Emergency Response Protocols

Natural Disasters

Severe Weather Related Emergencies

Severe weather can occur throughout each season in the Missoula area. This includes; thunderstorms, high wind, ice, hail, snow, blizzard, and rain with potential flooding. The Dispatch office receives any weather advisories and warnings and will notify the campus community if weather conditions are dangerous. Faculty, staff and students are advised to check the weather forecast on the UM Police website.

A severe thunderstorm by definition is a thunderstorm that produces one inch hail or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour. Although not considered "severe", lightning and heavy rain can also accompany thunderstorms. The magnitude of the event can include wind storms up to 70 mph and lightning strikes with the potential to destroy individual structures.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch outlines an area where an organized episode of hail 1 inch diameter or larger and/or damaging thunderstorm winds are expected during a three to eight hour period. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when either a severe thunderstorm is indicated by radar or a spotter reports a thunderstorm, therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately.

High winds may topple a number of large trees on Campus, causing damage to structures and power lines in adjacent areas to the University.Roofs and other structures may be damaged by large hail.

General Guidelines:

Stay away from windows and exterior doors during all severe weather. Notification of an approaching dangerous storm will be made by:

  • National Weather Service and the Missoula Emergency Alert Notification System (MEANS) via the broadcast media.

  • Campus Emergency Notification System

General Procedures:
  • Either the UM Police Department, the University President, or the Office of the Vice President for Administration & Finance will authorize an emergency notification.

  • Remain in shelter or protected area until the storm has passed.

  • Be cautious when exiting the building due to possible broken glass, possible downed trees and power lines.

Snow storms and bitterly cold temperatures are common occurrences in Missoula County and generally do not cause any problems as residents are used to winter weather and are prepared to deal with it. Sometimes, however, blizzards can occur and overwhelm the ability to keep roads passable. Extreme wind chill temperatures may harm residents if unprotected outdoors or if heating mechanisms are disrupted.

A Winter Storm Watch means that severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area, but its occurrence, location and timing are still uncertain. A winter storm watch is issued to provide 12 to 48 hours notice of the possibility of severe winter weather.  A Winter Storm Warning when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Winter storms with heavy snow and ice events have the potential to bring down power lines adjacent to the University and trees on Campus. Disruption of utilities for light, heating and providing for essential services may occur and any travel on or off Campus could be hazardous.

General Guidelines:

The intent of this policy is to protect lives and property and to effectively use available resources to maintain an appropriate level of University operations during episodes of severe winter weather.  Rarely, the University of Montana must suspend services due to severe inclement weather. The decision to suspend services, ultimately made by the President or his/her designee, is based upon public health and safety issues associated with those conditions. Notification of service interruptions is managed internally and externally by the UM Police Department and Facility Services.

The University of Montana severe weather policy is driven by the needs of the entire campus community rather than the particular needs of each individual. Each individual is responsible for deciding if the conditions are safe for his/her travel.

Notification of an approaching winter storm will be made by:

  • National Weather Service and the Missoula Emergency Alert Notification System (MEANS) via the broadcast media.

  • Campus Emergency Notification System:

    • UM Web Page / UM e-mail

    • Social media messages

    • LED Reader Board (in event of campus closure)

    • Cell phone text message notification (in event of campus closure)

General Procedures:

Either the UM Police Department, the University President, or the Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance will authorize an emergency notification.

Class 1 Weather/Snow Emergency
  • This classification is used when the situation requires additional resources beyond those normally scheduled. Travel is possible but difficult in some areas. The safety of people on campus is minimally threatened by the conditions. Essential and emergency resources are readily accessible.

Class 2 Weather/Snow Emergency
  • This classification is used when the situation requires more resources than can be applied. In snow storms, travel is generally difficult and snow removal cannot keep pace with snowfall. Icy conditions, where traction and vehicle stability are seriously impaired, may qualify for this level of alert. Walking and bicycling may be impaired or unsafe for certain members of the community as indicated by a recognized authority such as the National Weather Service. Conditions such as black ice, high winds, poor visibility and extremely low chill factors may be present. The safety of people on campus is not overtly threatened unless they are acting outside the range of sensible behavior. Essential and emergency resources may be delayed in reaching campus because of the current conditions.

Class 3 Weather/Snow Emergency
  • This classification applies to situations where snow removal has stopped or is seriously impaired. The National Weather Service or other recognized authority has declared the storm a severe winter storm. Travel of any sort is dangerous. External resources to support the normal operation of the campus may not be available. Health and life safety may be threatened because essential and emergency resources are at maximum capacity. Under these circumstances, normal services and operations of the University are suspended and only essential services will be provided.

These classification levels provide a system that the administration can use to evaluate weather conditions for storms that generate abnormal demands on the campus community and its resources. If conditions do not warrant the declaration of a weather/snow emergency, normal campus operations will continue.

Police and Facilities Management staff will confer hourly, by radio or phone, during such emergency conditions to evaluate if safe access to campus is possible using criteria such as:

  1. An estimate of the time required to make safe access available to the campus.

  2. Changing weather conditions, Equipment status, Utility problems or failures, City of Missoula, Missoula County and State highway road conditions.

    1. Wind speed and direction

    2. Precipitation estimates

    3. Barometric readings

    4. Wind chill factor

  3. Other major public entities operational status

  4. Recommendations by elected or other local government officials

This information will be given to the Chief of Police or designee, through the shift.


  • Announcements about the operating status of the University will be updated periodically on the U of M main web page and with local media outlets during inclement weather conditions. Please do not call ext. 4000 to verify that the campus is closed. This phone line must remain open for emergency communication.

  • If the decision to suspend services on campus is made during a workday, deans, directors and department heads will be notified through the intercampus e-mail system and asked to pass information along to their employees.

  • For severe snow storms, the University has identified areas of campus that are priorities for snow removal. As conditions deteriorate, additional stress is placed on available resources. To maintain access for police, fire and emergency medical vehicles, high priority areas -- those areas considered essential for the safety and well-being of the campus's 14,000+ people, including the 2,300 people living in residence halls - will be served first.

  • Deans, directors and department heads should identify University facilities essential to the health and safety of the University which must remain operational even under extreme weather conditions (i.e. dining services, residence halls, animal care facilities, UMPD, heating plant, Facility Services, etc.) and notify affected employees of their responsibilities. Special transportation arrangements or accommodations may have to be considered for employees in those areas.

Flooding along the Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers and numerous other creeks and streams within Missoula County have caused property damage. Flash floods have the potential to occur, especially after a wildfire.  Some regional floods occur seasonally when winter or spring rains coupled with melting snow fill river basins with too much water too quickly. The ground may be frozen, reducing infiltration into the soil and thereby increasing runoff. Extended wet periods during any part of the year can create saturated soil conditions, after which any additional rain runs off into streams and rivers, until river capacities are exceeded.  Flash floods can occur within seconds to several hours, with little warning.  Flash floods can be deadly because they can produce rapid rises in water levels and have devastating flow velocities.

Ice-jam floods occur on rivers that are totally or partially frozen. A rise in stream stage will break up a totally frozen river and create ice flows that can pile up on channel obstructions such as shallow riffles, log jams, or bridge piers. The jammed ice creates a dam across the channel over which the water and ice mixture continues to flow, allowing for more jamming to occur.

Backwater upstream from the ice dam can rise rapidly and overflow the channel banks. Flooding moves downstream when the ice dam fails, and the water stored behind the dam is released. At this time the flood takes on the characteristics of a flash flood.

Dams have been placed on large and small streams throughout Western Montana. Although no dams have failed and caused damages in Missoula County, dams could present a problem to downstream inhabitants if they fail.  The East Fork Rock Creek Dam in Granite County and Painted Rocks Dam in Ravalli County have the greatest potential to damage property, highway infrastructure, transportation systems, and utility infrastructure in Missoula County.  However, damaging flood water levels are not expected to reach Missoula or the University area from these two possible dam breaches.

Flood waters from the Clark Fork River have the potential to damage Campus buildings and create life-threatening hazards for personnel.  Areas on the North side of campus initially may be affected including egress routes which may be impassable.  Flooding may include storm water building infiltration. In all flooding situations, be aware of electrical equipment, appliances, cords, power strips, outlets, light/appliance switches, and other electrically connected items. Health safety issues are also a concern during flooding events including potable water supplies and delivery, breakdown of sewage disposal systems and threat of communicable diseases.

General Guidelines:

The following plan has been developed to establish appropriate procedures for responding to a flood emergency from natural occurrences that affects University operations and life safety.  Notification of a flood warning will be made by:

  • Notification of a flood warning will be issued from Missoula County Disaster and Emergency Services (DES)
  • Campus Emergency Notification System:
    • UM Web Page / UM e-mail
    • Social media messages
    • LED Reader Board (in the event of campus closure)
    • Cell phone text message notification (in the event of campus closure)
General Procedures:
  • The University will rely on information from Missoula County DES to initiate any flood emergency notification
  • Either the Office of Public Safety, the University President, or the Office of the Vice President for Administration & Finance will authorize an emergency notification if necessary
  • If notification is given, Departmental Emergency Plan Coordinators will activate their building emergency action plan
  • Departmental Emergency Management Team Personnel will attempt to protect property and records by removing items from floors or covering with water resistant coverings where appropriate
  • The campus EOC may need to be established for a prolonged (>12 hour) flood event
  • Supplies such as sand bags, flash lights, submersible pumps, hoses, and emergency generators shall be obtained by Facility Services to prevent the flow of water into buildings
  • If flooding occurs and water begins accumulating within a building, EHRM shall conduct a hazard assessment in conjunction with Facility Services of flooded areas prior to entry by response personnel.
  • If safe to do so, Facilities Services shall de-energize any electrical equipment and outlets in the affected areas. If flooding occurs, maintain all safe and reasonable efforts to protect the building
  • University Police shall restrict access to the affected areas by appropriate means.

A landslide includes all types of gravity-caused mass movements of earth material, ranging from rock falls through mud slides, and debris flows.  A potential does exist for landslides given the steep terrain in Missoula County and near main campus.  Susceptibility to landsliding is based on the probable degree of response of rocks and soils to natural or artificial cutting or loading of slopes, or to anomalously high precipitation, areas affected by wildfires and seismic activity.

An avalanche is a rapid downhill flow of a large mass of snow or ice from a mountainside or the top of a precipice.  A potential exists for an avalanche off of Mount Sentinel onto Campus drive and the far East end of campus.

Landslides/Avalanches could cause damage to numerous vehicles parked along the drive and to motorists/pedestrians on the main road or sidewalk itself which serves a major thoroughfare on the East side of campus.  The most susceptible campus building would be the Veterans Education and Transitional Services located at 1000 E. Beckwith and the Prescott House     

General Guidelines:

The following plan has been developed to establish appropriate procedures for responding to a landslide/avalanche that causes property damage and affects University operations.  Landslides/avalanches cannot be predicted and warnings can only occur after an event occurs.  However, the website missoulaavalanche.org should be checked to see what type of advisory levels and avalanche danger may be present, so that a pre-warning can be given and conditions monitored.  Should a landslide/avalanche occur, the University Police should be notified via ext. 4000. They will inform the local County DES Office.  

Notification to the campus community of a landslide from Mount Sentinel will be made by the campus emergency notification system:

  • UM Web Page / UM e-mail
  • Social media messages
  • LED Reader Board (in the event of a campus closure)
  • Cell phone text message notification (in the event of a campus closure)
General Procedures:
  • Either the Office of Public Safety, the University President, or the Office of the Vice President for Administration & Finance will authorize an emergency notification
  • The Office of Public Safety will oversee road blockage, detour routes and traffic control in the vicinity of the landslide/avalanche
  • County Search and Rescue may need to be called to search for buried victims.
  • Facility Services will determine possible damage to any utility lines in the area.
  • Facility Services is responsible for dealing with debris and clean-up following such an event, either through staffing or contractual labor.
  • Any re-route notifications for alternative travel routes will be issued through the Office of Public Safety

A wildland or rangeland fire is an uncontrolled fire, a term which includes grass fires, forest fires, and scrub fires, be it man caused or natural in origin.  The Missoula County Community Wildfire Protection Plan covers the surrounding area and the U of M.

One of the main issues may be the amount of smoke in the immediate vicinity of campus.  Members of the campus community are advised heed public health advisories urging people to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities as much as possible.  If you are experiencing respiratory or other health issues related to the smoke:

  • Students - please make arrangements with your Summer or Fall class instructors.
  • Employees - please work with your supervisor to take sick leave or make other arrangements. Questions regarding leave policies or alternative work arrangements can be directed to Human Resources

This plan will describe the role and operations of the University of Montana for responding to a wildfire on or near campus.  Wildfires can have a serious impact to the University community and its environment, including a decrease in air quality and contamination of water resources. The secondary effects of a wildfire include:

  •  Disruption of classes and other on-campus activities
  •  Disruption of the transportation infrastructure
  •  Loss of electrical services to affected areas
  •  Loss and/or disruption of commercial and residential water supplies

During a wildfire, many agencies and organizations will assist the University of Montana.  The University will also provide assistance to responding agencies through utilization of our facilities (practice field for helicopter landing zone, parking lots for staging, etc.) 

General Guidelines:

The National Weather Service, Missoula Office regularly monitors there forecast area for signs that might be favorable to wildfires.  This office issues several types of warnings and watches, including:

  • Fire Weather Watch: This means that critical fire weather conditions are forecasted to occur.
  • Red Flag Warning: This forecast warning informs area firefighting and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for wildfire ignition and propagation (low humidity, windy conditions)

Be alert for any fire watches or warnings issued for the Missoula area.  Health hazard warnings for smoke will be issued by the County Health Department.  If possible evacuation pre-notices are issued, follow the alerts provided by the U of M emergency notification system.

General Procedures:
  • Either the Office of Public Safety, the University President, or the Office of the Vice President for Administration & Finance will authorize an emergency notification
  • Departmental Emergency Plan Coordinators where applicable will activate their building emergency action plan    
  • Public Safety will provide access control and traffic control in the affected areas that pertain to fire operations and outside agency assistance. 
  • Missoula Rural Fire Department along with the Department of Natural Resources and Forest Service Fire crews and other wildfire response units will provide the tactical response for wildfires approaching the campus.
  • Should structural damage occur, U of M Facilities Services will provide heavy equipment and equipment operators to be used to aid the firefighting operations under the supervision of the Incident Commander 

An earthquake is ground shaking and radiated seismic energy caused most commonly by a sudden slip on a fault, volcanic or magmatic activity, or other sudden stress changes in the earth.  Although it has been over four decades since the last destructive earthquake in Montana, small earthquakes are common in the region, occurring at an average rate of 7-10 earthquakes per day.  An earthquake with a magnitude of less than "3" is rarely felt. An earthquake with a magnitude of "5" is considered moderate and can cause damage to poorly constructed buildings, while a "6" or larger causes major damage.

Earthquakes can result in fatalities, injuries and major property damage to campus.  Secondary effects from earthquakes can be cascading or compounding including:

  • Fires can occur as a result of ruptured gas lines, and if water main breakages occur, this combination makes fire-fighting very difficult
  • Landsides are a common post-earthquake event, particularly if the earthquake strikes during periods of heavy rains in already saturated soils
  • Historically, liquefaction is responsible for a tremendous amount of damage in historical earthquakes around the world.  Liquefaction occurs when ground shaking reduces the strength and stiffness of the soil, which loses the ability to support the foundations of structures
General Guidelines

When an earthquake occurs:

  • Take cover under a table or desk to avoid falling objects
  • Implement the "Drop, Cover and Hold" procedure by doing the following:

Drop to your knees with back to windows and knees together.  Cover your neck by clasping both hands firmly behind your head. Also, bury your face in your arms, protecting your head. And close your eyes tightly.  Hold that position (stay there) until safe evacuation is reasonable through self-assessment. 

  • Use extreme caution when evacuating the building 
  • Do not used the elevators
  • Stay away from windows to avoid injury from broken glass or tall cabinets that could fall
  • When evacuating  through the building, move cautiously to avoid damaged stairways, doors, falling debris or exposed electrical lines
  •  If you are outside, move away from buildings, trees or power lines
  • Implement the "Drop, Cover and Hold" procedure for aftershocks.
  • Don't go near anything where there is a danger of falling debris

Following an Earthquake:

  • Remain calm and be prepared for aftershocks.  Earthquakes sometimes occur in a series of tremors, which could last for a period of several days. Aftershocks may last from a few seconds to as long as 5 minutes
  • Do not use the elevators
  • When safe, Departmental Response Group personnel should conduct a search of the building for anyone who might be trapped or afraid to leave
  • Do not attempt to move injured persons unless there is a danger of further injury from

collapsing structure, fire, etc.

  • Report to your designated department Evacuation Assembly Area and/or the Safe and Well site.
General Procedures:
  • Depending on communication capabilities following an earthquake, an attempt will be made by either the Office of Public Safety, the University President, or the Office of the Vice President for Administration & Finance to initiate an emergency notification to the campus community
  • Notification to the campus community after an earthquake will be made by the campus emergency notification system:
    • UM Web Page / UM e-mail
    • Social media messages
    • LED Reader Board (in the event of a campus closure)
    • Cell phone text message notification (in the event of a campus closure)
  • The University President or his designee will implement the EOP and the EOC 
  • Departmental Emergency Plan Coordinators will activate their building emergency action plan
  • Emergency Management Team personnel will sweep their area of responsibility and direct individuals to the designated evacuation assembly area
  • Emergency Coordinators should turn off electricity and gas should the building/area be damaged if safe to do so
  • Students, faculty and staff will be directed to secure shelter locations if applicable
  • Facility Services, Construction and Planning and EHRM along with necessary contractors will conduct building inspections to determine if building(s) is safe to re-enter

Although no active volcanoes exist within Missoula County, an eruption hundreds of miles away

can blanket the County given the right conditions.  The nearest active volcanoes to Missoula County are within the Cascade Range of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California and to the south in the Yellowstone Caldera of Wyoming and Northeastern Idaho. Some of the effects of volcanic ash include:

  • Short-circuits and failure of electronic components, especially high-voltage circuits and

transformers (wet ash conducts electricity)

  • Eruption clouds and ash fall commonly interrupt or prevent telephone and radio


  • Volcanic ash can cause internal-combustion engines to stall by clogging air filters and also damage the moving parts. Engines of jet aircraft have suddenly failed after flying through clouds of even thinly dispersed ash
  • Roads, highways, and airport runways can be made treacherous or impassable because ash is slippery and may reduce visibility to near zero. Cars driving faster than 5 miles per hour on ash-covered roads stir up thick clouds of ash, reducing visibility and causing accidents
  • Ash also clogs filters used in air-ventilation systems to the point that airflow often stops

completely, causing equipment to overheat

  • Like airborne particles from dust storms, forest fires, and air pollution, volcanic ash poses a health risk, especially to children, the elderly, and people with cardiac or respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema
Campus affects will include potential power and communication outages, hazardous travel conditions, building roof collapse and possible health risks.
General Guidelines:

Stay indoors where possible to minimize exposure to ash.  Minimize exertion to reduce inhaling ash.  Cover and don’t use personal computers, and other sensitive electrical equipment.  Pay attention to Campus emergency notification messages for instructions and precautions.

General Procedures:
  • Either the Office of Public Safety, the University President, or the Office of the Vice President for Administration & Finance will authorize an emergency notification
  • An e-mail will be sent to the Departmental Emergency Plan Coordinators regarding preparation steps
  • Departmental Emergency Plan Coordinators will activate their building emergency action plan
  • Facility Services will monitor buildings for roof ash accumulation
  • Residence Hall students will be directed to secure shelter locations if necessary
  • If evacuation is authorized, Public Safety will provide access control and traffic control in the affected areas and assist in evacuation activities, as well as providing security for evacuated areas and coordinating re-entry of individuals following an evacuation
  • Facility Services will coordinate all clean-up and disposal activities with input from EHRM
Facility Services, Construction and Planning and EHRM along with necessary contractors will conduct building inspections to determine if building(s) is safe to re-enter

Man-Made Disasters

Building fires are one of the most common emergency scenarios for all Universities.  Individual or multiple buildings can be affected and can cause a loss of life if not well prepared in evacuation procedures.  Fires may be more likely in buildings that contain flammable liquids, oxidizers and large amounts of combustible material.  Life safety inspections are performed on an annual basis at a minimum for all University buildings to ensure means of egress, firefighting systems, exit lights and emergency lighting units, fire doors and proper material storage are maintained to reduce the possibility of loss of life during a fire emergency.

General Guidelines:

If a fire or smoke is observed, the individual making the observation should call 9-1-1 and pull the nearest fire alarm if applicable.  Notify the Office of Public safety at ext. 4000. The building will then be evacuated and occupants will be directed to the established evacuation point. 

Shut doors to assure containment, if possible. Immediately leave the building by means of the nearest available exit, alerting others to do the same. Individuals with disabilities may require guidance, communications or assistance to areas of rescue assistance.

Before opening door, see if it is hot by placing the back of your hand against it. If it is hot remain in the room. If you are on a ground floor carefully exit through a window, if possible. If on an upper floor, call 911 and give the operator your location. Block entrance of smoke and heat. Open window. Do not exit onto ledges. REMAIN CALM. Fire fighters will get to you as soon as possible. If the door is cool, open slightly and check for smoke in corridor. If smoke-free proceed to nearest available exit (exterior door or stairwell). Stay low, near the floor, to avoid smoke and heat. Close doors on your way out. If corridor is too smoky to reach stairway or exit, remain in room and follow the previous instructions.

General Procedures:
  • After receiving the alarm, the Office of Public Safety will respond to the reported fire location to provide assistance to the arriving emergency vehicles
  • Departmental Emergency Plan Coordinators will activate their building emergency action plan
  • Emergency Management Team personnel will sweep their area of responsibility and direct individuals to the designated evacuation assembly area
  • Follow the established guidelines for evacuation of people with disabilities
  • Conduct critical shutdown operations where applicable for the affected building(s) if health and safety is not jeopardized
  • Public Safety will provide access control and traffic control in the affected areas and assist in evacuation activities
  • If a Residence Hall Fire, students in residence halls may be relocated by Residence Life to a designated shelter area
  • Fire officials will determine if the building is safe to re-enter

System and power failures will include any loss of building service such as electricity, plumbing, heating, ventilation, water supply, elevators and telephones.  These emergencies can affect the college community and may adversely impact the ability of the college to function normally.

General Guidelines:

Report any emergency related to building or facility problems, such as equipment failure or erratic operation to Facility Services as soon as possible.

Call the UM Police Department if there is a potential danger to building(s), and/or its occupants.

General Procedures:
  • Facility Services will initially respond to all calls of utility outages on campus
  • If evacuation is needed, the Office of Public Safety will assist the Campus Community
  • Facility Services will Assess situation/damage, secure utilities, as necessary, and coordinate with appropriate agency regarding any downed power lines
  • Facility Services will provide Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning support, as necessary

For a prolonged utility outage, the Emergency Management Team in conjunction with the Policy Group will authorize relocation or canceling of classes and critical operations  

There is a major petroleum pipeline and numerous natural gas mains that run throughout the County. In addition, rail and highway routes are used to transport hazardous materials. There are major petroleum storage, chemical manufacturing, and pipelines in the County as well.

A release or spill of a hazardous material via a rail accident or tanker truck release are the most likely scenarios to affect the U of M campus based on its proximity to the rail lines just on the North side of the Clark Fork River.  A release could result in the evacuation of the campus or a shelter-in-place response.

The University has several science buildings on campus housing teaching and research labs where a wide variety of hazardous chemicals, biohazardous and radioactive materials are used.  A chemical spill is defined as the uncontrolled release of a hazardous chemical, either as a solid, liquid or a gas. Chemical spills at the University of Montana may occur in a variety of worksites, from research & teaching laboratories, to trades workshops, to large scale Utilities operations.  The challenges related to dealing with chemical spills will vary with the type and volume of chemical involved. Chemical spills in laboratories generally involve small volumes of a potentially large number of chemicals, whereas industrial settings generally use fewer, but larger quantities of chemicals.

Regardless of the type or quantity of hazardous chemical involved, all worksites must implement measures to reduce the potential for spills and have a plan for responding to chemical spills.  This section describes responding to spills of low or moderate hazard and information on reporting and addressing larger chemical spills at the University of Montana.

General Guidelines:
  • Small spills or releases of hazardous substances in laboratories will be handled initially by the Principal Investigator or properly trained staff.  Environmental Health & Risk Management will respond to chemical spills that are beyond the ability of departmental personnel to address.  Larger spills may require the assistance of outside resources such as the local fire department and hazmat team.  Large releases of hazardous materials from an incident in Missoula or a rail or highway transportation accident may involve a partial or total campus evacuation and an integrated response from Missoula County Disaster Emergency Services.  
General Procedures:

Campus Chemical spills:  EHRM will be contacted by the Department or Principal Investigator when a release of a hazardous substance occurs on campus.  EHRM will advise affected personnel regarding response efforts to control, contain and clean-up the spill.  The actions taken depend on the magnitude, complexity, and degree of risk associated with the spill.  The following steps outline the actions which should be taken in response to a chemical spill:

  • Stay clear and warn others
  • Assist injured or contaminated persons
  • Assess the situation.  Is this an emergency?  All spills in areas accessible to the general University community (eg: corridors, lobbies) are considered emergencies. Whenever a spill occurs in a public area, contact EHRM and the Office of Public Safety   
  • Get help for all but minor spills
  • Control and clean-up the spill
  • Report the spill

If necessary, EHRM will contact local emergency responders to assist in dealing with larger spills or releases.

Gas release:  If you smell or suspect a leak, cease all operations. Do not turn on or off any electrical equipment or switches, including cell phones Remember, electrical sparks can trigger an explosion. Notify the Office of Public Safety through the emergency number 4000.  The Office of Public Safety will contact both EHRM and Facilities to begin response and possible evacuation of students, faculty and staff from the affected building or area

  •   Physical Plant personnel will shut off gas supply to the affected building(s) if possible 
    • Departmental Emergency Plan Coordinators for the affected building will be notified and they will activate their building emergency action plan for building evacuation
    • DO NOT RETURN TO AN EVACUATED BUILDING unless told to do so by a University official.   

Chemical Spill or Release off Campus that affects the Campus Community: 

  • The Office of Public Safety will be notified by Missoula County Disaster Emergency Services of a spill or release of hazardous materials. 
  • If any part of the campus community may be affected, either the Office of Public Safety, the University President, or the Office of the Vice President for Administration & Finance will authorize an emergency notification
  • Departmental Emergency Plan Coordinators will activate their building emergency action plan
  • Emergency Management Team personnel will walk their area of responsibility and direct individuals to evacuate or to shelter in place based on the notification
  • If evacuation is necessary, Public Safety will provide access control and traffic control in the affected areas and assist in evacuation activities, as well as providing security for evacuated areas and coordinating re-entry of individuals following an evacuation
  • An alternative evacuation site may be used taking into account wind direction, shelter and terrain (up-hill vs. down-hill or downstream where contaminants may spread
  • If necessary, students in residence halls may be evacuated from campus to designated shelter areas through the assistance of ASUM transportation buses
  • If sheltering-in-place is required, Emergency Response Group personnel will lead faculty, staff and students to the designated shelter areas
  • The Building Emergency Coordinator will follow established procedures in their Emergency Action Plan to restrict airflow where possible into areas where students and staff are sheltered.  This may include closing exterior windows and doors, etc.
  • An all clear will be given through the emergency notification system when it is safe to leave the building.

An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. The immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. It may take a few minutes for law enforcement to arrive at the scene.

Recognizing Signs of Potential Violence

An Active Shooter may be a current or former employee or student. Alert your police department if you believe a student or employee exhibits potentially violent behavior. Indicators of potential violent behavior may include one or more of the following:

  • Increased use of alcohol and/ or illegal drugs
  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism, and /or vague physical complaints
  • Depression/ Withdrawal
  • Increased severe mood swings, and noticeable or emotional response
  • Increasingly talks of problems at home or school. Dark written or verbal communications
Increase in unsolicited comments about violence, firearms, and other dangerous weapons and violent crimes.
General Guidelines:

The following protocol is sound and generally applicable but must be adapted to the specific situation. Bottom line, if you hear shots fired on campus or if you see or know that an armed person is shooting people, protect yourself first - move to a safe location.


  • If you can do so safely, inform building occupants.
  • Close and lock your door and all windows. If you cannot lock the door, try to block the door with desks and chairs. If the door opens outward, secure the door to a heavy object with belts
  • Turn off all the lights.
  • Seek protective cover. Stay away from doors and windows.
  • Keep quiet and act as if no one is in the room.
  • Do not answer the door or respond to commands until you are certain they are issued by a police officer.
  • Wait for police to assist you out of the building.

If it is possible to escape the area safely and avoid danger, do so by the nearest exit or window

  • Evacuate to a safe area away from the danger, and take protective cover. Stay there until emergency responders arrive. Leave in the room books, backpacks, purses, etc.
  • Notify anyone you may encounter to exit the building immediately.
  • As you exit the building, keep your hands above your head and listen for instructions that may be given by police officers. If an officer points a firearm at you, make no movement that may cause the officer to mistake your actions for a threat. Try to stay calm.
  • If you get out of the building and do not see a police officer, Call 911 and the UM Police Department at 4000, or use a Blue Light phone and provide the dispatcher with the following information:
  1. Your name
  2. Location of the incident (be as specific as possible)
  3. Number of shooters (if known)
  4. Identification or description of shooter(s)
  5. Number of persons who may be involved
  6. Your exact location
  7. Injuries to anyone, if known

If you are unable to escape the building, move out of the hallway and into an office or classroom and try to lock the door

  • If the door will not lock, try barricading the door with desks and chairs. Lie on the floor and/or under a desk and remain silent.
  • Try to avoid rooms with large open window space.
  • Silence cell phones.
  • Place signs in exterior windows to identify the location of injured persons
  • Wait for the police to come and find you.


There is no set procedure in this situation. If possible call 911 and talk with a police dispatcher. If you cannot speak, leave the phone line open so the police can hear what is going on.

Use common sense. Try to hide or escape if possible. Spread out and do not stay in a large group.

Attempting to overcome the suspect with force if necessary should be considered in the most extreme circumstances. Only you can decide if this is something you should do. Remember there may be more than one shooter.

If the shooter exits your area and you are able to escape, leave the area immediately. Remember to be alert for responding police officers who may mistake you as the shooter. While escaping, as soon as you see a police officer put your hands over your head with fingers spread and immediately comply with the officers instructions.

General Procedures:

The UM Police Department's prime responsibility is to protect the University of Montana Community and will be the first responder to an active shooter incident. The actions taken for this type of incident will have the following objectives:

  1. Immediately engage the assailant(s) and neutralize the threat
  2. Preserve the crime scene for investigation

The University Police will maintain and follow U of M Police Active Shooter Protocols based on National, State, and Local Law Enforcement accepted practices and guidelines for dealing with active shooter incidents on campus. The University Police is authorized to issue an Emergency Alert immediately and directly to the U of M Community without consulting the Emergency Response Team Incident Commander when an active shooter on campus has been confirmed.

Active shooter events cannot be predicted to follow any pattern and therefore the following protocol will act as a sequencing guideline for this type of situation:

  • In the event that a notice is received, at the UM Police Department either from a campus source, off-campus telephoned warning, or transfer from the Missoula Police Department of a 911 call that a:
    • Person with a gun is on campus.
    • Active Shooter has fired shots on campus. (University Police will be notified by the Missoula Police Department of any calls to 911)
  • If person with a firearm is on campus and is a danger to themselves only, the responding officer will follow appropriate protocol for the situation.
  • If person with a firearm is a danger to others, the responding officer will notify the dispatcher to follow the standard law enforcement response.
  • Notify the Chief
  • If it is determined immediately that an active shooter incident is occurring from the phone.

call received, the Officer in Charge and the Dispatcher will follow the standard law enforcement response.

  • For Active Shooter on campus, the Dispatcher will immediately;
    • Advise all officers to respond to the incident
    • Will contact the Missoula Police Department
    • Will initiate the sending of a University emergency notification per Dispatchers Protocol
    • The University Emergency Management Team will assemble at the EOC after the threat has been neutralized to coordinate recovery assistance to the victims and families, media information releases, and other appropriate action as necessary.

University Communications:

  • Provide back up for issuing Emergency Alerts and updating the Emergency Information texts, e-mails and Website, including any follow-up communications.

Dean of Students:

  • The Dean of Students is responsible for assisting in the recognition of students at risk.
  • Should a threat present itself, the Dean will call together the Threat Assessment Team to review the situation. The team will consist of the Dean of Students, the Chief of University Police, the Director of Counseling Services, and any others who may be helpful in the situation.
  • Assisting students after the event
  • Coordinating the preparedness of the counseling resources available to assist all students in this type of event

Human Resources:

  • Human Resources is responsible for assisting in the recognition of employees at risk.
  • Should a threat present itself, the Director of Human Resources will utilize the CERT Team to review the situation. The team will consist of the Director of Human Resources, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) resources and others as required.
  • Assisting employees after the event

Counseling Services:

  • Counseling Services is responsible for providing assistance in the recognition of students at risk.
  • Counseling Services is responsible for coordination of additional outside counseling services that may be needed to assist students.

Physical Plant:

Facilities Services is responsible as necessary after the event, for the clean-up and restoration of facilities impacted / damaged in the course of any Active Shooter incident, as soon as crime scene restrictions are removed.

Although the possibility of a bomb exploding on the University of Montana campus is very remote, the possibility still exists. Another consideration when planning for bomb threats is the disruption caused by "bomb hoax". Successful response and handling of any bomb threat will be dependent upon the trained response of emergency service personnel and immediate assistance from building occupants.

General Guidelines:

If you are the recipient of the bomb threat call, obtain as much information from the caller as possible.  Use the bomb threat report if available at that phone location. Do not use cellular phones.  If a suspect device is located or observed, you should call the UM Police Department (406) 243-4000.  If there are questions regarding the credibility of the threat, a University of Montana police officer will evaluate the credibility and advise the building administrator and/or facility emergency coordinator regarding a recommendation to evacuate or not evacuate.  If an evacuation is called for, leave open windows and doors in that position.  This will minimize the destructive compression, which accompanies any explosion.  Follow the building evacuation plan.

General Procedures:
  • If threat is received by University dispatcher, the dispatcher shall fill out the bomb threat card and relay the information to the UM Police Officer(s).
  • If notice of the threat comes from an outside source, or another department or office on campus, the dispatcher shall obtain all information from the caller and forward it to the UM Police Officer(s).
  • Once the call has been received, the UM Police Officer(s) shall evaluate the call, make necessary notifications, and supervise the handling of the threat.

Upon receipt of a bomb threat, the initial direction of emergency service personnel will be by the UM Police Department Director or his/her designee. Based upon the UM Police Department Director's recommendation, the Vice President of Administration and Finance (academic and administrative buildings) and the Assistant Dean of Students for Operations (auxiliary buildings) will determine whether or not to evacuate the building. These individuals shall make a decision as to whether or not to evacuate the building and the type of search to be conducted. The following guidelines developed by the National Bomb Center shall be used. Generally, if four of the six criteria are present, evacuation is suggested. However, each bomb threat will be considered individually. An evacuation decision shall be made on the merits of each case.

  1. The threat is received by a news media or law enforcement agency.
  2. The caller appears to be an adult.
  3. A time element for the explosion is given.
  4. The location of the bomb is given.
  5. A warning to evacuate to avoid injury is given.
  6. A cause or reason for the bombing is stated.

In conducting a building search, the following search procedures will be followed:

  1. SUPERVISORY SEARCH: If the building is not evacuated, supervisory personnel or custodial personnel shall be used along with Officer(s) from the UM Police Department to search the building without causing loss of manpower and production.
  2. OCCUPANT SEARCH: If the building is evacuated, employees or workers in the building can be utilized on a volunteer basis, to search their own areas for a bomb. This has been proven to be a very effective way of discovering unfamiliar objects.
  3. TEAM SEARCH: UM Police Officer(s) and volunteer building occupants should conduct a detailed search of the building. Of primary importance will be any items not normally found within the facility or that appears out of place.
  4. SEARCH PROCEDURES: When searching the building, the search should begin with the outside and work toward the inside. Once inside, the search shall start from the lowest level and work up. Police two-way radios will not be used. If communications with dispatch is required, use a landline phone.

If an explosive device is discovered:

  • Request immediate evacuation, if not already accomplished. Minimum evacuation 300 feet.
  • Open all windows and doors to minimize the destructive compression, which accompanies any explosion.
  • Request immediate bomb disposal team assistance from Missoula 911 Center.
  • Contact Facility Services to stand-by to shut down utilities to the building.
  • UM Law Enforcement will assist all responding emergency service units.

A critical component to any successful response to a bomb threat will come from the employees who occupy the building. Their involvement may include:

  • Correctly documenting information received in the initial bomb threat call. (Refer to Bomb Threat Report Form)
  • Assisting emergency service personnel in any search.
  • Assisting in evacuation procedures.
  • Developing in-house response procedures for their personnel. (Please forward a copy to UM Police Department)

When it has been determined that the bomb threat is in fact a hoax, or the area is declared safe, the following should be accomplished:

  • Notify appropriate individuals and building occupants to return to normal operations.
  • Ensure a summary report is made of the entire incident.

With U.S. workplaces and Institutes of Higher Learning facing potential hazards associated with chemical, biological, or radiological terrorism, there are preventive steps that can reduce the likelihood and mitigate the impact of terrorist threats. Tried and proven principles in the control of airborne contaminants can be joined with similarly focused safety and security principles to provide guidance on how we design and operate our campus building environments.

Of particular concern are the airflow patterns and dynamics in buildings, specifically in the building heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. These systems can become an entry point and a distribution system for hazardous contaminants, particularly CBR agents.

Preventing terrorist access to a targeted facility requires physical security of entry, storage, roof, and mechanical areas, as well as securing access to the outdoor air intakes of the building HVAC system.

General Guidelines:

The University has prevented public access to mechanical areas since all of these rooms are locked at all times with access by authorized personnel only.  Access to keys, keycards, and key codes are strictly maintained.    Procedures and preventive maintenance schedules have been implemented for cleaning and maintaining ventilation system components.

General Procedures:
  • If a CBR agent was released into the HVAC system, evacuate the building
  • If evacuation is not possible due to a localized outdoor release, turn off the ventilation system
  • Proceed to the shelter-in-place location, preferably the highest floor of the building
  • Close doors and windows and seal gaps under doorways and windows with wet towels or plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • If gas or vapors could have entered the building, take shallow breaths through a cloth or a towel. Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated
  • Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient air to prevent carbon dioxide build-up for up to five hours, assuming a normal breathing rate while resting
  • Remain in shelter area until the local authorities have provided rescue or advised evacuation 

University Departments, offices or mailrooms may receive a suspicious package that could contain a harmful CBR agent or possible explosive device.        

General Guidelines: (UM offices and mailrooms)

If a suspicious unopened letter or package is received:

  • Do not shake or empty the contents of any suspicious envelope or package.
  • PLACE the envelope or package in a plastic bag or some other container to prevent leakage of contents.
  • If you do not have any container, then COVER the envelope or package with anything (e.g., clothing, paper, trashcan, etc.) and do not remove this cover.
  • Then LEAVE the room and CLOSE the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering (i.e., keep others away).
  • WASH first your hands and then your face thoroughly with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
  • Report the incident to the Office of Public Safety at once by calling 4000
  • Notify your supervisor.
  • The Office of Public Safety will notify the local authorities having jurisdiction
  • LIST all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized and those who may have handled it in the mailroom. Give the list to both local public health authorities and law enforcement officials for follow-up investigation and advice.
  • If you have had exposure to a suspicious powder or other substance and you are ill, immediately contact a physician or go to an emergency room.

How to Identify Suspicious Packages and Letters:

Some characteristics of suspicious packages and letters include the following:

  • Excessive postage
  • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
  • Incorrect addressee title or title with no name
  • Misspellings of names/addresses or common words
  • Oily stains, discoloration or odor
  • No return address
  • Excessive weight
  • Lopsided or uneven envelope
  • Protruding wires or aluminum foil
  • Excessive security material such as masking tape, string, etc.
  • Visual distractions
  • 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
General Procedures:
  • The Office of Public Safety will respond upon notification of a received suspicious package and investigate
  • If the package is determined to be a threat, it will be isolated and either the Office of Public Safety, the University President, or the Office of the Vice President for Administration & Finance will authorize an emergency notification  
  • If the package might possibly contain an explosive device, the building will be evacuated in accordance with the bomb threat procedures in this document and the local bomb squad notified
  • The Office of Public Safety will announce the “all clear” once the device has been removed and the scene investigated
  • If the package or letter containing a possible CBR agent was opened and exposure occurred, the mailroom or office will be isolated until further investigation and de-con has occurred.   

The purpose of this policy is to establish the procedures to be followed by the student body, faculty, and staff in the event of a civil disturbance. Implementation of these procedures whenever necessary should minimize loss of life, injury, and disruption of scheduled activities. A peaceful student demonstration is permitted unless one or more of the following disruptions occurs because 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 University facilities.

Campus Police will work with surrounding law enforcement agencies to bring the disturbance under control. Faculty and staff will be required to assist in assuring student safety. The University reserves the right to stop any demonstration that has the potential for escalation.

General Guidelines:

Should a disturbance occur, Campus Police should be notified immediately at ext. 4000.  In the event of a demonstration, those not involved should try to carry on business as usual and not provoke or obstruct the demonstrators. If you are near the civil unrest, leave the area immediately. Do not stand around to observe, you could get injured. Actions to take may include:

  • Alert all persons in the area of the situation
  • Close blinds to prevent flying glass
  • If evacuation is necessary, follow the “Building Evacuation Plan”

Demonstrators causing disruptions in normal campus operations may be asked to disperse. Failure to disperse could result in arrest.

General Procedures:

The University of Montana may communicate with the campus community by any of the following means:

  • Campus Emergency Notification System
    • LED Reader Board
    • Cell phone text message notification
    • UM Web Page
    • Social media messages
  • The UM Police Department may require the assistance of the Missoula Police Department
  • Emergency responders will have authority over the scene. If the situation dictates, the EOC will be activated
  • The University will also assemble the Policy Group to make university related decisions.

Every member of the University community has a responsibility to assist those in need. Adhering to proper procedures when that assistance is rendered saves considerable time and consequently may save a life. 

Initiating Department immediately:

Notifies the UM Police Department by dialing 4000 and provide the following information:

  • The location of the injured party.
  • A basic description of the extent of injury.
  • Your name and telephone number.

Officers will arrange for an ambulance if necessary

  • Minor medical attention may be provided to students at the Curry Health Center. Faculty, staff and visitors will be treated at local hospitals at their request. (During periods that Curry Health Center is closed, local hospitals will be used.)
  • Pending the arrival of medical personnel, the witness should, if trained, administer First Aid and comfort to the person.
UM Police Department
  • Designates someone to go outside and guide paramedics to the scene
  • Implements the following medical treatment/pharmaceutical regimen if objective findings as listed above are present
  1. Assess airway, breathing and circulation. Initiate CPR as needed.
  2. Control bleeding.
  3. Calm patient, prevent and treat for shock.
  4. Provide the EMS with as much history and information as possible about the injury or illness.
  • The officer will complete a State of Montana Report of Incident and UMPD Incident Report

For a pandemic outbreak, please refer to the guidance in the UM Pandemic Plan.

Missoula Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan