Our emergency procedures encompass chemical spills, fire, injury, toxic or explosive materials, and other emergencies such as floods and power outages. There is also information on what to do during severe weather, particularly, tornado watches and warnings.

Emergency Notifications & Alarms

Emergency Notifications & Alarms

Outdoor warning sirens

  • Hennepin and Ramsey counties have outdoor warning sirens located on or near campus.
  • The sirens, which are typically activated during severe weather situations, are tested at 1 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month.
  • The University of Minnesota has an outdoor warning system called the Campus Wide Emergency Alert System that transmits verbal warnings and instructions in an emergency.

Tone Alert Radios (TARs)

  • TARs are located in buildings across campus.
  • The University of Minnesota Police Department will activate the radio when there is urgent information that needs to be transmitted (e.g., severe weather, street/building closures).
  • TARs are tested at 1 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month.


  • SAFE-U is the University's emergency text notification system.
  • For more information or to register, see the SAFE-U website

Emails and Twitter Messages

  • Check your email during an emergency for communication from the department about what is currently known about the incident. 
  • When appropriate and authorized, department communicators, working with university officials, will tweet messages @UMNChemistry. 
    • Please do not tweet messages and photos on your own due to the risk of misinformation.

Fire Alarms

  • Fire alarms are present in both buildings and will go off if evacuation is necessary.
    • The alarms will be very loud and have flashing lights.
  • The building emergency alarm system can be activated in the event of an emergency requiring building evacuations such as a fire or major chemical spill.


  • Any time the building alarm sounds, immediate evacuation of the building is mandatory.
    • Meet with other occupants away from the building.
  • If there is no alarm sounding but a police, fire or haz-mat official tells you to evacuate you are required to leave the building.
    • Failure to evacuate when requested by authorities can result in arrest.
  • Evacuate by the nearest exit and stay off of the elevator.
  • Move away from the building.
  • Do not return to the building until the all clear is given by the police, fire official, or a member of the haz-mat team.
  • Building occupants are responsible for ensuring that their visitors/customers to their department follow the evacuation procedure described herein, and leave the building along with all other occupants. 
  • Faculty and instructors are responsible for dismissing their classes, and directing students to leave the building by the nearest building exit upon hearing the building alarm or being notified of an emergency.
  • Designated essential personnel needed to continue or shut down critical operations, while an evacuation is underway, are responsible for recognizing and/or determining when to abandon the operation and evacuate themselves. 
  • Contract workers will be made familiar with the procedures outlined herein, and are expected to leave the building when the alarm sounds. 


Emergency contacts

Call 911 for all emergencies (police, fire, ambulance).

  • For a chemical release of any size, it is always acceptable to call 911.
  • For a chemical spill that requires a prompt response, but it not an emergency, you can also call 911 and request a, "Consult with DEHS staff on call."

If you call an emergency number, notify the front office as soon as possible, (612) 624-6000.

Emergency Numbers Phone
Fire Department 911
Police Department 911
Ambulance 911
Chemical spills 911
Chemical spills (for prompt response, but no emergency, ask to Consult with DEHS staff on call)          911
Department of Environmental Health & Safety: Consult with DEHS staff on call     (612) 626-6002             
Facilities Management (612) 624-2900
University Emergency Management (612) 625-8047           
Poison Treatment 1-800-222-1222
Sexual Violence Program (Aurora Center crisis line) (612) 626-9111
Suicide Prevention (612) 347-2222 



Chemical Spills

It is always acceptable to call 911 for a chemical release of any size. You are never expected to clean up a chemical spill, if you have not received training, do not have proper equipment, or feel uncomfortable.

Call 911

  • fire or explosion potential—>25% lower explosive limit (LEL)
  • conditions immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH), including low oxygen and a high level exposure to toxic substances
  • uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance
  • hazardous spill in a public hallway
  • spills > 5 gallons

Often spills require a prompt response, but do not pose an emergency. For those, contact the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (DEHS) by calling 911, then request “Consult with DEHS on call.” Don't hesitate to call:

  • for any amount of mercury or stench chemical,
  • spills > 4 L,
  • if you don’t feel comfortable, or have the training or supplies needed to clean it up, and
  • need guidance assessing the situation, additional supplies, monitoring equipment or responders.

If you are familiar with the chemical hazards, have received training, have supplies needed to clean up, feel comfortable handling chemicals and would like to perform responsive control measures, you may do so at the time of release in the immediate area.

Small spills

  • Small chemical spills may be cleaned up by laboratory personnel.

Spill carts

There are two spill kit carts, either of which may be moved to the location of the spill. These carts are located in:

  • Kolthoff  Hall—northwest hallway near 681
  • Smith Hall—4th floor hallway by the west elevator near Room 406.

Spill kit carts are locked, but are accessible with any lab or office key.

If you use contents from either of these spill kits, please notify Chuck Tomlinson, (612) 624-2321, as soon as possible.

Spill kit contents   

  • goggles
  • plastic vinyl booties
  • coveralls
  • aprons
  • vinyl gloves
  • neoprene gloves
  • dust masks
  • face shield
  • barricade tape
  • paper towels
  • large sponges
  • plastic dust pan
  • whisk broom
  • plastic bags (2-3 30 gallon size)
  • sodium bicarbonate, 5 lbs.
  • sodium bisulfate, 2 lbs.
  • blank labels
  • marking pen
  • floor absorbent, 20 lbs.
  • sodium thiosulfate, dilute solution

Large spills or toxic materials

  • Larger spills or spills of especially toxic materials should be cleaned up by professionals.
  • Immediately, contact the Department of Environmental Health & Safety at (612) 626-6002.
  • After hours or on weekends, call 911 for assistance.
  • Always contact chemistry's administrative office, (612) 624-6000, as soon as possible.

Mercury spills    

Except for a small bead or two from a broken thermometer, mercury spills should always be cleaned up by the Department of Environmental Health & Safety at (612) 626-6002.


  • Remove everyone from the area of immediate danger.
  • Confine the fire by closing all doors and windows to the area.
  • Dial 911.
    • Give the location of the fire and whether there is smoke odor, visible smoke, or visible flame.
  • Activate the building alarm system at the nearest manual alarm station.
    • Vacate the building until the "all clear" is given.
  • Stay out of the elevators.
  • Report the fire to the Front Office, 139 Smith Hall, 612-624-6000.
  • Use caution: Fight the fire only if you can do so without endangering yourself.

Use and Types of Fire Extinguishers

Individuals are not required to fight chemical fires and have the right to call 911 and activate the building alarm. Do not take any chances: Be Safe.

Remember that there are different types of fire extinguishers available, and that not all fire extinguishers are suitable for all types of fire.

  • In attempting to extinguish a fire make sure that it is safe to do so and remember that an extinguisher is only a first aid tool and should not be used to control large fires.
  • Fire extinguishers are intended for small isolated fires only.
    • The extinguisher only has about 10 to 30 seconds of spray and is only effective over a short distance of about 5 to 10 feet.
  • In using a fire extinguisher, make sure that the exit is always within reach.
    • Be careful not to trap any persons on the other side of a fire.
    • It is best to have more than one individual present when attempting to extinguish a fire.
  • Do not take any chances.

It is helpful to remember the acronym "PAS." when using an extinguisher.

  • P Pull the Pin 
  • A Aim at the base of the flames 
  • S Squeeze the trigger while holding the extinguisher upright 
  • S Sweep from side to side

Whenever a fire extinguisher is discharged it should be inspected and recharged. Discharged fire extinguishers must be taken to the department stockfroom for replacement. Facilities Management inspects and tags fire extinguishers annually.


  • If the injury is minor, go to the University of Minnesota Hospital Emergency Room accompanied by another person.
  • If the injury is serious, dial 911:
    • describe your injury,
    • tell them where you are.
  • All work-related injuries must be reported to Chuck Tomlinson in chemistry's administrative office, 139 Smith Hall.

Toxic or explosive materials

  • Remove everyone from the area.
  • Close off area to prevent spread of hazardous material.
  • Dial 911: report the nature and location of the hazard.
  • Activate the building alarm system at the nearest manual alarm station.
  • Report the incident to chemistry's administrative office, 139 Smith Hall, (612) 624-6000.

Other emergencies

For other emergencies such as floods or power outages:

  • Contact chemistry's administrative office, 139 Smith Hall, (612) 624-6000, during work hours for Facilities Management assistance.
  • If the situation is not critical, but requires resolution before the next business day, call the Automation Center, (612) 625-0011.
  • At all other times, call 911.

Mental health

Mental health resources


Mental Health Online Resources

A central, online resource hub—mentalhealth.umn.edu—is student-focused, but contains helpful information for all members of the University community.

Department of Chemistry Mental Health Advocates

Professor Philippe Buhlmann, buhlmann@umn.edu, 325 Smith Hall
Professor Michelle Driessen, mdd@umn.edu, 113 Smith Hall
Professor Lee Penn, rleepenn@umn.edu, 225 Smith Hall

Mental health advocates are not counselors, but are trained on how to identify and respond to distressed students, and refer them to possible resources. While focusing on the mental health concerns of students, mental health advocates are available to talk to staff and faculty as well.

Community of Chemistry Graduate Students

The Community of Chemistry Students was formed in 2012 and is a student-driven group that promotes a healthy academic environment for all graduate students. It connects students with existing university resources and refines and/or develops new resources aimed at increasing graduate student health, happiness, and productivity. It also facilitates communication between department faculty and staff and the graduate student body. It plans a variety of events and workshops, and creates videos for its "Surviving and Thriving Video Series," and has a number of helpful resources links on its resource web page.

Employee Assistance Program

For faculty and staff members seeking resources, the University of Minnesota Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides confidential professional consultation and referral services to address any personal or work concern that may be affecting your wellbeing. You can receive up to eight sessions at no cost if eligible. EAP is available to all benefits-eligible employees on all system campuses. Spouse and dependent children are also eligible for EAP services.


Severe weather

Severe weather

If you hear the tornado sirens, the tone alert with an emergency alert broadcast, or receive a txt alert, seek shelter immediately.

We do have a weather radio in chemistry's administrative office, 139 Smith Hall, which alerts us if a tornado watch or warning is declared for the Twin Cities or surrounding area.

  • If this happens, an email will be sent to allusers, providing details of the watch or warning.
    • Ensure that people on your floor and especially in your immediate area are aware of the alert so they may turn their radios on and be ready to move to a safe area if necessary.
    • Remember that undergraduates are not part of our allusers email list.
  • On the University of Minnesota campus, the tornado warning siren is tested at 1 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month.

Safe areas

  • Kolthoff Hall: basement level and north corridor on the first floor.
  • Smith Hall: Sub-basement level, basement level, and first floor corridors.    


  • Ensure that you are registered with the University of Minnesota's SAFE-U emergency notification system—the University's mass notification text messaging system.

During a Severe Weather Watch

  • Be prepared to shut down experiments or equipment in case you need to evacuate.
  • Take into account possible power or other utility outages following a storm.

During a Severe Weather Warning

  • Remain calm.
  • Perform “Critical Laboratory Shutdown Procedures” if you are not in immediate danger.
  • Close all windows.
  • Proceed to the designated safe area.
  • Close all doors to rooms with outside windows.
  • Listen to all emergency paging and SAFE-U for an all clear before leaving the safety area and returning to the work area.

Threats & Violence

Threats and violence

Call 9-1-1 for police assistance, if you observe violence taking place or you believe/feel there is an immediate threat to someone's safety. For additional information and resources links, visit the University of Minnesota's Safe Campus "Crime, threats & violence" website.


    • Safety
    • Chemistry Administrative Offices, 139 Smith Hall, 612-624-6000
    • Chuck Tomlinson, Director of Operations
    • chuck1@umn.edu
    • (612) 624-2321