Skip to main content

Emergency Preparedness

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015


It is the policy of Vanderbilt to maintain essential business services and operations during any incident or emergency situation while providing for the protection of life, health, and safety for all patients, students, faculty and employees. Essential business services include maintaining hospital operations, supporting students in residence, operating research facilities, and providing necessary support and administrative services for these essential functions.


Incident : An occurrence, either caused by humans or a natural phenomenon, which requires or may require action by emergency service personnel to prevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property and/or the environment.

Vanderbilt Emergency Operations Plan: The plan that outlines responsibilities of Vanderbilt employees during an incident or emergency and provides guidelines for transition from normal to emergency operations. The plan is activated when a significant event threatens normal operations to allow Vanderbilt employees to respond to an incident or disruption of services while providing for the safety of our faculty, employees, house staff, patients, students, and visitors. More information can be found online by accessing the Emergency Preparedness website:

Departmental Emergency Response Plan: A plan that describes how a specific department will respond to emergencies that would suddenly and significantly impact the operations of the organization. Each departmental plan should include specific procedures outlining how the department will respond to, mitigate and recover from emergencies; the chain of command; communication protocol to ensure that accurate information is provided to employees on a timely basis; define roles and responsibilities of employees. Additionally, departments are expected to maintain a current call tree list including the names, position titles, contact numbers (e.g., home phone, pagers, and cell numbers), emergency contact names and phone numbers for each employee. Departmental Emergency Response Plans should be updated annually.



The Vanderbilt Emergency Preparedness Plan and the Medical Center Emergency Operations Plan require that all departments/units must develop emergency plans for their area. Emergency Plans contain information relative to a location specific emergency, such as fire or bomb scare, as well as contingency plans to maintain essential business services during an incident or emergency situation. Contingency plans identify employees, resources and supplies needed to maintain essential business services during varying types of emergencies. Emergency situations may arise from severe weather or natural disaster, mass casualty, fire, bomb threats, acts of terrorism, pandemic or other events.


The University is responsible for maintaining sufficient staffing levels to meet its needs on a continuing basis even during a time when the Emergency Operations Plan has been activated or the Emergency Response Team is in place.

In the event of an emergency situation, the Emergency Operations Center, in consultation with Human Resources and the Executive Team, will be charged with assessing the situation and applying the appropriate Vanderbilt policies or modifying said policies as necessary to address the situation at hand.

Vanderbilt may use various methods of communication to alert employees that the organization has activated the Emergency Operations Plan. Employee notification may include phone calls or mass messaging via Vanderbilt's telephone or e-mail systems, text messaging, announcements from the Office of News and Public Affairs as well as media outlets such as broadcast television and radio.


Each department is responsible for determining its most critical functionality and the appropriate staffing levels for business continuity during activation of the Emergency Operations Plan. Expectations and responsibilities for employees during such plan activation must be communicated to them in advance. Upon receiving notification that the organization is operating under the Emergency Operations Plan, each department is expected to respond in accordance with the established emergency plan for that department.

The Hours of Work Policy addresses issues regarding staffing. However, the following modifications of the policy may be taken into consideration to maintain adequate staffing levels during Emergency Operations Plan activation:

A. Work Assignments
In an emergent situation, it may become necessary to temporarily change an employee's job duties, work assignments, and the location in which the duties are performed. The department management will use their discretion to determine what work each employee will perform during the period 1 .

B. Scheduling
Departments will notify the Emergency Operations Center before modifying employee's schedules.

C. Alternative Work Arrangements
Alternative work arrangements may be created in order to maintain business operations during Emergency Operations Plan activation. Departments should contact the Emergency Operations Center for review and determination as to whether flexible work schedules or telecommuting are appropriate. The department should have prior knowledge as to what duties can be performed off-site, a mechanism for tracking the work and productivity measures in place. Consideration of access to computers and Vanderbilt systems for each employee should be taken into account when making arrangements. See the Alternative Work Arrangement Policy for guidelines. All work must be reported in accordance with departmental procedure.

D. Continuity of Coverage
During a period in which an Emergency Operations Plan is activated, it is conceivable that members of the leadership team (Supervisors, Managers, Directors, Associate Vice Chancellors, etc.) may not be able to fulfill the duties of their positions. It is imperative that departmental response plans include designated persons to assume certain decision making responsibilities in the absence of employees in leadership roles. In order to adequately prepare for the potential absence of leaders, departments should designate a multiple number of employees who could fill in. These employees would have to be properly cross-trained to effectively assume the additional responsibilities of a leadership role.


Attendance of employees is critical to Vanderbilt's ability to provide services and maintain operations. Therefore, each employee is responsible for having a Family Disaster Plan in place ahead of time in order to respond to the needs of the University and our community. Tools to help create a family disaster plan are available at and

Each departmental emergency response plan must include expectations for reporting to work when an Emergency Operations Plan is activated. Employees may be required to report to work in their home department or be reassigned to perform work in other areas based on the needs of the organization. Employees unable to report to work as scheduled will be required to utilize appropriate time off accruals.

A. Absenteeism/Tardiness.
Employees who do not report to work for their scheduled shift and who have not been approved for an alternative work arrangement will be considered absent as set forth in the Vanderbilt Attendance and Punctuality Policy.

Additionally, employees will be considered tardy when they report to work after the scheduled shift start time. The department is required to track attendance during an emergency response event. Vanderbilt reserves the right to review attendance records and address violations in accordance with the Attendance and Punctuality Policy.

B. Call-in Procedure:
Employees who are unable to report to work as scheduled are responsible for notifying the department of the absence in accordance with the departmental call-in procedure. It is possible that traditional methods of communication may not be readily available due to interruption of services. Departments should consider and implement alternative methods (e.g. text messaging, email) for employees to provide notification of absences or tardiness. In preparation for an emergency response event, employees should receive advance communication of modifications made to call-in procedure.


Departments/Units may suspend services or close with approval from the Emergency Operations Center. Employees may be assigned to the Emergency Operations Center Labor Pool as needed. If a department chooses to operate with a "skeletal staff" or is approved to close, the following time reporting options are available:

A. Non-exempt employees

    1. Employees may use their accrued time off banks to supplement any non-worked hours to complete their schedule, or;

B. Exempt employees

  • Exempt employees affected by departmental or service closures will be handled in accordance with applicable law and regulations.
  • Upon receiving notification that departments/unit services previously closed have resumed services, assigned employees are expected to be available to report to work as scheduled.


During Emergency Operations Plan activation, Vanderbilt will administer leaves of absence in accordance with applicable laws and existing policies.


Employees with a work related illness or injury will follow the Work Related Accident and Injury policy. During activation of the Emergency Operations Plan, employees should call the Occupational Health Clinic first to be directed to the appropriate location for treatment. Instructions for the appropriate actions to take regarding care, treatment, and returning to work are coordinated by Occupational Health. More information can be obtained by accessing Occupational Health's website:


This policy is intended as a guideline to assist in the consistent application of University policies and programs for employees. The policy does not create a contract, implied or expressed, with Vanderbilt employees, who are employees at will; this status cannot be modified except by authorized University officers. Vanderbilt reserves the right to modify this policy in whole or in part, at any time, at the discretion of the University.

Approved by Traci Nordberg, Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor

Approved by Eric Kopstain, Vice Chancellor for Administration

1 The Emergency Operations Center will respond to the need to develop employee labor pools and redeploy employees.