Disasters can occur in our natural environment, as with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fires and the like; or they can be humanly or mechanically generated, as with mass shootings, active harmers, an explosion in a building, or lab accidents that have mass impact.

Your safety is the first priority. Some disasters may require people to evacuate in order to get to a safe place. If mass evacuations are required, the Red Cross and other organizations will likely have set up a recovery center for information and resrouces and sometimes also a shelter for those who do not have other places to live temporarily. Even if you have other places to stay, these organizations and short-term recovery centers usually help with various resources such as food, clothing, assist with working with insurance company, and more.

Safety is also the first priority in a mass violence event.  If you have a cell phone with you, call 911 as soon as you are able to do so safely. As soon as you are safely able to get away, leave the area of the crime scene. (Learn more on Run, Hide, Fight.) If you are not directly involved, but are hearing about such an event, it is important that you stay away from the scene of the incident, both for your own safety and to maximize the ability of first responders to do their jobs.

In many disaster situations, there is a chaotic environment in the immediate aftermath. Do your best to remain calm. It is common for people experiencing an intense situation to experience the fight, flight or freeze response. Your normal processes of judgment and thinking may be affected by the large number of hormones being “dumped” in your body, and you may find that you experience tunnel focus. All of these responses are common in a potentially traumatic situation.

After the immediate disaster has ended, you may have questions about what your options are. Depending on the nature of the incident you may have specific needs such as emotional support, housing or academic concerns. The Office of Victim Assistance can offer free, confidential trauma-focused counseling and consultation on your options.

Explore your options

If you have been physically injured and are unable to leave the scene of the disaster, it is important that you let first responders know about your condition and where you are located. If you have been injured but have been able to leave the scene, go to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Boulder Community Health is the closest hospital to CU Boulder. If you are unsure if you have been injured, go to your doctor or to the emergency room for evaluation. Some injuries require immediate attention so don’t wait to get treatment or an evaluation if you can avoid it.

Many people who have experienced a disaster—either because they have been directly impacted, because they have friends or family who have been directly impacted, or because hearing about the event was upsetting—benefit from connecting with community and support resources such as counseling in the aftermath of the event. Some people experience impact from such events even if they haven’t experienced it directly themselves or known people who were impacted, commonly refered to as secondary trauma. Regardless of the reason, if you find that you are experiencing impact you may benefit by seeking counseling to deal with the emotional impact of the event. In many mass events, the Red Cross and other agencies have counselors available to talk with those impacted. In addition, OVA is free and confidential and here to be a resource for counseling support, advocacy, informing one of their rights and options, and providing information, referrals, and consultation on additional campus and community resources.

Here is tips and guidance for supporting groups and teams after traumatic events, like mass violence and disasters.

Depending on the type of the disaster, you may need to find alternative temporary or permanent housing. In mass events, the campus and/or Red Cross may have options on temporary shelter and help find alternative housing. OVA can discuss options for a change of housing in the Boulder area. CU’s Off-Campus Housing and Neighborhood Relations can help CU students seeking alternative housing. There may be limited availability for housing in the residence halls or at Bear Creek Apartments. Information about these options can be gained from Residence Life Occupancy Management.  CU's Basic Needs Center may also have information.

If you are worried about how this situation may be impacting your schoolwork, OVA is here to help. You deserve to be in school and to meet your goals. The OVA can discuss options for managing academic issues. In disasters happening on or near campus the Dean of Students usually also helps in these situations

On CU Boulder’s campus, Emergency Management (part of the Department of Public Safety) is responsible for the implementation, training, coordination and oversight of emergency management and business continuity plans and programs. Emergency Mangement's website includes information for warnings, emergency plans and procedures as well as resources and other information. If you would like to know what is being done on the CU Boulder campus about emergency planning, they are your best resource.

If there is a disaster which has taken place on the campus, in the city of Boulder, or in Boulder County, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management has up-to-the-minute updates on emergency status, as well as a wealth of helpful information.

There is information about an active harmer situation and a Run.Hide.Fight video training on the University of Colorado Police Department website.