Severe Weather at Vanderbilt: Do you know what to do?

March 3 marks one year since a significant tornado struck Nashville, and May 1 will be 11 years since Nashville’s historic flood. These milestones are an important reminder to review what to do in the event that severe weather threatens the Vanderbilt community.

Vanderbilt Severe Weather Warning System

Vanderbilt contracts with a commercial weather monitoring company to alert the university when severe weather is approaching campus. If a tornado is detected and is forcast to reach Vanderbilt within 15 minutes, the Vanderbilt Severe Weather Warning System is activated.

Sirens on the main campus will sound to notify the Vanderbilt community of approaching severe weather. The sirens on campus have a steady tone and can be heard across campus. Be aware that Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County may also sound its sirens; however, these are not specific to Vanderbilt and are activated any time the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning that includes any part of Davidson County.


Vanderbilt also employs a mass notification system known as AlertVU for use during emergencies. It is available free* to students, faculty and staff. AlertVU messages are automatically sent to all Vanderbilt email addresses; however, it is recommended that you have multiple ways to receive emergency notifications. Vanderbilt community members also may register other email addresses, landlines (for voice calls) and cell phones (for voice calls and text messages) to receive these critical alerts. Information provided by subscribers is private and will not be shared.

To register, update an existing account or learn more, visit Vanderbilt’s Emergency Preparedness website.

*There is no charge to receive AlertVU messages. If you choose to receive text messages, however, your cell phone carrier may charge you.

Desktop alerts

The AlertVU desktop alert program displays full-screen alerts on workstations and desktops across the university. When an AlertVU message is activated, all computer monitors will display the alert, and the user must acknowledge the message before being able to continue using the computer.

If you are not sure if the desktop alert program has been added to your desktop, have questions or would like to request the service, contact VUIT at 615-343-HELP.

The desktop alert software is available for use on your personal computer while you are using the Vanderbilt network. Downloads are available here. The software should not be downloaded to your office PC unless instructed by your desktop team; that will be handled centrally in most areas.

Tornado warnings: What to do

  • When an AlertVU is received and/or the tornado sirens sound on the main campus, you should take shelter in the lowest level of the nearest building.
  • Move toward the middle of the building, ensuring you are away from windows. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
    • Look for “Severe Weather Gathering Area” signs or ask where you should go.
  • Assist people with special needs.
  • Monitor weather reports.
  • An AlertVU message will be disseminated once the threat has passed.

Flooding: What to do

  • When you come across a flooded road, do not attempt to cross it. Turn around and look for a different route.
    • A vehicle also can be swept away, floated or flooded.
  • Don’t walk through flood waters.
    • Debris and chemicals in the water can cause infection or other injuries.
    • It only takes a few inches of moving water to knock a person off their feet.

For more information about preparing for severe weather as well as other types of emergencies, visit the Emergency Preparedness website.