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Athabasca University

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the University prepared to handle major emergencies on campus?

Yes. While no community can fully anticipate every possible emergency, planning helps ensure the University is ready to respond in the event of a crisis. Athabasca University (AU) is continuing to further develop its emergency management program, including education and awareness resources for preparing the campus community to take appropriate actions during emergency situations.

Does the University have an emergency management plan?

AU has identified the need to establish a comprehensive Emergency Management Framework for the University. It was recognized that this is not only required for the safety of AU employees and protection of assets, but also to be in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as simply being a good management practice.

The development of a comprehensive Emergency Management Framework, based upon the Public Health Agency of Canada principles of: an all hazard approach; an incident command system; and, the 4 pillars of preparedness, planning, response and recovery, will take some time.

As such, while the overall emergency management framework is being developed, it is necessary to have in place an interim emergency response protocol in order to be prepared to respond to any AU-related emergency that may arise while to comprehensive framework is being developed.

In this respect the Executive Group has approved an Emergency Management Response Protocol (Interim) which would serve as the emergency response protocol for AU in the interim while the EMWG continues to work on the development of the University’s Emergency Management Framework. It is based upon best practices that exist at other Canadian Post-secondary institutions.

What can I do to prepare for an emergency or disaster?

The safety of our campus community (faculty, staff, students, and visitors) is our number one priority. However, one must understand that each of us must be prepared and take responsibility for our own safety. Here are some things you can do to be prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster:

  • Self-educate with respect to all-hazards emergency planning on campus. This includes being knowledgeable of who to call as outlined Emergency Management Response Protocol (Interim) and knowing how to react appropriately (e.g. knowing when to evacuate or not to evacuate a building);
  • Become self-prepared, identifying all mitigation strategies for protection when and wherever possible (e.g. knowing the location of the nearest exists);
  • Know who to call and the emergency phone numbers;
  • Know the evacuation route, assembly points and reception centre for the area in which you, live, work, study or enjoy recreational activities;
  • Participate in any applicable safety, security and emergency management training related to the duties/responsibilities you have on campus;
  • Become familiar with persons who work in your area who have disabilities or challenges. Be prepared to assist in emergencies to ensure their safety;
  • Create a personal emergency plan that includes a method for making contact with family and friends in the event of disaster;
  • Have emergency supplies available, such as first aid kits and non-perishable food and water; and

For more personal preparedness tips please visit Public Safety Canada’s website.


What should I do in the event of an emergency or disaster?

You should:

  • Remain calm, be patient, use common sense, think before you act, and give assistance as needed.
  • Follow the advice of university officials and emergency responders (i.e. police or fire).
  • If a natural disaster or human-caused incident occurs, stay away from the area.
  • Know where emergency devices (i.e. fire alarm pull stations) are located and the location of at least two emergency exits close to your working area.

You should not:

  • Use the telephone (landline or cellular) except to report the emergency situation.
  • Use elevators.
  • Jeopardize your life or the lives of others by attempting to save personal or university property.


How do I report an emergency?

To report an emergency related to a life safety incident such as fire, violence, or serious injury call 911.

Once 911 has been notified, or if it is not a life safety incident call the Director, Strategic Initiatives and Services at 780-519-1410.  For Information Technology related incidents call the IT Help Desk at 780-675-6405.

In the event of an emergency, how will the campus communicate with students, faculty, staff and parents?

In case of an actual emergency, the University will communicate by several means, including personal communication where appropriate. Athabasca University’s web alert system will be activated if there is an emergency. A message will be posted on the university’s home page outlining the emergency announcement. Additionally messages will be sent through the University’s email and phone systems. If a building evacuation is require the fire alarm system will be activated.

Check the websites:


In Athabasca listen to local Athabasca radio station: boom 94.1 FM


Call the campus switch board: 780-675-6709


University email account holders will receive an email message via their address.

How will I know if the University closes?

AU is an online post-secondary institution so it is essential we maintain our operations and schedules, even when tasked with emergencies. The university will not close except under unusual circumstances. In the event of such an emergency, if a decision is made to close a portion or all of the University, information will be made available as quickly as possible through a variety of communications vehicles (see above).

What is a level 3 emergency? Level 2? Level 1?

A level 3 emergency is a threat that critically affects life and safety, university infrastructure, academic programs, research, administrative operations, environment and/or reputation. Such a threat will require full activation of the Emergency Operations Centre Group (EOCG) and the establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). The threat could involve one or more of the following: fatality, serious injury, serious acts of violence, serious threats which could impact university property and the surrounding area, fire, serious health issues (e.g. pandemic), major power outage, major computer virus that impacts critical University system(s, )and/or major infrastructure damage (e.g. an entire building or buildings).These threats could result in the closure of the full University, a specific location or specific areas of one of AU’s locations, and attract significant media and political interest.

A level 2 emergency is a threat that substantially affects life and safety, university infrastructure, academic programs, research, administrative operations, environment and/or reputation. Such a threat could require a partial or full activation of the Emergency Operations Centre Group, and could involve the establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre. The threat could involve the following: injuries, moderate health issues (e.g. epidemic), threats that are localized to the university property, minor power outage, computer virus that impacts critical University system, information system security breach and/or moderate damage to infrastructure (e.g. a floor of a building). These threats could result in a partial closure of one of AU’s locations and attract localized media and political interest.

A level 1 emergency is a threat that minimally affects areas of life and safety, university infrastructure, academic programs, research, administrative operations, environment and/or reputation. Such threats would not require the establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre nor the full activation of the Emergency Operations Centre Group. These threats are handled by academic and administrative offices as part of normal day-to-day operations. The threat would normally be a localized threat (e.g. a minor injury, small chemical spill, minor computer virus, minor damage to infrastructure, winter storm).These threats could result in the need for a first response from local fire departments, police departments, or ambulance services.

Updated September 15 2021 by Emergency Management

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.