Severe Weather

Natural hazards, such as tornadoes and severe windstorms, represent an uncontrollable risk that can have a devastating effect.

Weather Watches and Warnings

Environment Canada issues weather watches and warnings to advise of weather conditions that may affect personal safety or property. Environment Canada is the primary source of information for monitoring the threat of tornadoes and severe windstorms.

A tornado watch means conditions are favourable for the development of tornadoes. A tornado warning means one or more tornadoes are occurring. The expected direction, development, and duration will be given in the warning. The Tornado/Severe Windstorm Watch is monitored by Campus Security upon apprisal of tornado or severe windstorm watches. 

  • Watches and warnings are issued via Environment Canada's Weather radio and through commercial radio and television stations.

  • Look for approaching storms

  • Look for the following danger signs: 

    • a sickly greenish or greenish-black colour to the sky

    • hail

    • unusually high relative humidity

    • a strange quiet that occurs within or shortly after the thunderstorm

    • clouds moving very fast, especially in a rotating pattern or converging towards one area of the sky

    • a sound like a waterfall or rushing air that turns into a roar as it comes closer, the sound of a tornado has been likened to that of both railroad trains and jets

    • debris dropping from the sky, and or branches or leaves being pulled upwards, even if no funnel cloud is visible

    • an obvious funnel-shaped cloud that is rotating

  • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

If You Are In a Structure

  • Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level.
  • If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway, etc.) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside
  • Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck
  • Do not open windows or use elevators

If You Are In a Vehicle, Trailer, or Mobile Home

  • Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a storm shelter or sturdy nearby building. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, exit the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.

If You Are Outside With No Shelter

  • Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

Be Aware

  • Be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged electrical wiring, and slippery floors.

Inform Local Authorities

  • Inform local authorities about health and safety issues, including chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation, and dead animals.

If a tornado or severe windstorm strikes a facility without advance warning, the Incident Commander orders immediate relocation to the safe areas within the university building – follow steps 5-12.

  1. Once apprised of a Tornado or Severe Windstorm Watch, the director of Campus Security will assign Campus Security Dispatch to monitor the weather watch and warnings broadcast by local weather broadcasts or Environment Canada (EC) Weather radio.
  2. Campus Security Dispatch will advise and update the director of Campus Security of the tornado/severe windstorm watch.
  3. The director of Campus Security will notify the General Counsel & Corporate Secretary and the director of Risk Management of the tornado/severe windstorm watch.
  4. If a Tornado Warning is issued for the area in which the campus is situated, Campus Security Dispatch will immediately inform the director of Campus Security, who will assume the role of Incident Commander. They will, in turn, if necessary contact the EOG director. General Counsel and Corporate Secretary will make a decision whether the threat is imminent and whether to require the university to re-locate to the designated safe areas within the buildings.
  5. If it is decided that the threat is imminent and it requires relocation to a safe area, the Incident Commander with the assistance of Campus Security and Emergency Wardens will relocate of the occupants to the safe area as designated within the building-specific Evacuation/Relocation procedures.
  6. The Building Senior Emergency Wardens and Building Emergency Wardens direct building occupants to relocate to the safe area location, moving away from exterior walls, windows and large glass areas (i.e. roof, atrium, etc.)
  7. The Building Wardens conduct a visual inspection of all assigned areas to ensure all persons have evacuated.
  8. Campus Security staff direct personnel outside the building to move inside and to the safe location.
  9. If a tornado or severe wind storm strikes the building, the Incident Commander and the First Response Team will provide assistance to local emergency services agencies, including establishing an emergency medical staging area, as required.
  10. Once the tornado or severe windstorm appears to have passed, the Incident Commander obtains advice and direction from local emergency services agencies regarding the threat situation and the safety of the buildings. If a structural damage assessment cannot be conducted with local resources the Incident Commander shall contact the director of Risk Management for assistance. The Incident Commander will advise the Building Senior Emergency Wardens of the direction provided by the agencies.
  11. If required, the EOG will be activated.
  12. Either:
  •  If the local emergency services agencies and the Incident Commander determine that the buildings are safe for reoccupation, the Building Senior Emergency Wardens and Building Emergency Wardens will direct building occupants to return to their work or study areas.  The Incident Commander will inform the EOG director who will, in turn, inform the Chair of the Crisis Management Team of the situation.  The EOG director will call a debriefing meeting of the First Response Team and Building Senior Emergency Wardens, and submit a post-incident report to the Crisis Management Team.


  • If the local emergency services agencies and/or the university management determine that the buildings are not safe for reoccupation, the Incident Commander notifies the EOG director.  The EOG director shall notify the EOG to form and the EOG will assume recovery operations