The University of Chicago

Environmental Health & Safety


Tornado Emergency Plan


The following plan has been developed to enhance personal safety and awareness in the event of a tornado emergency.


The University of Chicago is a large institution and during tornado emergencies it is important for word to spread quickly and efficiently.  This procedure is intended to establish the procedure for notifying the University community in the event of tornado warnings and response actions during and after a tornado.

Authority and Responsibility

Once notified of a tornado warning, the implementation of the Tornado Emergency Plan is the responsibility of all members of the University community. The University of Police Department and Environmental Health and Safety have the following additional roles and responsibilities.

University Police Department Department is responsible for:

  1. Obtaining information in the event the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for the campus community;
  2. Notifying high risk facilities of the tornado warning;
  3. Receiving information about confirmation of the tornado;
  4. Warning pedestrians of dangers while monitoring and reporting any indications of a confirmed tornado; and
  5. Notifying the appropriate University contact to issue a cAlert to the campus community.

Environmental Health and Safety is responsible for:

  1. Providing an “On-Call” Safety Officer twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week;
  2. Responding with appropriate action;
  3. Maintaining liaison with the local authorities;
  4. Notifying Administration of an incident and providing periodic status reports;
  5. Notifying Risk Management and any departments affected by a flood or potential flood;
  6. Reviewing and amending the Tornado Emergency Plan on an annual basis;
  7. Issuing and providing guidance for public alert radios; and
  8. Inspecting the public alert radios annually to ensure they are in working condition.

Departments with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) public alert radios are responsible for:

  1. Programming the public alert radio;
  2. Leaving the radios on at all times;
  3. Ensuring the public alert radios are in working condition;
  4. Changing the backup battery of the public alert radio as needed;
  5. Contacting Environmental Health and Safety with any questions or problems with the public alert radio; and
  6. Protecting the alert radios from damage and theft.


The National Weather Service issues tornado watches and tornado warnings.  These are broadcasted via NOAA public alert radio, television stations, radio stations, cAlert, or other appropriate modality.

NOAApublic alert radios are located in the following University divisions/departments:

Note: The NOAA public alert radios are the property of the United States government.

High Risk Facilities

A high risk area is a structure that is considered at risk during a tornado event because of the occupants (e.g., children) or the building materials (e.g., glazing of exterior greater than 40 percent).

The following facilities are considered high risk:


If a tornado watch is issued for the campus area, an alert will be broadcasted over the NOAA public alert radio and local TV and radio stations.  There is no City of Chicago emergency siren or other University alert for tornado watches.  The community should be on alert for any indications that a tornado is developing or that conditions are worsening.

If a tornado warning is issued for the campus area, the NOAA public alert radios will alert those so equipped, and the University Police Department Department will notify the remainder of the University community.  The University community will be notified via cAlert or other appropriate modality.  University Police Department will make a special point to notify representatives at each high risk facility by contacting the designated contact person for high risk facilities.  The information given shall pertain to the type of warning, a time of when the warning will expire, and any further directions.

The University Police Department will also dispatch squad cars that are equipped with public address systems to drive throughout the campus to warn pedestrians of the tornado warning with instructions to seek shelter inside the closest building.

The City of Chicago emergency sirens will also sound in the event of a tornado warning.  The siren will cycle for three minutes.  When the “all clear” is given, the siren will give a long blast for approximately 30 seconds.  The siren may not be heard throughout all of campus and inside buildings.

Radio and TV stations, the NOAA public alert radios, and cAlert will also be used to signal that an all clear has been given.

Response Actions

During a tornado warning, follow the procedure listed below.

Inside buildings:

Outside of buildings:

NOAA Public Alert Radios Setup and Maintenance

To set up and maintain your NOAA public alert radio, refer to Public Alert Radios Easy Start Guide for Schools.

Reviewed: May 2010