Emergency Response Plan


The Aquinas College Emergency Response Plan was developed by the Emergency Response Team to ensure the safety of all students, faculty, staff and visitors in the event of an emergency situation occurring on or near Campus. The Emergency Response Plan works to ensure readiness for various emergency situations by:

  • Establishing a framework of decision-making, planning and response procedures to be implemented during emergency situations.
  • Establishing able leadership during emergencies, capable of providing direction consistent with College policies.
  • Promoting cooperation between Aquinas College and local, state and/or federal emergency response organizations.
  • Communicating crisis management information clearly to the campus community.

It is essential that Aquinas community members familiarize themselves with the procedures in this plan and prepare to follow the protocols when necessary. Together we share a responsibility to maintain a safe and secure Campus. Please report all on-campus emergencies, suspicious activities, or criminal offenses to the Department of Campus Safety by dialing extension 2462 from any on-campus phone or dialing 616-632-2462. Any of the exterior blue light telephones or interior emergency telephones may also be used for direct contact with the Department of Campus Safety.

Contacting Authorities

  • Dial 616-632-2462 to contact the Aquinas College Department of Campus Safety from any cell phone.
  • Dial extension 3333 on any on-campus “land line” phone to be connected to Campus Safety.
  • Dialing 911 from a cell phone (or 9-911 from an on-campus land line) will connect you with the Kent County Dispatch Authority

Program the Aquinas College Department of Campus Safety phone number into your cell phone for emergency use.

What to Report

  • Your specific location: building name and office/room number
  • Number of people at your specific location
  • Injuries: number injured, types of injuries
  • Assailant(s): location, number of suspects, race/gender, clothing description, physical features, type of weapons (e.g. long gun or hand gun), backpack, shooter’s identity if known, separate explosions from gunfire, etc.

Emergency Alert Notification System (EANS)

Aquinas College will use every appropriate method available to notify the campus community of an emergency event. The College has developed the Emergency Alert Notification (EANS) system for this purpose. Emergency events are situations that endanger the well-being of campus community members. Aquinas will employ some or all of the following methods of the EANS as deemed appropriate for each situation.

  • Broadcast Message: A text broadcast message will go to all computers linked to the Aquinas network concerning major events that affect the College.
    • Novell Network:  This network consists of Aquinas controlled computers utilized mostly by faculty and staff and kiosks.
    • Bradford Network:  This network consists of wi-fi connections and residence hall connections using mainly students' personal computing devices.
  • Email:  A blast email will be sent to all active Aquinas email accounts.
  • Text Message Notification: Aquinas community members may receive timely text message notifications of major events that affect the college by texting “Follow AQAlert” to 40404. You will receive a confirmation email from Twitter but you do not need to register for an account. Regular messaging fees apply.
  • Wide-Area Emergency Broadcast System (WEBS): The WEBS uses strategically-placed speakers inside every building and three towers located across campus to broadcast an audible alert generated by the Department of Campus Safety. This alert communicates timely and relevant information to individuals present on campus during major events concerning Aquinas College.
  • Aquinas College Website, ACORN, and The Moose: The Aquinas College website (www.aquinas.edu) as well as the staff (ACORN: acorn.aquinas.edu) and student (The Moose: themoose.aquinas.edu) community information sites will be updated with significant and relevant information as situations develop.

Testing of the Emergency Alert Notification System (EANS)

Testing of the EANS will be initiated by Campus Safety with communication to all community members prior to testing. The EANS system will be tested three times a year; once per each mid-semester break and once during the summer semester.

Suspicious Person or Activity

If you observe any suspicious activity at or around Aquinas College, contact Campus Safety at 616-632-2462 or extension x3333 from an on-campus "land line" phone. Do not put yourself at risk. Report the activity to Campus Safety along with a description of the individual (race, hair color, clothing, height, build, distinguishing features). Do not put yourself in danger by confronting or following the individual.

Evacuation and Campus Lockdown Procedures

The Aquinas College evacuation and shelter plan is designed to provide all members of the campus community a clear and efficient procedure to escape or shelter from imminent danger. The College will employ the most conservative approach consistent with safeguarding the community and reducing potential confusion and panic.

Building Evacuation Procedures

A building evacuation will be ordered when an emergency renders an entire building unsafe. Individuals must evacuate the building when the building fire alarm sounds or upon notification by Campus Safety via the Emergency Alert Notification System. It is important that you know the posted evacuation routes and exits for your area and building.

When evacuating a building:

  • Walk to the nearest exit.
  • Do not use elevators; elevators may cease to function in the event of fire or power loss.
    • When evacuating a building for reasons other than fire or power loss, handicapped individuals may use elevators to exit the building
  • Assist people with disabilities to exit the building. If the individual has a mobility impairment and you are on a level where you cannot exit without using an elevator or stairwell, proceed to the closest area of refuge (see REFERENCES for locations and more information).
  • Be sure that an able‐bodied person stays with the person who is disabled and that they have a phone with them. Emergency personnel must be notified of the location of the person with the disability so that they can take appropriate action to evacuate that person.
  • Proceed to your department or building’s designated gathering place outside the building and make certain that all persons are accounted for. Stay at least 500 feet from the building.
  • Notify Campus Safety or emergency personnel if you are aware of people still in the building or if anyone cannot be accounted for.
  • Remain outside until notified to return by emergency personnel or Campus Safety.

Evacuation Plan for Persons with Disabilities

The most important factor in emergency safety for individuals with disabilities is advanced planning. The Disabilities Coordinator provides a process for staff and faculty to identify those who have a disability and would need assistance during emergency evacuations. Students with disabilities who require assistance with evacuation must notify and submit documentation to the Disabilities Coordinator, located in room 103 of the Wege Center. Even though specific people may have been designated as Evacuation Facilitators, all members of the college community are encouraged to assist others who may need their assistance. Evacuation maps are located in classrooms and meeting rooms.

Emergency Campus Evacuation

An Emergency Campus Evacuation will be ordered when an emergency situation presents imminent danger to the safety of students and employees across campus and requires immediate evacuation. Students and employees will be directed to proceed to a designated assembly area. Specific directions and routes will be communicated.

Precautionary Evacuation

A precautionary evacuation is ordered when the risk to the safety or health of students and employees is distant. All students and employees are directed to an assembly area for group transportation, or an orderly individual evacuation by foot or by private vehicle. Specific directions and routes will be communicated.

Emergency Campus Lockdown

An emergency campus lockdown will be initiated if there is a serious risk of danger to the staff, faculty, and students of Aquinas College from an armed or dangerous person(s) on campus or other emergency situation. The decision to implement lockdown procedures will be made by the college President, Provost, Director of Campus Safety or other designated staff. In the event of an emergency campus lockdown, it is recommended that you stay in your work area and do the following until you are notified that it is safe to leave:

  • Lock and barricade doors
  • Close and block windows and blinds
  • Turn off lights, computer monitors/televisions and radios
  • Silence cell phones
  • Stay low towards the floor, away from windows and doors
  • Remain calm and keep others calm and quiet
  • Stay until the all-clear is given by Campus Safety or emergency personnel

Each college department will receive notification of a lockdown according to Emergency Response Plan guidelines. Notification includes a phone tree procedure and the EANS. The Department of Campus Safety or other designated staff will initiate the phone tree procedure. When a department receives notification, every effort should be made to lock access doors and close window coverings in the area without compromising personal safety. College staff and faculty should refer to the college’s internal guideline for more specific information on securing individual areas.

If the lockdown is specifically for shots fired:

  • Take shelter behind chairs, desks, etc.
  • Spread out throughout the classroom/office (bunching up makes targeting "easier").
  • Remain under control -- do not panic.
  • Only overcome the shooter as a last resort.
  • Each classroom has a phone; you may use this phone to notify Campus Safety of pertinent information regarding the shooter(s) (i.e. they left the building, more than one suspect, etc.)
  • If police enter the room, follow instructions and show your hands.
  • Remain in lockdown until Campus Safety or the police give clearance.

Active Shooter

An active shooter is a person who appears to be actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. If an active shooter situation develops on campus, Aquinas will initiate lockdown procedures. In most cases active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. These situations are dynamic and evolve rapidly, demanding immediate deployment of law enforcement resources to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to innocent victims. This document provides guidance to faculty, staff, and students who may be caught in an active shooter situation and describes what to expect from responding police officers.

Guidance to Faculty, Staff and Students

In general, how you respond to an active shooter will be dictated by the specific circumstances of the encounter, bearing in mind there could be more than one shooter involved in the same situation. If you find yourself involved in an active shooter situation, try to remain calm and use these guidelines to help you plan a strategy for survival.

  • If you have knowledge pertaining to the shooter’s identity, whereabouts, etc., one person in the room should call 911 or 616-632-2462; advise the dispatcher of what is taking place and inform him/her of your location. Remain in place until the police give the “all clear.” Do not respond to any voice commands until you can verify with certainty that they are being issued by a police officer. Unfamiliar voices may be the shooter attempting to lure victims from safety.
  • If an active shooter is outside your building you should immediately seek cover to hide from the shooter. Proceed to a room that can be locked; close and lock all the windows and doors and turn off all the lights. If possible, get everyone down on the floor and ensure that no one is visible from outside the room.
  • If an active shooter is in the same building you are you should immediately seek cover and hide from the shooter. Determine if the room you are in can be locked and if so, follow the same procedure described in the previous paragraph. If your room cannot be locked, determine if there is a nearby location that can be reached safely and secured, or if you can safely exit the building. If you decide to move from your current location, be sure to follow the instructions outlined below.
  • If an active shooter enters your office, classroom or residence, try to remain calm. Call 911 or 616-632-2462 if possible, and alert the dispatcher to the shooter’s location. If you cannot speak, leave the line open so the dispatcher can listen to what is taking place. If there is no opportunity for escape or hiding, it might be possible to negotiate with the shooter. Attempting to overpower the shooter with force should be considered the very last resort; after all other options have been exhausted. If the shooter leaves the area, proceed immediately to a safer place, and do not touch anything that was in the vicinity of the shooter.

If you decide to flee during an active shooting situation, make sure you have an escape route and plan in mind. Do not attempt to carry anything while fleeing; move quickly, keep your hands visible, and follow the instructions of any police officers you may encounter. Do not attempt to remove injured people; instead, leave wounded victims where they are and notify authorities of their location as soon as possible. Proceed to a safe location and do not leave campus until advised it is safe to do so by police.

What to Expect from Responding Police Officers

Police officers responding to an active shooter are trained to proceed immediately to the area in which shots were last heard; their purpose is to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. The first responding officers will normally be in teams; they may be dressed in regular patrol uniforms, or they may be wearing external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical equipment. The officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, or handguns, and might also be using pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation.

Regardless of how they appear, remain calm, do as the officers tell you, and do not be afraid of them. Put down any bags or packages you may be carrying and keep your hands visible at all times. If you know where the shooter is, tell the officers. The first officers to arrive will not stop to aid injured people; rescue teams composed of other officers and emergency medical personnel will follow the first officers into secured areas to treat and remove injured persons.

Keep in mind that even once you have escaped to a safer location, the entire area is still a crime scene; police will usually not let anyone leave until the situation is fully under control and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Until you are released, remain at whatever assembly point authorities designate.

Contacting Authorities

  • Dial 616-632-2462 to contact the Aquinas College Department of Campus Safety from any cell phone.
  • Dial extension 3333 on any on-campus “land line” to be connected to Campus Safety.
  • Dialing 911 from a cell phone (or 9-911 from an on-campus "land line" phone) will connect you with the Kent County Dispatch Authority

Program the Aquinas College Department of Campus Safety phone number into your cell phone for emergency use.

What to Report

  • Your specific location: building name and office/room number
  • Number of people at your specific location
  • Injuries: number injured, types of injuries
  • Assailant(s): location, number of suspects, race/gender, clothing description, physical features, type of weapons (e.g. long gun or hand gun), backpack, shooter’s identity if known, separate explosions from gunfire, etc.

Un-Securing an Area

  • Consider risks before un-securing rooms. Remember, the shooter will not stop until he or she is engaged by an outside force.
  • Attempts to rescue people should only be made if it can be accomplished without further endangering the persons inside a secured area.
  • Consider the safety of the masses versus the safety of a few.
  • If doubt exists for the safety of the individuals inside the room, the area should remain secured.

Hostage Situation

If you witness a hostage situation:

  • Immediately remove yourself from any danger.
  • Immediately notify the Department of Campus Safety at 616-632-2462 or the police at 911 (9-911 from any campus "land line" phone).
  • Be prepared to give the dispatcher the following information:
    • Location and room number of incident
    • Number of possible hostage takers
    • Physical description and names of hostage takers, if possible
    • Number of possible hostages
    • Any weapons the hostage takers may have
    • Your name
    • Your location and phone number

If you are taken hostage:

  • Remain calm, be polite and cooperate with your captors.
  • Do not attempt escape unless there is an extremely good chance of survival. It is safer to be submissive and obey your captors.
  • Speak normally. Do not complain, avoid being belligerent, and comply with all orders and instructions.
  • Do not draw attention to yourself with sudden body movements, statements, comments or hostile looks.
  • Observe the captors and try to memorize their physical traits, voice patterns, clothing or other details that can help provide a description later.
  • Avoid getting into political or ideological discussions with the captors.
  • If forced to present terrorist demands to authorities, either in writing or on tape, state clearly that the demands are from your captors. Avoid making a plea on your own behalf.
  • Try to stay low to the ground or behind cover from windows or doors, if possible.

In a Rescue Situation:

  • Do not run. Drop to your knees and keep your hands visible. Make no sudden moves that a tense rescuer may interpret as hostile or threatening.
  • Wait for instructions, and obey all instructions you are given.
  • Do not be upset, resist or argue if a rescuer is not sure whether you are a suspect or a hostage.
  • Even if you are handcuffed and searched, do not resist. Just wait for the confusion to clear.
  • You will be taken to a safe area, where proper identification and status will be determined.

Bomb Threat

If you receive a bomb threat by phone, remain calm and obtain as much information as possible.

  • Do not put the caller on hold or attempt to transfer the caller.
  • Notify another staff member of the call as soon as possible, preferably while the call is still in progress.
  • Note the time the call begins and the phone number if you have caller ID
  • Pay attention to the caller and his/her words and speech:
  • Does the caller have any distinguishing voice characteristics such as an accent, stuttering, or mispronunciation?
  • Is the caller angry, excited, irrational, or agitated?
  • Is the caller male or female, young, middle-aged, or old?
  • Listen for background noises such as vehicle traffic, train whistle, music, radio, TV, children, airplanes, etc.
  • Document all that you know and hear.
  • Notify the Department of Campus Safety by dialing 616-632-2462 or emergency services at 911.
  • Do not evacuate until ordered by the Department of Campus Safety. If an evacuation is ordered, follow the Evacuation Procedures outlined in this plan.

The U.S. Department of the Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms has published a Bomb Threat Checklist that may be found here: ATF_Bomb_Threat_Checklist.pdf This form should be filled out immediately when receiving a bomb threat so the information is as accurate as possible.

Suspicious Mail or Packages

If you observe or receive a suspicious package via mail delivery, do not handle or move it. Some characteristics that define packages or letters as suspicious are as follows:

  • Excessive postage
  • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
  • Incorrect titles
  • Title, but no name
  • Misspelling of common words
  • Oily stains, discolorations or odor
  • No return address
  • Excessive weight
  • Lopsided or uneven envelope
  • Protruding wires or aluminum foil
  • Visual distractions suck as stickers, drawings, etc.
  • Excessive security material such as masking tape, string, etc.
  • Ticking sound
  • Marked with restrictive endorsements such as “Personal” or “Confidential”
  • Shows a city or state in the postmark that does not match the return address

If there is reason to suspect that a package may contain an explosive device based on characteristics described above, do not handle the package. Leave the area and contact the Department of Campus Safety immediately.

If the suspicious letter or package is marked with a threatening message (such as “anthrax”) or if a suspicious powder or substance spills out of the package or envelope, follow these guidelines:

  • Do not touch the substance or attempt to clean the spill.
  • Turn off any fans or ventilation units if easily accessible.
  • Leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading the powder or substance.
  • Notify the Department of Campus Safety.
  • Remove any heavily contaminated articles of clothing as soon as possible and place in a plastic bag or a container that can be sealed. Give to emergency responders.
  • List all people who were in the area when the suspicious package was recognized and provide the list to Campus Safety.

Mental Health Emergency

A mental health emergency is any situation in which a member of the campus community is experiencing extreme emotional or psychological distress that requires immediate consultation from the Counseling Services Staff. During business hours, contact the Career and Counseling reception desk at 616-632-2905 and inform whoever answers the phone that you need immediate assistance. The receptionist will locate a Counselor for immediate response. After business hours and on weekends, call the Department of Campus Safety at 616-632-2462, giving your name and phone number, and they will notify the Counselor currently on call. Never leave a student threatening suicide alone.

Severe Weather

The College is prepared to notify the campus community via the Emergency Alert Notification System of severe weather emergencies. The following terms are utilized by the National Weather Service:

  • Watch: Conditions are right for a severe thunder storm or tornado to develop. Continue with normal activities, but monitor the weather.
  • Warning: Radar or weather spotters have identified a severe thunder storm or tornado.

If you are indoors during a tornado warning or severe thunderstorm warning:

  • Know the location of the appropriate area(s) for your facility. This can be a basement or a ground floor hallway with no windows or a door frame. (see REFERENCES for a list of shelter locations)
  • If you are unable to go to a room with no windows get under a desk or a table.
  • Remain in a protected area until the threat has ceased or the danger has passed.
  • Call the Department of Campus Safety from any campus "land line" phone by dialing extension 2642 or 616-632-2462 from a cell phone to report injuries and damage. You may also dial 9-911 from a campus "land line" phone or 911 from a cell phone to reach emergency services.

If you are outside during a tornado warning or severe thunderstorm warning:

  • Try to seek shelter indoors.
  • If you cannot get indoors, try to get to a protected or safe area away from buildings, windows and glass, telephone or light poles or any place where there could be falling debris.
  • A low area such as a ditch or ravine or a depression works well.
  • Lie face down and cover your head and face.
  • Avoid any downed power lines.
  • Call the Department of Campus Safety from any campus "land line" phone by dialing extension 2642 or 616-632-2462 from a cell phone to report injuries and damage. You may also dial 9-911 from a campus "land line" phone or 911 from a cell phone.

Severe Winter Weather

In evaluating whether or not to close for snow or ice related reasons, the following criteria are considered:

  • The ability of the College Grounds Crew to keep campus roads, parking lots, and sidewalks cleared.
  • The conditions of primary and secondary roads in the area surrounding campus as reported by the State Police as well as Kent County Sheriff’s Department and the Grand Rapids Police Department.
  • Weather reports regarding the track of the storm and other conditions.

College officials will use caution when making a reasonable decision to either close the entire college, cancel classes or athletic events, or to be observant and continue with all functions as scheduled. The timeframe for making these decisions is as follows:

  • Morning classes or events will be decided by 6:30 am.
  • Evening classes or events will be decided by 4:00 pm.

When classes are cancelled, classes and activities will not be held. Employees are still expected to report to work.

When the College is closed, only essential personnel (pre-determined) are to report to work. Aquinas College will make every effort to maintain Food Services, the Sturrus Sports and Fitness Center, the Moose Cafe, the Grace Hauenstein Library, and Campus Safety, though the hours that these services are available during a closure due to winter weather may be limited.

If your class has not been cancelled but you believe it is too dangerous to attempt travel to campus, contact your professor and stay home. Your safety is important! Use your best judgment when deciding when to travel.


If a fire alarm has been activated for a building, always assume there is a fire and follow the proper evacuation procedures as outlined in this plan. Know the locations of fire extinguishers, posted evacuation routes, exits, and fire alarm pull stations in your area. Do not prop doors open or block hallways or exit doors as it severely jeopardizes safe evacuations and hampers fire department personnel.

If you discover a fire:

  • Activate the nearest fire alarm pull station on your way out of the building
  • Alert people in the immediate area of the danger on your way out
  • Shut down hazardous equipment such as gas valves in the area
  • Leave the building by the nearest exit, closing doors behind you

If the fire alarm sounds:

  • Follow the evacuation procedures outlined in this plan
  • Notify Campus Safety or emergency personnel if you know of anyone trapped in the building
  • Remain outside and in your group until released by emergency personnel or Campus Safety

If trapped in a room:

  • Drop to the floor and crawl towards an exit
  • Breathe slowing through cloth material (wet if possible) to reduce the amount of smoke you inhale
  • Feel the temperature of the door. Never open a door that feels hot!
  • Notify Campus Safety of your location if possible. All classrooms have a black phone on the wall for emergencies. Be prepared to signal your presence to emergency personnel from a window.

When to use a fire extinguisher:

  • Only use an extinguisher when attempting to extinguish a small fire and only if you have been trained
  • An extinguisher may be used to suppress a fire that blocks your exit from a building
  • The four basic steps to operating a fire extinguisher are:
    • Pull the pin
    • Aim the extinguisher hose at the base of the fire
    • Squeeze the lever
    • Sweep from side to side

Utility Failure

When a utility failure occurs such as power loss, heating issues, loss of water, or the smell of the gas is present, the College will inform the Campus Community of any restrictions, closings, etc., by use of the EANS (the Moose, email, etc). Very rarely will campus close due to a utility failure. If you are aware of a utility failure, notify the Maintenance Department at 616-632-2102 immediately during business hours or Campus Safety after business hours and on weekends. Maintenance will evaluate the problem and determine the best solution. If Maintenance does not answer the phone, call the Campus Safety and they will report the problem to Maintenance.

Hazardous Chemical Emergency

If you are aware of hazardous or combustible chemicals being released in a building, you should immediately close off the area and activate a pull station on your way out of the building to activate the building’s fire alarm. Once you have reached a safe location, notify the Department of Campus Safety at 616-632-2462 so they may contact the proper authorities for containment and clean up. If hazardous or combustible chemicals are released outside of a building on campus, get clear of the immediate area and notify the Department of Campus Safety immediately. Try to keep others from entering the affected area.

Trapped in an Elevator

If you become trapped in an elevator, remain calm and contact the Department of Campus Safety via the phone present in the elevator or a cell phone. If the elevator will not go to the floor you ordered, attempt a different floor. Inform Campus Safety of any changes in your or the elevator’s condition.


Areas of Refuge:

Areas of Refuge are locations where individuals unable to use stairways can remain temporarily to await instructions or assistance in emergency situations requiring evacuation.  These designated areas have a one hour fire rating and smoke shield, are close to an elevator, are along the path of travel toward an exit and have enough room for two wheelchairs.  Areas of refuge have been designated with posted signs and are listed below.

Safe Areas:

Safe Areas are areas deemed safe to take shelter at in instances of extreme weather such as tornado warnings or severe thunderstorms.

Area of Refuge and Safe Area Locations

Automated External Defibrillator:

An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a life saving tool used in instances where an individual's heart has stopped and they need emergency assistance.  The AED assesses the individual's condition and gives auditory care instructions.  Aquinas has 15 AEDs located around campus.

AED Locations

Emergency Phones:

Emergency phones are usually red in color and connect directly to the Campus Safety Office with no need to dial.  These phones are located in hallways, at exterior entrances to some buildings, and outside on frequently traveled paths. 

Emergency Phone Locations

Courtesy Phones:

Courtesy phones are black phones located in hallways and other areas of convenience.  Courtesy phones can only be used to dial on-campus extensions.  The Department of Campus Safety’s extensions are 2462 (general) and 3333 (emergency).

Courtesy Phone Locations