Annex 21 - Severe Weather And Earthquakes


The objective of this annex is to define the actions and roles necessary to provide a coordinated emergency response by students, administration, faculty, support personnel, visitors and departments for Binghamton University during an emergency situation or disaster.  This plan provides personnel and departments with a general concept of potential emergency assignments before, during and following a severe weather incident and/or earthquake.

Situational Overview

Severe weather refers to any dangerous meteorological occurrence with the potential to cause damage, serious social disruption or loss of human life.  Binghamton University campus experiences thunderstorms, downbursts, lightning, tornadoes, flooding, and severe winter weather.  High winds, freezing precipitation and even occasional earthquakes are additional forms of severe weather or hazardous conditions.  This document provides guidance for preparation and response related to a myriad of potentially severe weather conditions that may adversely impact Binghamton University.


Flooding is the nation's most common natural disaster. Flooding can happen in every U.S. state and territory.  However, all floods are not alike.  Some can develop slowly during an extended period of rain, or in a warming trend following a heavy snow.  Others, such as flash floods, can occur quickly, even without any visible signs of rain.  It's important to be prepared for flooding no matter where you live, but particularly if you are in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam.  Even a very small stream or dry creek bed can overflow and create flooding.

Flood Hazard Terms

    • 100-Year Flood Event: This type of event is expected to be equaled or exceeded once on the average during any 100-year period (1 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded during any year).
    • Flash Flood: A flood which is caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than six hours. Dam, ice or debris jam failures may also cause flash flood conditions.
    • Flash Flood Watch: Issued by the NWS. Conditions are such that flooding may occur but the occurrence is neither certain nor imminent.
    • Flash Flood Warning: Issued by the NWS. Conditions are such that flooding is in progress, imminent or extremely likely.
    • IFLOWS: Integrated Flood Observation and Warning System – A system provided by the NWS and State Division of Emergency Management to assist local governments in predicting flood events.
    • Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
    • Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
    • Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

Individual Response

Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. Conditions that cause floods include heavy or steady rain for several hours or days that saturates the ground. Flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area.

You will likely hear the NWS forecasters use these terms when floods are predicted in your community:

    • Flood/Flash Flood Watch: Flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area.
    • Flood/Flash Flood Warning: Flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.

The following steps should be followed:

    • Listen to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.
    • Be prepared to evacuate as directed by university officials.
    • If water rises in your building before you evacuate, go to the top floor, attic or roof.
    • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
    • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
    • If you've come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and disinfected water. This will prevent disease outbreaks after the flood subsides.

Severe Thunderstorm

A thunderstorm is considered severe if it produces hail at least one inch in diameter or has wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour.  Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people some years than tornadoes or hurricanes.  Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding.  High winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages.  Every year people are killed or seriously injured because they didn't hear or ignored severe thunderstorms warnings.  The information in this section, combined with timely watches and warnings about severe weather, could save your life.

Severe storms include hailstorms, windstorms and severe thunderstorms (with associated severe wind events such as straight-line winds and downbursts).

Geographic Impact

Storm impacts may include:

    • Fallen trees and tree limbs blocking roads and damaging campus buildings, homes and vehicles.
    • Wind and hail damage to campus structures and homes.
    • Personal injury from flying debris throughout the campus area.
    • Downed power lines and power outages with localized flooding and poor drainage flooding.
    • Automobile accidents.
    • Damage to local Geneva businesses.
    • Campus closure and possible closure of local businesses.
    • Unsafe situations for athletic teams playing or practicing outside.
    • Delayed or canceled flights out of many local airports.

Individual Response:

    • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
    • Avoid electrical equipment and corded telephones. Cordless phones, cell phones and other wireless handheld devices are safe to use.
    • Keep away from windows.
    • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends.
    • If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.
    • Call University Police at (607) 777-2222 or 911 if you need assistance.


Lightning is one of the leading causes of weather-related fatalities.  The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are only around 1 in 500,000.  However, some factors can put you at greater risk for being struck.  Regional, seasonal and occupational differences affect your risk of being injured by lightning.

Lightning has the ability to send electricity through metal pipes used for plumbing, electrical wires such as the telephone and metal reinforcements to concrete floors and walls.

Individual Response:

    • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
    • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! Don't wait for rain. Lightning can strike out of a clear blue sky.
    • Avoid electrical equipment and corded telephones. Cordless phones, cell phones and other wireless handheld devices are safe to use.
    • Keep away from windows.
    • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends.
    • If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.

Check the local weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities. If the forecast calls for thunderstorms, postpone your trip or activity, or make sure adequate safe shelter is readily available. The best defense is to avoid lightning. Here are some outdoor safety tips that can help you avoid being struck:

If you are outside during a lightning storm: 

    • Remember the phrase, "When thunder roars, go indoors." Find a safe, enclosed shelter when you hear thunder. Safe shelters include residence halls, dining facilities, the athletic center and other buildings on university property.  Hard-top vehicles with the windows rolled up can also be used if it is unsafe to move across open area to a building.
    • If you are caught in an open area, crouch down in a ball-like position (feet and knees together) with your head tucked and hands over your ears so that you are down low with minimal contact with the ground. Do NOT lie down. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly over 100 feet away. Crouching down is the best combination of being low and touching the ground as little as possible.
    • If you are in a group during a thunderstorm, keep separate from each other. This will reduce the number of injuries if lightning strikes the ground.
    • Avoid open structures and spaces. During a thunderstorm, also avoid open vehicles such as convertibles, motorcycles and golf carts.
    • Avoid open structures such as porches, gazebos, baseball dugouts and sports arenas. Also stay away from open spaces such as golf courses, parks, ponds, lakes and swimming pools.
    • Avoid tall structures such a lone tree in the middle of a field
    • Avoid lying down on concrete floors during a thunderstorm. Also, avoid leaning on concrete walls. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

If you are inside during a lightning storm: 

Even though a building is normally a safe shelter during a lightning storm, you may still be at risk. About one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur while indoors. Make every effort to avoid the following:

    • Water: Do NOT bathe, shower, wash dishes or have any other contact with water during a thunderstorm because lightning can travel through a building’s plumbing.
    • Electronic Equipment: Do NOT use your computers, laptops, game systems, washers, dryers, stoves or anything connected to an electrical outlet. Lightning can travel through electrical systems, radio and television reception systems and any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring. Equip homes with whole-house surge protectors to protect appliances.
    • Corded phones are NOT safe to use during a thunderstorm. Do NOT use them. However, it is safe to use cordless or cellular phones during a storm.
    • Windows, doors, porches and concrete: Do NOT lie on concrete floors during a thunderstorm. Also, avoid leaning on concrete walls. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

High Winds

High winds can cause flying debris, collapse structures and in extreme cases, overturn vehicles.  In cases where there is a 50 percent chance or greater of high winds developing in the following day or two, the NWS will issue a High Wind Watch.  In the event High Wind conditions develop, the NWS will issue a High Wind Warning.

The Beaufort Scale

The Beaufort scale is an empirical measure that relates wind speed to observed conditions at sea or on land. In the United States, winds of force 6 or 7 result in the issuance of a small-craft advisory, with force 8 or 9 winds bringing about a gale warning, force 10 or 11 a storm warning and force 12 a hurricane force wind warning. A set of red warning flags (daylight) and red warning lights (night time) is displayed at shore establishments that coincide with the various levels of warning.

 beaufort scale

 Figure 1: The Beaufort Scale

Individual Response:

High wind precautions are similar to those identified for tornado activity.  Consider the following scenarios:

If you are caught outside during high winds: 

    • Take cover next to a building or under a secure shelter. 
    • Stand clear of roadways, as a gust may blow you into the path of an oncoming vehicle. 
    • Use handrails where available and avoid elevated areas such as roofs.
    • Watch for flying debris. Tree limbs may break and street signs may come loose during strong winds. 

In the event of a downed power line: 

    • When on campus, report downed lines to the University Police.
    • Avoid anything that may be touching downed lines, including vehicles or tree branches. If a line falls on your car, stay inside the vehicle.
    • Take care not to touch any part of the metal frame of your vehicle. Honk your horn, roll down the window and warn anyone who may approach of the danger.
    • Ask someone to call University Police at (607) 777-2222 or 7-2222.
    • Do not exit the car until help arrives, unless it catches fire. To exit, open the door, but do not step out. Jump, without touching any of the metal portions of the car's exterior, to safe ground and get quickly away.

If you are driving:

    • Keep both hands on the wheel and slow down.
    • Watch for objects blowing across the roadway and into your path.
    • Keep a safe distance from cars in adjacent lanes, as strong gusts could push a car outside its lane of travel.
    • Take extra care in high-profile vehicles such as trucks, vans, SUVs or when towing a trailer, as these are more prone to being pushed or flipped by high wind gusts.
    • If winds are severe enough to prevent safe driving, safely pull over onto the shoulder of the road and stop, making sure you are away from trees or other tall objects that could fall onto your vehicle. 

Severe Winter Storm

A severe winter storm is storm system that develops in late fall to early spring and deposits wintry precipitation (such as snow, sleet or freezing rain) with a significant impact on transportation systems and public safety.  Severe winter storms include heavy snow, blizzard and severe blizzard events.

Each year, dozens of Americans die due to exposure to cold.  Add to that number vehicle accidents and fatalities, fires due to dangerous use of heaters and other winter-weather fatalities and you have a significant threat.

    • Threats such as hypothermia and frostbite can lead to loss of fingers and toes or cause permanent kidney, pancreas and liver injury and even death.  You must prepare properly to avoid these extreme dangers.  You also need to know what to do if you see symptoms of these threats.
    • A major winter storm can last for several days and be accompanied by high winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall and cold temperatures.
    • People can become trapped at home or in a car, without utilities or other assistance.
    • Attempting to walk for help in a winter storm can be a deadly decision.
    • The aftermath of a winter storm can have an impact on a community or region for days, weeks or even months.
    • Extremely cold temperatures, heavy snow and coastal flooding can cause hazardous conditions and hidden problems.

Heavy Snow

Heavy snow can immobilize a region and paralyze a campus, stranding students, faculty and staff commuters, closing the campus, shutting down airports, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services.  Accumulations of snow can cause roofs to collapse and knock down trees and power lines.

A blizzard means that the following conditions are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer:

    • Sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles an hour or greater
    • Considerable falling and/or blowing snow (i.e., reducing visibility frequently to less than a ¼ mile)


Heavy accumulations of ice can bring down trees and topple utility poles and communication towers.  Ice can disrupt communications and result in power outages lasting for days while utility companies repair extensive damage.  Even small accumulations of ice can be extremely dangerous to motorists and pedestrians.  Bridges and overpasses are particularly dangerous because they freeze before other surfaces.

Geographic Impact

Snow and snow storms/blizzards occur routinely in New York State (NYS).  Since 1991, over 30 winter storms have occurred, and five severe winter storms were reported from 2009-2013.

 Impacts from winter storms are felt statewide with varying levels of severity.  The combination of strong winds, cold temperatures and substantial snowfall has caused:

    • Closed or delayed openings of schools and businesses
    • Traffic accidents
    • Structural collapses (primarily roof failures)
    • Downed power lines and outages
    • Increased medical emergencies in response to overexertion from snow shoveling and overexposure to cold temperatures.
    • Increased personal injuries from the use of inadequate and improper heating systems (e.g., the use of gas ovens and fuel space heaters)
    • Damage to farm equipment and injured animals from structural collapses


Freezing Rain:  Creates a coating of ice on roads and walkways

Sleet:  Sleet is rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes roads to freeze and become slippery.

Winter Storm Outlook:  Winter storm conditions are possible in the next two to five days.

Winter Weather Advisory:  Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.

Winter Storm Watch:  Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.

Winter Storm Warning:  Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. People in a warning area should take precautions immediately

Blizzard Warning:  Heavy snow and strong winds will produce a blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill.

Frost/Freeze Warning:  Below freezing temperatures are expected.

Individual Response:

Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days. Some winter storms are large enough to affect several states, while others affect only a single community. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet and freezing rain. Regardless of the severity of a winter storm, students, faculty and staff should be prepared to remain safe during these events.

When a Winter Storm WATCH is issued:

    • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio and television stations or cable television such as the Weather Channel for further updates.
    • Be alert to changing weather conditions.
    • Avoid unnecessary travel.

On Campus and at Home

    • Primary concerns are loss of heat, power and phone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day. 

Have available:

    • Flashlight and extra batteries available in your room.
    • Inexpensive battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA weather radio and a portable radio to receive emergency information. During a power outage which may disrupt cellular service, these devices are a good source of information.
    • Extra food and a few bottles of water. Have high-energy food such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.
    • First-aid supplies or a small first-aid kit.

In Vehicles

    • Binghamton University students, faculty and staff are constantly traveling. Plan your trip and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm! Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.
    • If possible and to enhance your personal safety, carry a Winter Storm Survival Kit in your vehicle:
      • Mobile phone, charger, batteries
      • Blankets/sleeping bags/space blanket
      • Flashlight with extra batteries
      • First-aid kit
      • Knife
      • High-calorie, non-perishable food
      • Extra clothing to keep dry
      • Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
      • Sack of sand or cat litter for traction
      • Shovel
      • Windshield scraper and brush
      • Tool kit
      • Tow rope
      • Battery booster cables
      • Water container
      • Compass and road maps.
      • Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Whenever possible, avoid traveling alone. Always let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.

Dress for the Season

    • Wear loose, lightweight, warm clothes in layers. Trapped air insulates. Remove layers to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.
    • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
    • Wear a hat. Half your body heat loss can be from the head. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
    • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves. Try to stay dry.

When Caught in a Winter Storm

If Outside:

    • Find shelter.
    • Try to stay dry.
    • Cover all exposed body parts.

In A Vehicle:

    • Stay in vehicle:
      • You will become quickly disoriented in wind-driven snow and cold.
      • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
      • Open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
      • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
    • Be visible to rescuers:
      • Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine.
      • Tie a colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door.
      • After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.


From time to time, move arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

 If Inside:

    • Stay inside.
    • No heat:
      • Close off unneeded rooms.
      • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
      • Cover windows at night.
      • Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.
      • Avoid overexertion.


A tornado consists of violent whirling wind accompanied by a funnel-shaped cloud.  Usually, tornadoes are associated with severe weather conditions such as thunderstorms and hurricanes.  Tornadoes are very destructive.  The average width of a tornado is 300 to 500 yards.  Their path may extend up to 50 miles, and the funnel cloud moves at speeds between 10 and 50 mph.

The wind speed within the funnel cloud has been estimated at between 100 and 500 mph.  Approximately two percent of all tornadoes are "violent" tornadoes, with wind speeds of 300 mph or more, an average path width of 425 yards and an average path length of 26 miles.  Tornado season runs from March to August in the United States, with peak activity from April to June; however, tornadoes can occur year-round.

The Enhanced Fujita (EF) Tornado Scale

The Fujita-Pearson Scale, more popularly known as the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale, is used to measure the intensity of a tornado based on the amount of damage done by a passing tornado over an area.  The scale was introduced in 1971 and is named for Ted Fujita who was a professor at the University of Chicago.

The newer and now used Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale was unveiled by the NWS to the public and the full meteorological community early in 2006.  On Feb. 1, 2007, the EF Scale replaced the original F Scale in all tornado damage surveys in the United States.  It is important to note that, despite the improvements, the EF Scale still remains a set of wind estimates based on eight levels of damage to 28 different types of structures and vegetation.

Fujita scale

Tornado Watch/Warning Messages

Tornado Watch:  Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms producing tornadoes in and close to the watch area in the next 12 hours.

Tornado Warning:  Radar or satellite indication and/or reliable spotter reports of a tornado.

High Wind Watch:  Conditions are favorable for high winds in and close to the watch area in the next 12 to 48 hours.

High Wind Warning:  Sustained winds ≥ 40 mph for at least two hours or any gust ≥ 58 mph.

Tornado Indicators

While on campus, be alert to what is happening outside as tornados can form quickly, especially in conjunction with severe thunderstorms.  Here are some indications of potential tornado activity:

    • A sickly greenish or greenish black color to the sky.
    • A strange quiet that occurs within or shortly after the thunderstorm.
    • Clouds moving by very fast, especially in a rotating pattern or converging toward one area of the sky.
    • An obvious "funnel-shaped" cloud that is rotating, or debris such as branches or leaves being pulled upwards, even if no funnel cloud is visible.  Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
    • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base – tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
    • If there is a watch or warning posted, then the fall of hail should be considered as a real danger sign.  Hail can be common in some areas, however, and usually has no tornadic activity along with it.
    • Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift.  Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can't be seen.
    • A waterfall-like sound or rushing air at first, but turning into a roar as it comes closer.  The sound of a tornado has been likened to that of both railroad trains and jets.
    • Debris dropping from the sky.
    • Day or night: Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn't fade in a few seconds like thunder.
    • Night: Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds).  These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
    • Night: Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning – especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.

If you see a tornado and it is not moving to the right or to the left relative to trees or power poles in the distance, it may be moving toward you! Remember that although tornadoes usually move from southwest to northeast, they can actually move in any direction.

Individual Response:

Binghamton University students, faculty and staff most at risk from tornadoes and windstorms include those outside or in automobiles. Elderly visitors and individuals with handicaps or temporary conditions which make it difficult to escape the path of destruction due to lack of mobility are also vulnerable. Students with language barriers may not completely understand the response activities are also at risk.

Response Activities

    • If in a structure, go to a basement or the lowest building level.
    • If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room or halls on the lowest level, away from corners, windows, doors or outside walls. Avoid halls that open to the outside in any direction.
    • Stay away from glass walls and windows, regardless of how small they are.
    • Locker rooms near the gym are often a safe place. Stay away from glass, both in windows and doors. 
    • Central stairwells are good, but elevators are not. If the building loses power, you may be trapped in the elevator for an extended period of time.
    • Crouch down and make as small a “target” as possible. If you have something to cover your head, do so, otherwise, use your hands.
    • If caught outside, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Do NOT get under an overpass or bridge, you are safer in low, flat location. Watch out for flying debris; this is the biggest cause of fatalities and injuries.


After a destructive tornado impacts Binghamton University property, leave any building which you believe is structurally unsafe, stay together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Call University Police for assistance and provide comfort to those who are injured prior to the arrival of medical personnel. Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity! Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged buildings; they could collapse at any time. Do not use matches or lighters in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert, and listen for information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials.

Extreme Heat Event

An extreme heat event is defined as temperatures of 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the Binghamton University geographical area, lasting for several weeks.  High humidity often adds to the discomfort of extreme heat, which can result in ozone warnings.  Humid or muggy conditions, which add to the discomfort of high temperatures, occur when a "dome" of high atmospheric pressure traps hazy, damp air near the ground.

Extremely dry and hot conditions can provoke dust storms and low visibility. Droughts occur when a long period passes without substantial rainfall. A heat wave combined with a drought is a very dangerous situation. Extreme heat events most likely occur during the summer months when the average temperature is above 75 degrees (June–September).

Types of Heat Illness

Heat Cramps:  Painful muscle spasms that usually occur in the legs (hamstrings) and abdomen. Heat cramps are treatable and are the least severe form of heat-related illness.

Heat Exhaustion:  Early indicator that the body’s cooling system is becoming overwhelmed. Signals of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin as well as headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, exhaustion and heavy sweating (a capstone sign).

Heat Stroke:  A serious medical emergency. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s systems are overwhelmed by heat and stop functioning. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and requires professional emergency medical intervention. Signals of heat stroke include red, hot, dry skin, changes in the level of consciousness (LOC) and vomiting.

Individual Response:

Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. Most heat disorders occur because the student, faculty, staff member or visitor has been overexposed to heat or has over-exerted him/herself. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening for individuals who don't take the proper precautions.

These actions will help mitigate the risk of heat-related injury:

  • Replace Salt and Minerals

During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour.

 Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your body and must be replaced. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. However, if you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

  • Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen

Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body's ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

  • Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully

If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body's thermostat will have a chance to recover.

  • Pace Yourself

If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak or faint.

  • Stay Cool Indoors

Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your residence does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned space is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your residence.

  • Use a Buddy System

When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness.

  • Adjust to the Environment

Be aware that any sudden change in temperature, such as an early summer heat wave, will be stressful to your body. You will have a greater tolerance for heat if you limit your physical activity until you become accustomed to the heat. If you travel to a hotter climate, allow several days to become acclimated before attempting any vigorous exercise and work up to it gradually.

  • Use Common Sense

Remember to keep cool and use common sense:

    • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals—they add heat to your body.
    • Drink plenty of fluids and replace salts and minerals in your body. Do not take salt tablets unless under medical supervision.

When someone appears to be suffering from a heat-related illness:

    • Contact University Police or 911 immediately and advise them that an individual on campus is suffering from a heat-related emergency.
    • Do not hang up; University Police or 911 may require additional information.
    • If the affected individual is able to walk, get him/her out of the sun, begin active cooling and advise University Police of the patient’s location on campus.

Extreme Cold Event

An extreme cold event is defined as temperatures of 10 degrees or more below the average low temperature for the county, lasting for several weeks.  Extreme cold events most likely occur during the winter months when the average temperature is below 20 degrees (mid-December to early March).  The cascading potential of extreme cold includes winter storms, ice storms, flooding, utility failure, structural collapse, transportation accidents, fire and explosions.

Types of Extreme Cold Injury

Cold Temperatures:  Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Infants and elderly people are most susceptible. Freezing temperatures can cause severe damage to crops and other vegetation. Pipes may freeze and burst in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat. In the North, extreme cold means temperatures well below zero.

Wind Chill:  Wind Chill is not the actual temperature but rather how wind and cold feel on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature.

Frostbite:  Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill of -20° Fahrenheit (F) will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.

Hypothermia:  Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. It can kill. For those who survive, there are likely to be lasting kidney, liver and pancreas problems. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. Take the person's temperature. If below 95°F, seek medical care immediately!

If medical care is not available, warm the person slowly, starting with the body core. Warming the arms and legs first drives cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure. If necessary, use your body heat to help. Get the person into dry clothing and wrap in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage or food. Warm broth is the first food to offer.

Individual Response:

Extremely cold temperatures often accompany a winter storm, so you may have to cope with power failures and icy roads. Follow these important steps to protect yourself.  Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face indoor hazards. Many living spaces will be too cold—either due to a power failure or because the heating system isn't adequate for the weather. When people must use space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of fires increases as does the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Light Your Residence Hall or Room

    • If there is a power failure:
      • Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns.
      • Never use candles.
      • Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors as the fumes are extremely deadly.

Conserve Heat

    • You may need fresh air coming in for your heater or for emergency cooking arrangements. However, if you don’t need extra ventilation, keep as much heat as possible inside your residence hall or house.
    • Avoid unnecessarily opening doors or windows.
    • Close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors and close draperies.

Keep a Water Supply

    • Extreme cold may cause water pipes in your residence hall or home to freeze and sometimes rupture. When very cold freezing temperatures are expected:
      • Keep the indoor temperature warm.
      • Improve the circulation of heated air near pipes. For example, open kitchen cabinet doors beneath the kitchen sink.
      • While the pipes are being thawed, use bottled water or obtain water from another building on campus. ONLY as an emergency measure, if no other potable water is available, snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most microorganisms or parasites that may be present but won’t remove chemical pollutants sometimes found in snow.

Eat and Drink Wisely

    • Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer.
    • Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages because they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm, sweet beverages or broth to help maintain your body temperature.
    • If you have any dietary restrictions, ask your doctor.


An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the earth’s surface.  An earthquake can cause buildings and bridges to collapse; disrupt gas, electric, Internet and phone service; and sometimes trigger fires and explosions due to ruptured gas lines.  Buildings with foundations resting on unstable soil are most at risk.  Buildings not tied to a reinforced foundation that is anchored to the ground are also at risk since they can be shaken off their mounting during an earthquake.

Although earthquakes are not a common occurrence in the Northeast U.S., there are many geological fault lines across the eastern coast. Because earthquakes are rare in our region, we may not be knowledgeable about what to do and how to protect ourselves.

Individual Response:

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

The information below provides basic safety information that may help protect you in the event of an earthquake.

If indoors when the shaking starts

    • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn't a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
    • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
    • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
    • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
    • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
    • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
    • DO NOT use the elevators.

If outdoors when the shaking starts

    • Find a clear spot (away from buildings, power lines, trees, streetlights) and drop to the ground. Stay there until the shaking stops.
    • If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris. Landslides are often triggered by earthquakes.

If in a moving vehicle

    • If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location and stop. Avoid stopping under trees, bridges, overpasses and power lines if possible. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged.
    • If a power line falls on your vehicle, do not get out. Wait for assistance.
    • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

    • Do not light a match.
    • Do not move about or kick up dust.
    • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
    • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.