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Emergency Procedures

Evacuation Procedures

Situations requiring evacuation from a building may include fire, bomb threat, hazardous indoor atmosphere, or other incidents that require individuals to leave a building and assemble in a designated evacuation assembly area.

Building Evacuation

If a fire alarm sounds or if asked to evacuate, leave the building immediately.

The purpose of evacuating a building is to remove the occupants from dangerous and potentially life-threatening conditions presented by:

  • Active shooter
  • Air contamination
  • Fire
  • Hazardous material release
  • Suspected explosive device
  • Other life-threatening situation

When Evacuating a Building:

  • Remain calm
  • Proceed to the nearest safe exit
  • Do not use the elevators
  • Assist disabled persons
    • If the person cannot be moved to the exit, ask the person to remain at that location, leave the building and advise a firefighter or police officer of the person’s location.

Once outside, stay at least 500 feet from the building unless otherwise directed by a public safety official. Do not return until directed by a public safety official.

Campus Evacuation

An emergency requiring the evacuation of the SDSU Campus is likely to be part of a larger evacuation. It is important to follow evacuation instructions.

Evacuating in a vehicle the primary egress routes for those leaving the campus in a vehicle are:

  • Medary Avenue - North to the Highway 14 bypass or South to the City of Brookings
  • 11th Street East to 22nd Avenue - then North to the Highway 14 bypass or South to the City of Brookings
  • 8th Street West - To Medary Avenue or East to 20th Avenue then South to 6th Street

Emergency Response Flip Chart

Please note: This resource is not designed to be a comprehensive plan, but a reference for responding to an incident. Click on a topic for the information specific to that incident.

Active Shooter

Violent incidents, including but not limited to: acts of terrorism, an active shooter, assaults or other incidents of workplace violence can occur on the University grounds or in close proximity with little or no warning. An active shooter is considered to be a suspect or assailant whose activity is immediately causing serious injury or death and has not been contained.

Response to an active shooter is one of the most dynamic situations that anyone will ever face. Prior to the arrival of police personnel, how you respond to an active shooter will be dictated by the specific circumstances of the encounter, keeping in mind there could be more than one shooter involved in the same situation.

If you find yourself in an active shooter situation, try to remain as calm as possible and use these suggested actions to help you plan a strategy for survival. The following instructions are intended for incidents that are of an emergent nature (i.e. imminent, or in progress).

Secure the Immediate Area

Whether in a classroom, residence hall room, office or restroom:

  • Lock or barricade the door, if able. Block the door using whatever is available, such as desks, tables, file cabinets, other furniture, etc.
  • After securing the door, stay behind solid objects away from the door as much as possible.
  • If the assailant enters your room and leaves, lock or barricade the door behind them.
  • If safe to do so, allow others to seek refuge with you.

Protective Actions

Take appropriate steps to reduce your vulnerability:

  • Close blinds and block windows,
  • Turn off radios and computer monitors,
  • Silence cell phones,
  • Place signs in interior doors and windows, but remember the assailant can see these as well,
  • Place signs in exterior windows to identify your location and the location of injured persons.
  • Keep people calm and quiet.
  • After securing the room, people should be positioned out of sight and behind items that might offer additional protection, such as walls, desks, file cabinets, bookshelves, etc.

Unsecured Areas

If you find yourself in an open area, immediately seek protection:

  • Put something between you and the assailant.
  • Consider trying to escape, if you know where the assailant is and there appears to be an escape route immediately available to you.
  • If in doubt, find the safest area available and secure it the best way that you can.

Call for Help

Call the University Police Department at 606-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911. Be aware that the telephone system could very well be overwhelmed. Be prepared to provide the dispatcher with as much information as possible, such as the following:

  • What is happening,
  • Where you are located, including building name and room number,
  • Number of people at your specific location,
  • Injuries, if any, including the number of injured and types of injuries,
  • Your name and other information as requested.

Try to provide information in a calm, clear manner so that the dispatcher can quickly relay your information to responding law enforcement and emergency personnel.

What to Report

Try to note as much as possible about the assailant, including:

  • Specific location and direction of the assailant,
  • Number of assailants,
  • Gender, race and age of the assailant(s).
  • Language or commands used by the assailant.
  • Clothing, color and style.
  • Physical features, e.g., height, weight, facial hair, glasses.
  • Type of weapons, e.g., handgun, rifle, shotgun, explosives.
  • Description of any backpack or bag.
  • Do you recognize the assailant?
  • Do you know their name?
  • What exactly did you hear? (e.g., explosions, gunshots, etc.)

Active Shooter Inside Room

If the active shooter enters your office or classroom, there are no set procedures that will ensure your safety. The decision to flee or seek shelter inside the room can only be made by you and is dependent upon the circumstances.
  • As hard as it will be, try to remain calm. In the end it will aid you in decision making.
  • If you have called the police but can't speak, leave the line open so the dispatcher can hear what is taking place. Often the location of a caller can be determined without speaking.
  • If there is absolutely no opportunity of escape or concealment and the shooter is not actively firing on victims it might be possible to negotiate with the shooter.
  • If the shooter has fired on victims and you are faced with a life or death situation; only you can consider your next course of action.
  • After all other options have been exhausted, you may be faced with the decision to overpower the shooter with force by whatever means necessary.

Treat the Injured

The Dispatcher will notify law enforcement and other emergency service (EMS) agencies; fire and rescue. EMS will respond to the site, but will not be able to enter the area until it is secured by law enforcement. You may have to treat the injured as best you can until the area is secure.

Remember Basic First Aid

For bleeding apply pressure and elevate. Many items can be used for this purpose, e.g. clothing, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, newspapers, etc. Reassure those in the area that help will arrive and try to stay quiet and calm.

Un-securing the Area

The assailant may not stop until his objectives have been met or until engaged or neutralized by law enforcement.
  • Always consider the risk of exposure by opening the door for any reason.
  • Attempts to rescue people only should be made if it can be done without further endangering either yourself or the persons inside of the secured area.
  • Be aware that the assailant may bang on the door, yell for help or otherwise attempt to entice you to open the door of a secured area.
  • If there is any doubt about the safety of the individuals inside the room, the area needs to remain secured.

Law Enforcement Response - What You Should Expect

Responding police officers are trained to proceed immediately to the area where the shots were last heard; their purpose is to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. The first officers on the scene will likely be from the University Police Department. Depending on the situation, they may be joined by officers from different agencies and dressed in different uniforms. There may even be some officers in civilian clothes wearing an external bulletproof vest. Some officers may be dressed in Kevlar helmets and other tactical equipment. They may be armed with rifles, shotguns or handguns.

Responding police will have their weapons drawn and ready for use.

  • They will not know exactly who the shooter is and will probably point weapons at you.
  • Remain calm and follow any directions they may give you.
  • You may be asked questions, patted down and given orders to exit.
  • Do as the officers tell you and do not be afraid of them.

Help Is On the Way

It is important for you to:

  • Remain inside the secure area.
  • Law enforcement will locate, contain and stop the assailant.
  • The safest place for you to be is in a secure room.
  • The assailant may not flee when law enforcement enters the building, but instead may target arriving officers.

Injured Persons

Initial responding officers will not treat the injured or begin evacuation until the threat is neutralized and the area is secure.

  • You may need to explain this to others to calm them.
  • Once the threat is neutralized, officers will begin treatment and evacuation.


Responding officers will establish safe corridors for persons to evacuate. This may be time consuming.

  • Remain in secure areas until instructed otherwise.
  • You may be instructed to keep your hands on your head.
  • You may be searched.
  • You may be escorted out of the building by law enforcement personnel, simply follow their directions.
  • After evacuation you may be taken to a staging or holding area for medical care, interviewing, counseling, etc.
  • Once you have been evacuated you will not be permitted to retrieve items or access the area until law enforcement releases the crime scene.

Bomb Threat

Immediately upon receipt of a bomb threat, call the University Police Department at 605-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911.

Receiving the Threat

  • Get a pen and paper for notes, if possible.
  • Do not hang up.
  • Attempt to keep the caller on the phone as long as possible.
  • Remain calm - be polite - attempt to get information from the caller and assess the validity of the threat.
  • Ask questions, such as:
    • When is the bomb going to explode?
    • Where is it right now?
    • What does it look like?
    • What kind of bomb is it?
    • What will cause it to explode?
    • Why did you place the bomb?
  • Assess the caller’s voice, accent, slang and speaking style.
  • Be attentive to background sounds and noise.
  • Note unusual speech characteristics.
  • Describe the type of language used.

Written Bomb Threat Message

Avoid handling the message and its container to preserve fingerprints or other clues to identifying the writer. Place the message in another container and keep it for police investigation.

Chemical Threat

Chemical agents are poisonous vapors, aerosols, liquids and solids that have a toxic effect on people, animals and plants. Some chemical agents are colorless and odorless and the harmful effects they produce can be immediate (a few seconds to a few minutes) or delayed (2-48 hours). Signs of a chemical threat include people having difficulty breathing, experiencing eye irritation, losing coordination, becoming nauseated or having a burning sensation in the nose, throat and lungs. The presence of an unusually high number of dead birds or insects may indicate a chemical agent release.

During a Chemical Threat

If possible, leave the affected area immediately in the direction upwind from the source. If leaving safely is not possible, find indoor shelter immediately and shelter-in-place. Do not leave the protection of the shelter to assists others outdoors. Once inside if instructed to evacuate:

  • Do so immediately.
  • If available monitor local broadcasts for emergency information on:
    • Evacuation routes
    • Temporary shelters
    • Procedures to follow
  • Follow the routes given by authorities - shortcuts and other routes may not be safe.
  • Carpool with others to minimize traffic congestion.
  • Assist those in need (children, elderly, disabled, persons without transportation).

If Indoors

  • Shelter-in-place.

If Outside

  • Stay upwind, upstream and uphill.
  • Try to go at least one-half mile from the source.
  • Avoid contacts with spilled liquids, airborne mists or condensed solid chemical deposits.
  • Avoid inhaling gases, fumes and smoke by covering your nose and mouth with cloth, if possible
  • Avoid contact with exposed individuals until the hazardous material has been identified and interpersonal contact is determined safe.

If In a Motor Vehicle

  • Stop and seek shelter indoors.
  • If leaving the vehicle safely is not possible, close the windows and vents and keep the air conditioner and the heater fans off.

Precautions for Exposure

Decontamination is necessary within minutes of exposure to minimize harmful health effects. A person experiencing the effects of exposure requires immediate professional medical attention. If professional assistance with decontamination is unavailable, self-decontamination is required. Self-decontamination guidelines are as follows:

  • Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents.
  • Remove all clothing and other items in contact with the body. Clothing that would normally over the head should be cut off to avoid contact with the eyes, nose and mouth. Put the contaminated clothing into a plastic bag and seal it.
  • Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses and put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate them, then rinse and dry them.
  • Flush the eyes with water.
  • Gently wash the face and hair with soap and water then thoroughly rinse with water. Decontaminate other areas of the body that are likely to have been contaminated. Blot (do not swab or scrape) the skin with a cloth soaked in soapy water and rinse with water.
  • Change into uncontaminated clothes. Clothing stored in drawers and closets are likely to be uncontaminated.
  • Proceed immediately to a medical facility for screening and professional treatment.

Civil Disturbance

A broad term that is typically used by law enforcement to descried one or more forms of disturbance caused by a group of people, often in the form of protests, illegal parades, sit-ins, as well as riots, sabotage and other types of crimes.


Most university demonstrations such as marches, meetings, pickets and rallies will be peaceful and non-obstructive. A student demonstration should not be disrupted unless one or more of the following conditions exist as a result of the demonstration:

  • Interference with the normal operations of the university.
  • Prevention of access to offices, buildings or other university facilities.
  • Threat of physical harm to persons or damage to campus facilities.


Should a civil disturbance incident become disruptive to university operations or threaten the safety of the university community, the following procedure should apply:

  • Call the University Police Department at 605-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911.
  • To ensure your own safety keep a safe distance from the disturbance so that law enforcement does not mistake you for those involved.
  • Lock all doors and secure documents and equipment.

University Police are charged with the responsibility of providing for the physical safety of both protestors and other members of the university community, as a first priority. Safety of property and preservation of individual and university rights takes secondary precedence. The Chief of University Police and campus police staff will take whatever steps are necessary to maintain the personal safety of everyone involved when a protest occurs.

City police and other law enforcement agencies may be called on to assist in handling a protest on campus at the request of the University Police Chief. However, law enforcement personnel have full authority on campus and may come on campus at any time they deem appropriate.

Educational Activities

The university supports free and open discussion of all relevant issues. Current topics of local, national or international impact are appropriate for consideration in the classroom and other forums on campus. Faculty members, student affairs staff and other individuals are encouraged to support educational activities which provide broad consideration of diverse views.

Controversial issues frequently elicit strong emotions. All university students and staff are encouraged to stress the importance of reasoned and thoughtful consideration of differing viewpoints. Personal attacks, acts of harassment and violence directed at individuals will not be tolerated by the university.

Classroom Disruption

Class order and discipline is the responsibility of the instructor. Classroom disruption is the excessive and unreasonable interference with classroom instruction. If a disruptive student is encountered, the instructor should:

  • Remain calm.
  • Don't ignore the behavior.
  • Tell the person to stop.
  • If the behavior persists:
    • Instruct the person to leave the classroom.
    • Inform the university leadership of the incident.
    • Meet with the student outside the class setting to set behavioral limits and assign consequences to future similar behavior.

If the person refuses to leave or if behavior becomes threatening:

  • Dismiss the class, leave and report the incident to the university leadership - it is important to document the incident.
  • Consider referring the student to Student Judicial Affairs.
  • Strongly consider discussing the student’s behavior with the university Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT).

In the event of a serious illness or injury immediately call the University Police Department at 605-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911.


Fire is the most common and deadliest of emergencies. Understanding few basic facts about fires and taking some simple, yet effective, precautions is essential to preventing and surviving a fire emergency. Fire spreads quickly. Within two minutes a fire can become life threatening. Get out immediately.

Threats from Fire

Fire produces many deadly effects in addition to flames. These include:

  • Heat
  • Smoke
  • Poisonous gasses
  • Structure collapse
  • Oxygen depletion
  • Explosion

Fire Prevention and Preparation

The following is a list of simple and effective precautions to prevent fires and, in the event of a fire, protect one’s self, roommates, fellow employees and property.

  • Never tamper with installed smoke alarms.
  • Never leave cooking food unattended Identify escape routes and practice using them during university fire drills.
  • Identify escape routes and practice using them during university fire drills.
  • Avoid the accumulation of newspapers, magazines and other flammables.
  • Never use gasoline, benzene, naphtha or similar flammable liquids indoors.
  • Inspect extension cords for frayed or exposed wires and loose plugs.
  • Make sure wiring does not run under rugs, over nails or across high traffic areas.
  • Do not overload extension cords or outlets – use UL-approved power strips with built-in circuit breakers.

During a Fire

If clothes catch on fire: STOP - DROP - and ROLL

  • Stop running or walking - running makes the fire burn faster.
  • Drop to the ground or floor.
  • Roll until the fire is extinguished.

To escape a fire:

  • Crawl low under any smoke to exit - heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling.
  • Check closed doors for heat before opening them.
    • Use the back of the hand to feel the top of the door, the doorknob and the crack. between the door and the door frame before opening them never use the palm of the hand or fingers as they can be burn impeding the ability to escape.
    • If the door is cool, open it slowly and, if clear, escape through it shutting the door behind. Closing the door helps contain the fire and reduces the oxygen available to sustain it.
    • If the door is hot, do not open it - choose another door or escape through a window.
  • Do not use the elevator.
  • Once safely out stay out - do not re-enter.
  • Call the University Police Department at 605-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911.

If escape is not possible, hang a white or light-colored sheet out the window alerting firefighters to your presence.

Designated Meeting Place

During a building fire, firefighters must determine as soon as possible whether or not all occupants have escaped. If not, they will attempt a rescue placing themselves at great risk of serious injury. Therefore, it is important to account for all individuals and for each person to report to a designated meeting area. If a meeting area has not been designated, meet outdoors on the upwind side of the building. The meeting place should be at a safe distance and clear of emergency responders, their vehicles and equipment. If another location is designated, building evacuees should be notified at the scene.


The National Weather Service classifies floods as follows:

Flood Watch

  • Flooding is possible.
  • Monitor local broadcast media for emergency information.

Flash Flood Watch

  • Flash flooding is possible.
  • Be prepared to move to higher ground.
  • Monitor local broadcast media for emergency information and instructions.

Flood Warning

  • Flooding is occurring or will soon occur.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Monitor local broadcast media for emergency information and instructions.

Flash Flood Warning

  • A flash flood is occurring.
  • Seek higher ground on foot immediately.

The Power of Moving Water

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and stalling.
  • One foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles and pick-up trucks.

Before a Flood

  • If flooding is likely, and time permits, move essential items and furniture to the upper floors of your building.
  • Most importantly, move to a safe area before safe exits are cut off by flooding waters.

During a Flood

  • Monitor local broadcast media for emergency information and instructions.
  • Monitor the Nation Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA weather radio or access the NOAA Website).
  • Stay on higher ground; avoid areas subject to sudden flooding.
  • Do not attempt to cross through an area of flowing water if it is above your knees.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas.
  • If floodwaters rise around a vehicle, abandon it and move to higher ground to avoid being swept away with the vehicle.

After a Flood

  • Do not drink any water from the area until it has been tested by health officials.
  • Discard all food that has come into contact with floodwater. Canned food is okay to eat.
  • Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried thoroughly before being returned to service.
  • To examine buildings, use flashlights not lanterns or torches, flammables from broken containers or ruptured gas lines may be inside.

Gas Leak

Natural gas can explode when exposed to a flame or sparks which may result in a rather dangerous situation on campus. It is important to report any suspected gas leaks immediately.

If you smell a gas odor, or if a gas monitor alarm sounds:

  • Call the University Police Department at 605-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911, and give the Dispatcher the location of the odor.
  • Warn others in the immediate area.
  • Evacuate and secure the area.
  • Meet with and assist emergency response personnel.

If there is a major leak such as a pipeline break:

  • Call the University Police Department at 605-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911, and give the dispatcher your name, the location of the odor and related information.
  • Initiate an evacuation of the building or if outside, isolate the area. Move to a distance of no less than 500 feet from the leak area.
  • Warn others in the immediate area.
  • Prevent any source of ignition (cigarettes, electrical equipment, etc.).
  • Meet with and assist emergency response personnel.
  • Do not re-enter the building or outside area until cleared by authorized personnel.

Hazardous Materials Emergency

Hazardous Materials Come in Three Forms

  • Solid
  • Liquid
  • Gas

During a Hazardous Materials Emergency

  • If possible, leave the affected area immediately in the direction upwind from the source.
  • If leaving safely is not possible, get indoors immediately and shelter-in-place. Do not leave the safety of shelter to assist others outdoors.
  • Follow the instructions given by university officials.

If Instructed to Evacuate

  • Do so immediately.
  • If available, monitor local broadcast media for emergency information on:
    • Evacuation routes
    • Temporary shelters
    • Procedures to follow
  • Follow the routes given by the university, and other authorities - shortcuts and other routes may not be safe.
  • Carpool with others to minimize traffic congestion.
  • Assist those in need (children, elderly, disabled, persons without transportation).

If Outside

  • Stay upwind, upstream and uphill.
  • Try to go at least one-half mile from the source.
  • Avoid contact with spilled liquids, airborne mists or condensed solid chemical deposits.
  • Avoid inhaling gases, fumes and smoke covering the nose and mouth with cloth if possible.
  • Avoid contact with exposed individuals until the hazardous material has been identified and interpersonal contact is determined safe.

If in a Motor Vehicle

  • Stop and seek shelter indoors.
  • If leaving the vehicle safely is not possible, close the windows and vents and keep the air conditioning and heater fan off.

If Indoors, Shelter-In-Place

  • Close and lock all exterior doors and windows.
  • Turn off air conditioners and ventilation systems.
  • Seal off air conditioners.
  • Seal the gap between the doors and the door frames with plastic sheeting and duct tape or a wet towel.
  • Seal the gap between the windows and window frames similarly.
  • If gas or vapors enter the building, take shallow breaths through a towel or cloth.
  • Avoid eating or drinking potentially contaminated substances.
  • When the emergency conditions have ended, ventilate the shelter with fresh air.

If Exposed to Hazardous Chemicals

  • Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities.
  • Authorities may advise to shower thoroughly or to avoid contact with water and follow another procedure.
  • If experiencing symptoms of exposure, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Place contaminated clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers avoiding contact with other items.
  • Advise others with whom personal contact was made of the exposure so that they can also take precautions or seek medical treatment.

Medical Emergencies

In the event of a medical immediately call the University Police Department at 605-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911. When the dispatcher answers be ready to give your name, describe the nature and severity of the injury or illness and the location of the victim. If you notice any jewelry with an inscription of medical information, bring it to the dispatcher's attention. Give appropriate first aid until medical personnel arrive and have someone escort personnel to the scene. Normally it is not advisable to move the victim until help arrives but the circumstances of the specific emergency will dictate the proper course of action. Do not attempt procedures or techniques beyond your abilities or training. In the most common case of a minor injury or illness, provide first aid care only to the extent of your training.


Press directly onto the wound with a sterile gauze, sanitary napkin, clean handkerchief or bare hand. Maintain steady pressure for 5 to 15 minutes. If bleeding is from an arm or leg, elevate that limb until emergency personnel arrive.


Do nothing if the victim is moving air by coughing or gasping. If no air movement, apply four abdominal thrusts by grabbing the victim from behind with your hands over the "belly button" area; quickly squeeze in and up.


Keep the victim warm and calm, with the legs slightly elevated, until emergency personnel arrive.


Keep the victim warm and calm, with legs slightly elevated until emergency personnel arrive.


  • Check for breathing: If the victim is not breathing, initiate Rescue Breathing.
    • Gently tilt the head back to open the airway.
    • Watch the chest and listen for air from the mouth.
    • If not breathing, pinch the nose and give 2 slow, full breaths.
    • Breathe into the victims mouth once every 5 seconds until emergency personnel arrive.
  • Check for a pulse by gently pressing the side of the victim’s throat. If no pulse is detected and if and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is available, open the AED and apply.
  • If you don’t know CPR, continue with Rescue Breathing.


A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population and the virus begins to cause serious illness and then spreads easily person-to-person worldwide. The federal government, states, communities and industry are taking steps to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic. If a pandemic occurs, it is likely to be a prolonged and widespread outbreak that could require temporary changes in many areas of society, such as schools, work, transportation and other public services. An informed and prepared public can take appropriate actions to decrease their risk during a pandemic.

Planning and Response

Medical professional worldwide have been studying the infection patters of the avian flu and are watchful for the human-to-human transmission. To be prepared for such an emergency, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services encourages individuals, businesses and communities to:

  • Talk with local public health officials and health care providers, who can supply information about the signs and symptoms of a specific disease outbreak and recommend prevention and control actions.
  • Encourage sick employees/students to stay home and anticipate how to function with a significant portion of the workforce/school population absent due to illness or caring for ill family members.
  • Practice good health habits, including eating a balanced diet, exercising daily and getting sufficient rest. In addition, take common-sense steps to stop the spread of germs including frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and staying away from others as much as possible when you are sick.
  • Stay informed about pandemic influenza and be prepared to respond.

Thunderstorms and Lightning

All thunderstorms produce lightening and are dangerous. Other hazards associated with thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding.

Facts About Thunderstorms

  • They may occur singly, in clusters or in lines.
  • Some of the most severe occur when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended period of time.
  • Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period of 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorms development.
  • Approximately 10% of thunderstorms are classified as “severe” - one that produces hail at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or produces a tornado.

Facts About Lightning

  • Lightning's unpredictability increases the risk to individuals and property.
  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles from any rainfall.
  • "Heat lightning" is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away to be heard.
  • Most deaths from lightning occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon or evening.
  • The chances of a person being struck by lightning are estimated at 1 in 3,000.
  • Lightning victims carry no electrical charge and should be helped immediately.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms. A severe thunderstorm is a thunderstorm that produces 3/4 inch hail or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour. Watches are usually issued for a duration of 4-8 hours, and are normally issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review severe thunderstorm safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning

A Severe Thunderstorm Warming is issued when either a severe thunderstorm is indicated by radar or a spotter reports a thunderstorm producing hail 3/4 inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour. People in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning. Lightning frequency is not a criteria for issuing a severe thunderstorm warning. They are usually issued for a duration of one hour. They can be issued without a Severe Thunderstorm Watch being already in effect.

During a Thunderstorm

Get inside a home, building or hardtop vehicle. Although injuries may occur if a vehicle is struck, a person is much safer inside the vehicle than outside it. Avoid showering or bathing as metal bathroom plumbing and fixtures can conduct electricity causing shock or electrocution. Cordless and cellular phones are safe to use - on the other hand, use a corded phone only for emergencies. Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers, stereos, televisions and air conditioners - power surges can cause serious damage. Use a battery-operated radio for weather updates.

If Outdoors

  • Avoid objects that can act as a lightning rod.
  • Seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ravine or valley.
  • Be alert to the possibility of flash floods.
  • If on open water, get to shore and find shelter immediately.
  • Remember that when hair stands on end (anywhere on the body) it is an indication that lightning is about to strike - when this happens, squat down while minimizing contact with the ground.
  • Do not lie flat on the ground.


Tornados are nature's most violent storms. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. The path of a tornado can be over a mile wide and extend for over 50 miles. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible.

Keep a battery operated radio or television set nearby and listen for weather advisories. Tornado watches and warnings generally are broadcast by Brookings Radio stations (910 AM, 1430 AM, 93.7 FM, 102.3 FM, 107.1 FM), many regional radio stations and the Sioux Falls television stations.

Facts About Tornadoes

  • They may strike quickly with little or no warning.
  • Tornadoes typically develop near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.
  • They may appear transparent until dust and debris are picked up or clouds form inside the funnel.
  • Typical tornadoes move in the direction of Southwest to Northeast, but they have been known to move in any direction.

High Wind Watch

A High Wind Watch is issued when there is the potential of high wind speeds developing that may pose a hazard or is life threatening.

High Wind Advisory

A High Wind Advisory is issued when high wind speeds may pose a hazard.

High Wind Warning

A High Wind Warning is issued when high wind speeds may pose a hazard or is life threatening.

Tornado Watch

The National Weather Service issues a tornado watch when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Watches are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours, and are normally issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. When a tornado watch is issued, persons in the watch area should:

  • Monitor local commercial media for tornado emergency information, updates and instructions.
  • Look for approaching storms.
  • Look and listen for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky (large hail).
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud - particularly if rotating.
    • A loud, rumbling roar similar to a freight train.

If you see an approaching storm or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

Tornado Warning

The National Weather Service issues a tornado warning when a tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by spotters. People in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Warnings can be issued without a Tornado Watch being already in effect. They are usually issued for a duration of around 30 minutes. The Brookings city sirens are activated when a tornado is sighted nearby. When a tornado warning is issued or the siren sound, persons should seek shelter immediately.

Procedures if on Campus

If the warning occurs during the daytime hours, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.:

  • Employees and students in the open are to seek shelter in the nearest permanent building, going directly to the basement if possible, or to central corridors away from windows and exterior doors.
  • Employees and students in campus buildings are to move out of the exterior rooms and into central corridors or the basement, if possible.
  • Orderly movement is essential. Do not panic.

If the warning occurs after class hours or during the evening:

  • Anyone in the open should seek shelter in the nearest building. Most of the main campus buildings are open until 10 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • Persons in outside rooms should move away from windows into the corridor or to the basement, if possible.

Residence hall students:

  • Residence hall directors will alert all students in the hall, unlock entrance doors and doors to the basement and turn on lights.
  • Students are advised to move from their rooms into the central corridors or to basements.
  • If possible, have a flashlight and portable radio tuned to a local radio station.
  • Do not call the police department for information. Listen to the radio for announcements.

Residents of State Court:

  • Residents of State Court are to go to the nearest residence hall basement.

Off Campus

If indoors:

  • Go to a pre-designated safe room, basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway).
  • Stay away from the corners, windows, doors and outside walls.
  • Put as many walls (and levels above) as possible between you and the outside.
  • Get under a sturdy table and cover your neck and head with your arms.
  • Do not open doors or windows.

If in a vehicle:

  • Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy building. If there is no nearby building still get out - remaining inside a vehicle during a tornado is extremely dangerous.
  • Outrunning a tornado is advisable only if in a rural and uncongested location - never try to outrun a tornado from and urban or congested location.

If outside with no available shelter:

  • Lie flat in a ditch or depression covering the head with hands and arms - beware of potential flooding.
  • Do not get under a bridge or overpass - it is safer in a low flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris in the funnel - any object as small as a piece of straw can become fatal when traveling at several hundred miles per hour.

After a Tornado

  • Check yourself and those around you for injuries.
  • Evacuate damaged buildings. Do not re-enter until declared safe by authorities.
  • If you or others are injured, Call the University Police Department at 605-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911.
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound indoors, open windows and leave the building. Do not use matches, candles, open flames or electric switches indoors. Call the University Police Department at 605-688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone) or if residing off campus, call 911.
  • Monitor your portable or weather radio for instructions or an official all clear notice. Radio stations will broadcast what to do, the location of emergency shelters, medical aid stations and the extent of damage.

Winter Storms

Winter storms are classified by the National Weather Service as:

Winter Weather Advisory

A winter weather advisory is issued when a low pressure system produces a combination of winter weather (snow, freezing rain, sleet, etc.) that present a hazard, but does not meet warning criteria.

Winter Storm Watch

A winter storm watch is issued when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations, usually at least 24-36 hours in advance.

Winter Storm Warning

A winter storm warning indicates when a winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice accumulations.

Before a Winter Storm

  • Stay informed. Listen to the radio or television for latest weather information.
  • If roads have been closed, do not attempt to travel.
  • Have a plan for an extended power outage. Winter storms have the potential to knock power lines to the ground and disrupt electric service for an extended period of time. It may be necessary to move into another facility/building to prevent injury.

Prepare Your Vehicle

An emergency situation on the road can arise at any time and you must be prepared. Following a tune-up, a full tank of gas, and fresh anti-freeze, your trunk should carry:

  • A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and a jack
  • A shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow and tire chains
  • A bag of salt or cat litter
  • Tool kit

Be prepared with a "survival kit" that should always remain in the car. Replenish after use. Essential supplies include:

  • Working flashlight and extra batteries
  • Reflective triangles and brightly-colored cloth
  • Compass
  • First aid kit
  • Exterior windshield cleaner
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container
  • Scissors and string/cord
  • Non-perishable, high energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy

In addition, if you are driving long distances under cold, snowy and icy conditions, you should also carry supplies to keep you warm, such as heavy woolen mittens, socks, a cap and blankets.

During a Winter Storm

  • Stay safe, warm, dry and calm.
  • Do not drive unnecessarily. Of deaths related to ice and snow, 70 percent occur when people are stranded in cars or involved in accidents. If you must drive, bring necessary supplies.
  • Dress warm enough to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Do not go outside if you don’t have to.

If you are in a vehicle:

  • In extreme cold or in heavy snow, stay with your car until you can be rescued. Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help and are certain you will improve your situation.
  • Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut. It also allows in fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked, which would cause dangerous fumes to back-up inside the car. Run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank.
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers. To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna. Tie a bright cloth to you antenna or door to alert rescuers.
  • Turn on your dome light, at night, when running the engine.
  • Raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
  • To protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia use the woolen items and blankets to keep warm.
  • Eat a hard candy to keep your mouth moist.

During extremely serious blizzards, it may not be possible for students to attend classes and utilize the library and other facilities. Classes will be held or canceled based on local weather conditions, even though there may be a blizzard raging elsewhere in the state or in adjoining states.

Regardless of administrative decisions made because of winter storms, it should be clearly understood that each individual is best able to judge his or her own circumstances and make appropriate decisions. The university does not encourage anyone to place themselves in a dangerous or life threatening situation