited to:

  1. The nature of the threat.
  2. The specific location and time of detonation.
  3. Circumstances related to the threat.
  4. The discovery of a device or unusual package, luggage, etc.

Bombs by Mail

Receiving a bomb in the mail is remote. Unfortunately, over the years a small number of explosive devices have been mailed that have resulted in injury and/or death.

Mail bombs can be enclosed in a letter, package or envelope and may appear to be safe. However some unique characteristics may assist in identifying bombs:

  1. Mail bombs may bear restricted endorsement, such as “Personal or Private.”
  2. Addressee's name or title may be inaccurate.
  3. Return address may be fictitious or not available.
  4. The package may be addressed with distorted handwriting or cut and-paste lettering.
  5. Protruding wires, aluminum foil, oil stains or a peculiar odor may be present.
  6. Cancellation or postmark may show a different location than the return address.
  7. Mail bombs may have excessive postage.
  8. Mail may feel rigid, uneven or lopsided.

If you are suspicious:

  1. Do not open mail.
  2. Isolate mail and evacuate the immediate area.
  3. Do not put in water or in a confined space.
  4. Open windows in the immediate area.
  5. Contact Public Safety.

Millions of tons of hazardous materials are transported by rail and/or motor vehicle that come in close contact with Webster University. There are even small amounts of hazardous materials on the Webster University grounds.

A Hazardous Materials Incident may be a spill or a release of chemicals, radioactive materials or biological materials inside a building or to the environment. Most of the time, a small spill can be managed by the user. Major spills or emergencies require assistance from outside agencies that are trained and capable of handling the spill. These are known as haz-mat teams.

Chemicals and Solvents

For accidents posing an immediate fire hazard or requiring medical attention:

  1. Call Public Safety immediately.
  2. Evacuate the area.
  3. Assist others with first aid and evacuation.

If the spill does not pose immediate danger:

  1. Isolate the spill.
  2. Evacuate the scene.
  3. Limit access.
  4. Notify the area supervisor and Public Safety.

For life threatening exposure to hazardous materials:

  1. Call Public Safety immediately.
  2. Perform rescues and emergency first aid.
  3. Keep all persons as far away from the accident scene as possible.
  4. Avoid contamination.
  5. Keep all persons isolated until they can be examined.


Emergency personnel are usually available to assist with any evacuation. However, this may not always be the case. It may not be possible to know the exact locations of all disabled students, staff and visitors to the University at a given time. Those with mobility concerns or other concerns that would make an independent evacuation difficult are encouraged to discuss alternate plans and arrangements with their instructors and/or supervisors in advance. This will increase the likelihood that individuals will be able to exit the building safely in the event of an emergency.

Pre-Planning (Students)

Notify the instructor and/or supervisor of your capabilities and what type of assistance you will need in the event that an emergency situation arises and evacuation is necessary. Become familiar with your area by locating exits, stairwells, elevators, fire-fighting equipment, fire alarms and telephones. Establish areas of refuge if you are unable to get out of the building.

During an Emergency (Students)

If on the first floor, immediately leave the building, with or without assistance, via the closest available exit or pre-designated exit route posted in the classroom or area you are in. Use pre-designated volunteers for assistance, if available. Persons in wheelchairs should use the elevator as a first choice except in the case of fire, earthquake or tornado.

If unable to leave the building, call Public Safety and give location and type of assistance needed.

If unable to leave a room/building due to fire or because of smoke in the hallway, alert someone by waving a light colored cloth or blowing a whistle.

In an earthquake, stay where you are and take cover, avoiding windows. In a tornado or severe weather, proceed to designated safe area. Advise person assisting you the best way to transport you.

Pre-Planning (Faculty/Staff)

Faculty should make an announcement at the beginning of class each semester to advise students of the procedures to take in an emergency situation and to discuss accommodation needs with disabled students. Faculty should assist the student in arranging for volunteers who are willing to assist the disabled student.

Faculty need to be familiar with all exits, ramps, stairwells, emergency telephones and elevators in the buildings that they occupy. Attend training.

During an Emergency (Faculty/Staff)

Persons using a wheelchair

  • First floor: Persons using wheel chairs, with the assistance of a pre-designated co-worker faculty member or student will proceed out of the building via the nearest exit or pre-designated evacuation route.
  • Second floor or higher: Persons using wheelchairs, with the assistance of a pre-designated co-worker, faculty member or student, will proceed to the stairwell. Once the stairwell clears and the disabled person can be navigated safely down the stairs with or without assistance, they may proceed. If this is not feasible, a member of the staff, faculty or student in the class will be instructed by the staff or faculty member to notify emergency personnel outside the building.
  • No student under any circumstances is to be left alone.

Persons with visual impairments

  • Tell the person the nature of the emergency and offer to guide them. As you walk, tell the person where you are and advise of any obstacles. Offer your arm as guidance. Do not grasp their arm.

Persons with hearing impairments

  • Write a note telling what the emergency is and the nearest evacuation route/safe area. Tap the person on the shoulder or turn the light switch on and off to gain attention. Then indicate through gestures or in writing what is happening and what to do. Escort the person.
  • Do not use this if you smell gas in the air.

Persons using crutches, canes or walkers

  • If the person is having difficulty exiting quickly, treat them as if injured for evacuation purposes. Carrying options include two-person, lock arm position or having the person sit in a chair with arms.

Non-ambulatory persons

The needs and preferences of non-ambulatory persons will vary. Most will be able to exit safely without assistance on the ground floor. Always consult the person as to their preference with regard to:

  1. Ways of being removed from a wheelchair.
  2. The number of people necessary for assistance.
  3. Whether moving extremities is painful.
  4. Whether a seat cushion should be brought along if removed from the chair.
  5. Whether he or she should be carried forward or backward on a flight of stairs.

All emergency situations, while not all the same, may require that people evacuate to a specific location. This manual identifies two types of evacuation procedures to follow in the event of a catastrophe.

Evacuation to safe areas

Certain emergency situations may require personnel to evacuate to a safe area within a building. These are areas that students, staff and visitors to the campus should take shelter in when circumstances dictate that evacuation outside the building/area is not advisable. These situations include but are not limited to: tornadoes, severe weather and chemical attack. Routes and locations to pre-designated safe areas are posted in each classroom, laboratory, office complex and work area on campus on an 8” by 11” laminated map. Safe areas have been identified in blue in all buildings and structures on campus. Students, staff and visitors that frequent areas on campus should take a couple of minutes to review these maps in the event of an emergency.

Building Evacuations

Certain situations may require that personnel evacuate a building to a specific location out-side and away from the building. These situations include but are not limited to: fire, earthquake (after tremors) and gas leak.

Routes and assembly points have been identified in red and are contained within the same map as the designated safe areas. These routes and assembly areas are posted in each classroom, laboratory, office complex and work area on campus. Students, staff and visitors that frequent areas on campus should take a couple of minutes to review these maps in the event of an emergency.

Faculty/Staff Responsibility

Faculty and staff should take a few moments at the beginning of the first class each semester to point out the map locations and to advise the class of where the safe area is, how to evacuate the building and where to assemble.

An earthquake safety plan is more than just developing a response plan, it is an ongoing plan that includes identifying hazards, conducting drills and developing plans to provide care and shelter to students, faculty and visitors until help arrives.

The need for a sound and effective plan is based on the following assumptions:

  1. A major earthquake can occur without warning.
  2. The event could cause widespread damage, serious injury and death.
  3. The event could cause fire, explosions and release of toxic chemicals.
  4. Transportation, communications and other services will be interrupted.
  5. Outside medical, fire and police personnel will be extremely busy and probably will not be able to assist our campus for several hours or even days. The accepted rule is that we would have to be self sufficient for at least 72 hours.

What to expect during an earthquakes

There will be a gentle shaking or a violent jolt. Or you may hear a low rumbling sound. Shortly, you will really feel the shaking and it will be difficult to move around.

Earthquakes Procedures

If indoors

  1. Stay indoors, remain where you are.
  2. Move away from the windows, shelves and heavy objects.
  3. Take cover under a desk, table or strong doorway.
  4. If unable to get to a designated safe area, move to an interior wall.
  5. Turn away from any windows, kneel alongside the wall, cover your head with elbows and clasp your hands behind your neck.
  6. Stay alert.

If outdoors

  1. Move to an open space.
  2. Stay away from telephone poles and power lines.
  3. Move away from buildings.
  4. Lie down or crouch low to the ground.
  5. Stay alert.

After the earthquake

  1. Do not light fires or smoke.
  2. Do not touch wires, and do not enter buildings until they have been checked.
  3. Evacuate the area via the evacuation routes posted for that area.
  4. Assemble at the designated assembly area and await further instructions from emergency personnel
  5. Faculty and staff should make sure that everyone is accountable for.

A civil protest/disturbance will usually take the form of an organized public demonstration of disapproval with a particular action, idea or incident. The civil protest/disturbance does not necessarily have to be from any action taken by Webster University. It could be from any action or event worldwide.

Most of the time, protests are of peaceful means and of non-destructive or non-obstructive nature.

However, protests and civil disturbances can crop up at a moments notice.

It is the policy of Webster University to uphold the rights of all individuals, which includes the right to free speech and the right to peaceably assemble on public property.

These rights will not be interfered with, provided that the expressive activity does not disrupt the educational mission or involve substantial disorder and/or invasion of the rights of others.

Immediate action must be initiated if the following occur:

  1. Disruption of normal operations.
  2. Obstruction of access to offices, buildings or other facilities.
  3. Willful demonstrations within the interior of any building or structure, except as authorized, to protect the rights and safety of other persons and to prevent damage to property.
  4. Un-authorized entry into, or occupation of, a classroom, building, or area of the campus, including such entry or occupation at any unauthorized time and/or any unauthorized or improper use of school property, equipment or facilities. If the above occurs, Public Safety will be notified and in turn will notify the vice president of Finance and Administration as well as the dean of students. Depending upon the nature of the protest, the appropriate procedures should be followed.

Peaceful, Non-Obstructive Protest

Peaceful protests should not be interrupted, unless violations of conditions above occur. If protesters are asked, at the president's or designee's request, to leave but refuse to leave by regular facility closing time:

  1. Arrangements will be made by the dean of students to monitor the situation during business hours, or
  2. Determination will be made to treat the violation of regular closing hours as a disruptive protest.

Non-Violent, Disruptive Protest

In the event that a protest blocks access to facilities or interferes with the operations of the campus:

  1. The dean of students or their designee will go to the area and ask the protesters to leave or to discontinue the disruptive activities.
  2. If the protesters persist in disruptive activity, a statement will be read by a selected University administrator as circumstances permit, advising the protesters that they are in violation of University policy and those individuals may be subject to disciplinary action, up to expulsion from the University. Individuals may also be subject to arrest.

Individuals may also be subject to If the protesters still persist in a disruptive manner, public safety/law enforcement will be called to clear the area.

Violent, Disruptive Protest

In the event that a violent protest in which injury to persons or property occurs or appears imminent, the following will occur:

  1. Public Safety will be notified immediately and take immediate steps to secure the situation.
  2. The VP of Finance and Administration will be notified.
  3. The president, in consultation with the director of Public Safety, vice-president of Finance and Administration, dean of students and other administrative staff, will determine further action.

An explosion is caused by a rapid expansion of gas from chemical reactions or incendiary devices.

Signs of an explosion may be a very loud noise or series of noises and vibrations, fire, heat or smoke, falling glass, debris or building damage.

Immediate action:

  1. Get out of the building as quickly and as calmly as possible.
  2. Call Public Safety at Ext 6911.
  3. If items are falling off of bookshelves or from the ceiling, get under a sturdy table or desk.
  4. If there is fire, stay low and exit the building.
  5. If you are trapped in debris, tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can locate you.
  6. Assist others in exiting the building and move to designated evacuation areas.

An active shooter or hostile intruder incident can occur under a variety of circumstances, so no guidelines can cover specific actions to take in every situation. Even so, being familiar with these guidelines can help you to plan your own survival strategy for a variety of incidents.

Webster University Department of Public Safety has adopted the Department of Homeland Security's recommended response to an active shooter, "Run, Hide, Fight."

  • RUN: if there is an acceptable escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises.
  • HIDE: if evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the shooter is less likely to find you. Lock office doors and barricade entrances if possible.
  • FIGHT: As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the shooter. Locate potential defensive weapons in your work space, scissors, fire extinguishers, staplers, etc.

For additional information regarding the "Run, Hide, Fight" response, please view the Department of Homeland Security's video "Options for Consideration" active shooter training video.

General Procedures

An active shooter is a person who is using a firearm with the intent to injure or kill others in a populated area. The Department of Public Safety will respond to the area to assist with any immediate medical needs; assist in evacuation procedures; assist in containment and be the eyes and ears for responding law enforcement personnel. Public Safety may implement a lockdown or lockout of the campus. A campus lockdown is a form of "sheltering in place" wherein personnel on campus should proceed to an area that can be locked or the door of an office space can be barricaded. Lights should be turned off and window blinds drawn and cell phones should be silenced. A campus lockout is when exterior doors of buildings are locked and persons are prohibited from entering or exiting, if doing so will expose them to danger. In either case, Public Safety will give an "all-clear" by way of an IP phone broadcast only after it is determined that the campus is safe.

Be familiar with the 4 "A"s of an active shooter response:

  • Accept that the emergency is occurring.
  • Assess what you can do.
  • Act by Run, Hide, Fight
  • Alert law enforcement

Law Enforcement personnel will deploy to the area of and engage the shooter. Members of the University community (students, faculty and staff) who encounter an active shooter or hostile intruder should adhere to the following guidelines:

An Active Shooter Outside Your Building

Do not confront or try to apprehend the shooter. Assess the situation and when safe to do so, contact Public Safety to remotely initiate a building lockout. Relay your observations to the dispatcher. Note the shooter's location and clothing description and direction of travel.

If it is determined the shooter is outside your building, faculty and staff should alert others not to exit the building and immediately lock/barricade the students and themselves in their classroom. This is a form of shelter in place. If possible cover any windows or openings that have a direct line of sight into the hallway. Barricade the doors with desk, tables, etc.

If not in a room at the time, proceed to a room that can be locked. On your way to the room, alert as many people as possible to do the same.

Lock all doors and windows; close all blinds or curtains and turn off the lights. Stay away from the windows. Do not try to "see what's happening."

Do not sound the fire alarm. A fire alarm would signal the occupants to evacuate the building and thus place them in potential harm as they attempt to exit.

Call Public Safety from a cell phone and be prepared to advise the dispatcher with the following information:

  • Your location
  • Your name
  • Number of people in the room with you
  • Description and location of the shooter

Keep everyone together.

Remain in the room until advised by law enforcement personnel to exit the building. Do not respond to voice commands or fire alarms.

Active Shooter Inside Your Building

Remember to Run, Hide, Fight...

Run in the opposite direction of the threat if it is safe to do so.

If you do not feel that you can run from the situation, determine if the room you are in or near can be locked. If so, follow the procedures as indicated above.

If the room can not be locked, you have two options:

  • Locate the nearest exit and determine whether or not you can exit the building in safety.
  • If you cannot exit the building safely, lock or barricade the doors of the room you are in with desk, tables, etc. If communication is available, immediately call the Department of Public Safety at 968- 6911. Never assume that someone else has called Public Safety.
  • If you can safely leave the building, do so by following the instructions listed below under “Exiting a building safely.”

As a LAST resort fight the intruder by any means possible.

Active Shooter Enters Your Office or Classroom Space

Try to remain calm and if at all possible call 911.

If you are unable to speak, leave the phone line open so that dispatchers can hear what is taking place.

If you cannot escape or hide, and only as a last resort, confront and attempt to incapacitate the shooter. Use anything available as a weapon against the shooter: lap tops, fire extinguishers, scissors, staplers, etc.

Active Shooter Catches You in the Open

If for some reason you are caught in an open area such as a hallway or lounge, etc., you must decide what you are going to do.

  • Quickly assess the situation and determine if you can run to safety. If you decide to run, do not run in a straight line. Attempt to keep objects such as desks, cabinets, fixtures, etc. between you and the shooter. Once outside the building, use trees, vehicles and other objects as cover. When you are out of immediate danger, summon help and warn others any way possible.
  • You can try to hide, but make sure it is a well-hidden space or you may be found as the intruder moves through the building or area looking for victims. Take into consideration the area in which you are hiding. Will I be found here? Is this really a good spot to remain hidden?
  • Your last option if you are caught in an open area in a building may be to fight back. Depending on your situation, this could be your last option.

Exiting Building Safely

  1. Have a route planned before attempting to leave.
  2. Do not attempt to carry anything with you while fleeing.
  3. Move quickly and keep your hands visible as you exit the building.
  4. Do not attempt to treat or remove injured people but note their locations so that you may provide that information to emergency responders.
  5. Proceed to a safe location, but do not leave campus. Keep in mind that the entire area is still a crime scene and officers will need to obtain information from you before you leave. Remain at whatever assembly area is designated until you are released.
  6. At all times, comply with commands of law enforcement officers.

What to Expect From Responding Officers

Police officers responding to an active shooter are trained to engage and eliminate the threat. They may wear police uniforms or they may have special tactical gear that will be clearly identified as POLICE. Responding officers are trained to immediately proceed to the area where the shooting is occurring. If people are injured, the initial responding officers will not stop to assist you as they are trained to first engage the shooter. Additional officers and/or tactical medics will follow to provide medical assistance, once the threat has been eliminated. Remain calm and comply with all commands from law enforcement officers.

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