Emergency Response Plan

Emergency Response Plan

Topic: Class and Examination Scheduling, Academic Activities Disruption, Emergencies
Approval Authority: Vice-President Finance and Administration
Approval Date: February 28, 2023
Effective Date: April 1, 2023

Emergency Procedure, Plans, or Public Safety Information are available in accessible format upon request.

1. Purpose

This Emergency Response Plan aims to keep the University community safe.  In alignment with University’s Community Safety Strategic Plan, the Emergency Response Plan (the Plan) establishes the framework for responding to emergency related risks that the University may face and outlines collective and individual roles and responsibilities in responding to and managing an emergency.  The plan facilitates and guides the effective coordination of human and physical resources, services, and activities necessary to:

  • provide for the safety and health of people
  • save lives
  • reduce suffering
  • protect public health
  • protect infrastructure
  • protect property
  • protect the environment
  • reduce economic and social losses

2. Scope

The Emergency Response plan aims to promote the safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors, protect property, and help ensure the continuance of critical University operations during Level 2 and Level 3 Emergencies, as provided under “Definitions”, below.

3. Definitions

Activation: decisions and actions taken to implement an emergency response procedure or to open an Emergency Operations Centre.

Business Continuity Plan: a detailed guide on how to operate an organization’s critical functions during emergency events and safeguard its core mission and long-term health and lessen the impact of an emergency event.

Command: the act of directing, ordering, or controlling by explicit statutory, regulatory, or delegated authority.

Emergency: a situation or an impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise.

Level 1 Emergency: a minor, localized emergency that normally has a short duration and a quick recovery time. It is handled within the normal scope of University operations. The emergency may result in minimal damage or disruption. Examples include localized power outages, plumbing failures and small hazardous material spills.

Level 2 Emergency: an emergency that affects multiple areas of the University and requires a degree of coordination among those areas. It may interrupt academic activities and/or administrative operations for an extended period. Examples include fires, large gas leaks and large hazardous material spills.

The EMT will be convened, EPG may be convened, and the EOC may be Activated.

Level 3 emergency: a catastrophic event that affects all or most areas of the University and is beyond the capacity of the University to respond through regular operations. It may require all divisions of the University to respond, support from external agencies, and may result in serious harm to the health, safety or well-being of people or animals and widespread property damage. Recovery may take weeks. Governments may declare a state of emergency. Examples include major earthquakes or long-term city-wide power outages. The EMT and EPG will be convened and the EOC will be Activated.

Emergency Exercise: a simulated emergency in which people carry out actions, functions, and responsibilities that would be expected of them in a real emergency as a test of the University’s emergency procedures.

Emergency Management Team (EMT): a group of University staff that may be convened to direct the University’s response to an emergency.

Emergency Operations Centre (EOC): a temporary or permanent facility from which incident management support to an Incident Command is co-ordinated. It must have appropriate technological and telecommunications systems to ensure effective communication in an emergency. The main purpose of the EOC is to serve as a single focal point for management of emergency information, decision-making and resource support and allocation in an emergency. York University has a dedicated facility as a primary location for its EOC and designated backup and virtual locations, either of which can be Activated if the primary EOC location is inaccessible.

Emergency Policy Group (EPG): a group of executive University staff led by the president (or designate) that provides strategic policy direction and priority setting for managing the economic, legal, and social impacts of an emergency on the University.

Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee: a pan-University body comprised of senior representatives of University divisions that is responsible for assisting the Community Safety Department with the emergency management program.

Environment: refers to air, water, or soil quality and to plants or wildlife that may be affected by a technological, human-caused, or natural disaster.

 Hazard: a phenomenon, substance, human activity, or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage. These may include natural, technological, or human-caused Incidents or some combination. For a sample of hazards that the University may encounter, see Appendix A.

Incident: an occurrence or event that requires a response to protect people, property, the environment, finances and/or services.

Incident Commander (IC): is normally the first responder to an incident and is the person who assumes responsibility for coordinating the emergency response at the site of an Incident. The IC may be transferred to another person as emergency response progresses. Incident Action Plan (IAP): an oral or written plan containing objectives and strategies for managing an Incident. It may include information regarding logistics, command, communications, resources, and other important information for management of an Incident.

Incident Management System (IMS): a standardized approach to emergency management encompassing personnel, facilities, equipment, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure. The IMS is a proven, international best practice, which is predicated on the understanding that in any and every Incident certain management functions must be carried out regardless of the number of persons who are available or involved in the emergency response.

Recovery Plan: a documented set of procedures developed to support short-term and long-term priorities for fully restoring all operations after an emergency.

University Divisions: For the purposes of this policy, “University Divisions” refers to the following: Division of the President; Division of the Provost and Vice-President Academic; Division of the Vice-President Research and Innovation; Division of Finance and Administration; Division of Equity, People and Culture; Division of Advancement; and Division of Students.

4. Roles and Responsibilities

4.1 Vice-President Finance and Administration

The vice-president finance and administration (VPFA) is responsible for managing Level 2 and Level 3 Emergencies, including but not limited to:

  • assigning an EMT leader
  • activating the EOC
  • consulting with the Chair of Senate (or designate), per Senate policy on class cancellations, and with the provost (or designate), on the need to cancel and/or suspend academic activities

4.2 Executive Director, Community Safety

The executive director community safety is responsible for:

  • recommending to the VPFA declaration of an emergency
  • convening the EMT and assuming leadership role until otherwise assigned
  • creating/maintaining an updated contact list for EMT and EPG personnel and support agencies

4.3 University Divisions

Each University Division is responsible for:

  • developing and maintaining a Business Continuity Plan
  • creating, maintaining, and sharing an updated list of divisional personnel with the Community Safety Department

4.4 External Partners

Officials designated under this procedure may call upon external agencies/organizations to assist the University in an emergency; they include but are not limited to, the following:

  • fire services
  • GO Transit Service
  • Hydro One
  • municipal, provincial, and federal departments
  • non-governmental organizations
  • paramedic services
  • police services
  • private sector partners and vendors
  • public health services
  • transit services
  • Toronto Office of Emergency Management (municipal support)
  • Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management through the Provincial EOC (provincial or federal support)

4.5 Incident Management System

The Plan uses the Ontario Incident Management System (IMS) as a standardized response management system, designed to enable effective, efficient incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure.

  •  Command (green) – co-ordinating and directing the response, ensuring responder safety and ensuring achievement of objectives;
  • Operations (red) – co-ordinating and supporting response at the scene, based on immediate needs and Incident Action Plans (IAPs);
  • Planning (blue) – collecting and analyzing information, conducting long-range planning and documenting IAPs;
  • Logistics (yellow) - obtaining essential resources to support response;
  • Finance and Administration (grey) – managing and tracking costs and procurement associated with the response; and
  • Communications (purple) – developing, co-ordinating and disseminating information and communications related to the emergency.

4.6 Emergency Response Structure and Functions

a. Emergency Policy Group (EPG)

The EPG is responsible for providing overall direction to manage the economic, legal, and social impacts of an emergency.

In a Level 2 Emergency, the EPG may be convened and may liaise with the EMT leader. In a Level 3 Emergency, the EPG will be convened and will liaise with the EOC director.

EPG membership includes but is not limited to the following:

  • President (EPG chair)
  • Provost and Vice-President Academic
  • Vice-President Finance and Administration
  • Vice-President Advancement
  • Vice-President Equity, People and Culture
  • Vice-President Research & Innovation
  • Vice-Provost Students
  • University Secretary
  • General Counsel
  • Chief communications and marketing officer

b. Site Incident Command

The incident commander is responsible for:

  • establishing command and a command post (i.e. a location where the incident commander role is carried out. It should be located outside the hazard zone but be close enough to maintain command);
  • establishing objectives for managing the emergency at the site and a strategy to achieve them;
  • implementing the strategy established for meeting the objectives;
  • ensuring that required resources are acquired, coordinated and deployed;
  • maintaining a communication link with the EMT leader, once activated;
  • demobilizing resources when they are no longer required;
  • providing necessary briefings/de-briefings; and
  • assisting in the development of an after-action report.

c. Emergency Management Team (EMT)

The EMT operates under the direction of the EPG. It may be activated in a Level 2 Emergency and will be activated in a Level 3 Emergency.

The EMT leader is responsible for convening the EMT to coordinate all aspects of the University’s response to an Emergency.

The EMT is responsible for:

• implementing the EPG’s directions;
• supporting the Incident Commander and site personnel;
• maintaining continuity of the University academic, research and administrative functions to the extent possible outside of the Emergency incident site;
• obtaining and coordinating resources, services, and supports as needed to effectively respond to and recover from an emergency; and
• developing, coordinating, and disseminating internal and external information and communications.

Every EMT member is responsible for pre-identifying designates who can assume the member’s responsibilities should they be absent during an Emergency.

Depending on the Emergency, the EMT may include the following:

• assistant vice-president facilities services
• assistant vice-president finance and chief financial officer
• assistant vice-president human resources
• assistant vice-president labour relations
• chief information officer
• director health safety and employee well-being
• director housing services and/or residence life
• director media relations
• director risk management
• director security services
• executive director ancillary services
• executive director(s) division of student services
• manager emergency preparedness
• senior executive officer academic administration
• University registrar
• general counsel

When the EOC is activated the EMT leader will act as the EOC director, and EMT members will convene in the EOC.

d. Emergency Management Team (EMT) Command Staff

The EMT is activated by the VPFA. The VPFA also assigns the EMT Leader.

EMT Command staff consist of the following positions:

i. Emergency Management Team Leader

The EMT Leader is responsible for all incident activities, including:

    • ensuring the VPFA is notified of the emergency;
    • managing the EOC (e.g., ensuring required EMT positions are filled);
    • liaising with the Incident Commander and EPG and approving the IAP;
    • determining what sections are needed and assigning section chiefs;
    • ensuring that section chiefs are staffing their sections, as required;
    • designating the geographical boundaries of an Emergency area;
    • setting out priorities and objectives for each operational period and ensuring that they are carried out;
    • authorizing extraordinary expenditures of funds during the emergency;
    • confirming the adequacy of expenditure limits (in purchasing by-law);
    • approving information that the Emergency Information Officer releases;
    • recommending to the VPFA and/or EPG to terminate the Emergency response and that the University implement its recovery plan; and
    • arranging debriefings and developing an after-action report.

ii. Safety Officer

The safety officer monitors safety conditions, develops health and safety measures, and is tasked with creating systems and procedures related to the overall health and safety of all incident responders. Responsibilities include:

    • working closely with Planning, Operations, Logistics and Communications to ensure incident responders and staff are as safe as possible under the circumstances;
    • reviewing the IAP to identify health and safety concerns and providing overall safety authorization for operational activities prior to implementation;
    • providing advice to the EMT regarding preventive and protective actions, personal protective equipment requirements, exposure risks (physical, chemical, biological, electrical, radioactive, etc.) and recommended protective strategies;
    • providing psychosocial supports to employees, as required; and
    • altering, suspending, or terminating any activities deemed hazardous.

  iii. Emergency Information Officer

The emergency information officer co-ordinates internal and external communications. The EMT leader must approve all information the emergency information officer releases. Responsibilities include:

    • advising the EMT leader on issues related to communications, Emergency information dissemination and media relations;
    • informing the EMT leader of relevant emergency information obtained from the community and media;
    • ensuring there is a primary contact for anyone who requires information about the incident and response;
    • coordinating with emergency information staff from other organizations to ensure that clear and consistent information is issued;
    • establishing an Emergency Information Centre or media area and key messages for spokespersons and media products; and
    • arranging media interviews and/or briefings.

 iv. Liaison Officer

The liaison officer is the primary contact for external incident management support partners. Responsibilities include:

    • advising the EMT leader of issues related to outside assistance;
    • maintaining and updating a list of supporting partners;
    • providing briefings to partner representatives about the operation; and
    • in conjunction with the EMT leader, debriefing with EMT personnel and appropriate organizations and preparing an after-action report.

v. Scribe

During an Emergency or Emergency Exercise, all participants and EMT members must maintain logs of actions taken and decisions made. Scribe staff are assigned to maintain summary logs.

vi. Subject Matter Experts or Specialists

Depending on the nature of an emergency, other subject matter experts or specialists may be asked to join as EMT Command staff.

e. Emergency Management Team (EMT) General Staff

EMT General Staff are organized under the following sections:

i. Operations Section

The Operations Section is responsible for all tactical incident operations, including:

    • implementing the IAP;
    • organizing and assigning the emergency resources;
    • maintaining direct contact with the site(s) and supporting the overall site response;
    • gathering current situation information from the site and sharing it with other sections of the EMT, as appropriate;
    • coordinating emergency resources requested from the site; and
    • directing deployment of all EMT-issued resources to the incident commander.

 ii. Planning Section

The Planning Section is responsible for collecting, evaluating, and disseminating operational information related to the incident, including:

    • preparing the IAP;
    • maintaining information on the current situation, the forecasted situation and the status of resources assigned to the incident;
    • tracking the status of EMT-issued resources;
    • maintaining all EMT documentation;
    • conducting planning activities and making recommendations for action;
    • obtaining technical experts for the EMT, as required;
    • planning for EMT demobilization of personnel and resources; and
    • facilitating the transition to the recovery phase.

iii. Logistics Section

The Logistics Section is responsible for supporting the logistics-related portion of the IAP and acquiring facilities, services, and resources in support of the emergency, which can include personnel, facilities, equipment, supplies, technology, telecommunications and transportation. This will include:

    • obtaining, maintaining, and accounting for essential personnel, equipment, supplies and services beyond those immediately accessible to Operations; and
    • when needed, contacting external partners to assist in providing resources and services that are not available through the University.

iv. Finance and Administration Section

The Finance and Administration Section is responsible for supporting an incident through cost analysis and ensuring compliance with financial policies and procedures, including:

    • monitoring the expenditure process, and response and recovery costs;
    • coordinating claims and compensation;
    • tracking and reporting on personnel time;
    • developing service agreements and/or contracts; and
    • overseeing the purchasing and procurement processes.

v. Communications Section

The Communications Section is responsible for developing, coordinating, and disseminating information and communications to ensure timely, accurate accessible and consistent messaging internally to the University community and externally to the public.

Depending on the nature of an emergency, different types of messages may be issued:

    • to alert the York University community about the emergency (e.g. statements from administration);
    • to inform York University community about what steps they should take to respond to the emergency (e.g., evacuate a building or avoid a certain part of campus);
    • to inform the York University community and the public about what steps the University is taking to respond to the emergency and to restore normal operations (e.g., through regular status updates); and
    • to correct misinformation as required (e.g., through social media responses and public statements).

Internal messaging will be issued to students, staff, and faculty through the Community Safety Department’s emergency notification system. External statements and communications will be issued by Communications and Public Affairs Media Relations:

    • In a Level 1 Emergency, the University’s emergency notification system may be used to communicate internally to affected community members.
    • In a Level 2 Emergency, the University’s emergency notification system will be used to communicate internally to community members. Communications and Public Affairs may provide external statements.
    • In a Level 3 Emergency, the University’s emergency notification system will be used to communicate internally to community members. Communications and Public Affairs will provide external statements.

Emergency communications will be carried out only by designated persons using official channels.

All Emergency communications products and key messages will be created in consultation with and are subject to the approval of the EMT leader (or designate) and, when the incident permits, with the approval of the EPG.

5. Review

The VPFA will conduct a review of this procedure, in consultation with the Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee, every five years at a minimum.

The review of this Plan will be informed by any Emergency exercise and debriefing meetings held after Level 2 or Level 3 emergencies that occur.

6. Distribution

The Plan will also be distributed to employees who have a direct involvement in the University’s emergency response procedures.


Legislative History: Approved by the Vice-President Finance and Administration: February 28, 2023
Date of Next Review: April 1, 2028
Related Policies, Procedures and Guidelines:


A: Potential Hazards the University May Encounter

York University may encounter a range of potential hazards, which need to be considered when developing procedures and plans for preventing, mitigating, responding to and recovering from emergencies, including the following:

A. Environmental

  • earthquake
  • extreme cold
  • extreme heat
  • fire
  • flood
  • high wind
  • thunderstorm
  • tornado
  • extreme weather (e.g. blizzard, snowstorm, hail or freezing rain)

B. Hazardous Materials

  • off-site (e.g. fixed or transport)
  • on-site

C. Human Health

  • epidemic (e.g. infectious disease)
  • food (e.g. contamination)
  • water (e.g. quality)

D. Public Safety

  • active threat (e.g. planned or unplanned acts of violence)
  • civil disorder
  • cyber attack

E. Structural

  • explosion
  • structure failure

F. Supply and Distribution

  • communications failure
  • electrical energy failure
  • water or wastewater disruption

G. Transportation

  • air
  • public transit
  • road and highway