Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities

Individuals with disabilities should follow the general guidance contained in the Emergency Resources Guide as well as the specific instructions provided below.

It is important for all individuals to take ownership of their personal safety by establishing a personal emergency plan and arming themselves with information about emergency procedures before an emergency happens. The university strongly urges all students, faculty and staff to register for emergency text and email alerts, and watch the five-minute emergency preparedness video to learn the appropriate response to a variety of emergency situations.

Preparing Before an Emergency


At the beginning of each semester, individuals who have disabilities that impair their mobility are responsible for informing their supervisors and resident assistants and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety () of information pertaining to their identification and location in case of an emergency. This includes the individuals' names, building names and room numbers, as well as the nature of their impairments and the type of assistance needed in an emergency. The information will be stored with the Office of Public Safety and given to the Baltimore County Fire Department during emergencies. The rescue of individuals with disabilities who are unable to evacuate themselves will be an initial priority for responding fire units.

Personal Emergency Plan

Every individual should work with university officials, including the Office of Emergency Preparedness and respective building coordinators, to develop a personal emergency plan that outlines appropriate resources and responses in the event of an emergency. The plan should include specific evacuation procedures, sheltering procedures, and means of communication in the event of an emergency. It should also contain:

  • for each of the buildings that the individual frequents, the safest location on each floor where they can await assistance from emergency personnel;
  •  communication tools that the individual can use to inform emergency personnel of their location;
  • the names of at least two rescue assistants who are willing and able to provide assistance to the individual during an emergency. Rescue assistants should be a friend who is likely to be in the same building at a similar time frame as the individual. The rescue assistant should familiarize themselves with appropriate procedures by reviewing the emergency resources guide and the section of this website on assisting individuals with disabilities.

Acting During an Emergency

Individuals should familiarize themselves with, and follow the guidance of, the Emergency Resources Guide (PDF) for the appropriate response to various types of emergencies. The guide dictates two basic responses to emergency situations: shelter in place, wherein individuals locate and remain in a safe area within their general vicinity, or evacuate, in which individuals leave their building. The university's emergency communications will indicate which step to follow in case of emergencies; however it is best that members of the campus community develop a basic knowledge of which response is appropriate for various situations so that they can respond to the emergency as quickly as possible. Individuals with disabilities should follow the responses outlined in the Emergency Resources Guide but make accommodations for situations in which elevators are inaccessible, precluding evacuation.


Elevators should never be used in evacuation situations. Individuals who are unable to use the stairs to exit should ask for assistance or proceed to the nearest enclosed stairwell (one that has doors at every entrance) and wait for the Baltimore County Fire Department to arrive. The Fire Department and University Police will attempt to check all areas, including restrooms, to communicate the need to evacuate. Individuals with disabilities should immediately notify 9-1-1 if they are unable to evacuate as directed in an emergency situation.

Enclosed building stairwells have a higher fire resistive rating. To aid protection, ensure the door to the stairwell is tightly closed, as open doors will allow smoke and possibly fire into the stairwell. Someone may stay with the person requiring assistance if it does not place them in additional danger and if another person is able to meet responding fire fighters to report the location of those in the stairwell. If you cannot get to an enclosed stairwell, follow the instructions below for being trapped.

Shelter in place

Individuals should shelter in place during some emergencies, including weather events, active shooter scenarios, and hazardous material spills. Individuals who are unable to get to an enclosed stairwell during an evacuation should also shelter in place. Directions for how to best shelter in place for each of these scenarios are available in the Emergency Resources Guide. All students, faculty and staff receive a hard copy of the guide during orientation. Copies of the guide are also available in many classrooms on campus, and can be requested through Environmental Health and Safety Office.

Assisting individuals with disabilities

In an emergency, community members should assist individuals with disabilities in the following ways:

  • Ensure that the individual is aware of the emergency. Inform hearing-impaired persons of the emergency individually; do not assume that they know what is happening by watching others.
  • Before attempting to offer assistance, always ask individuals with a disability how you can best assist them and whether there are any special considerations that should be made or items that need to come with them.
  • You may assist in evacuating individuals with disabilities if it does not place you in personal danger. Note: non-emergency personnel should never attempt to carry anyone down the stairs.
  • Assist visually impaired individuals by guiding them to safety.
  • Assist individuals who are unable to use the stairs by guiding them to an enclosed stairwell (one that is separated from the main building area by doors). Close the doors to the stairwell tightly and notify 911 of the individual's location. You may stay with the person requiring assistance if it does not place you in additional danger and if there is another person able to meet emergency personnel to report the location of the individuals in the stairwell.

Non-Emergency Situations

Individuals with disabilities who need assistance leaving a building in a non-emergency situation (such as an elevator or power outages) should contact the Towson University Police Department (TUPD) at 410-704-2133. TUPD will send personnel to the location to assess the situation and either assist the individual or contact proper personnel for further assistance. TU personnel will remain on the scene until the issue is resolved.

In the event of elevator cars stuck between floors, no removal of passengers will be performed until the car is properly leveled.

Important Contact Information

Police, Fire and Ambulance – 911

Towson University Police Department

Public Safety Building
Emergency: 410-704-4444
Non-emergency: 410-704-2134

Environmental Health and Safety

7400 York Road, Suite 301

Accessibility and Disability Services

Administration Building, Room 232