Emergency Guidelines for the Campus Community

Power Outages

Most power outages are isolated to specific buildings and most result in the power resuming in less than five minutes.   Campus-wide power outages are extremely rare. The following information may be useful when power is out for an extended period of time:

Equipment that will continue to operate during a Power Outage

  • Corded telephones (cordless rely on the power supply)
  • Emergency lighting designed to illuminate exit pathways
  • Prox card systems
  • Building fire alarm systems
  • Specially marked receptacles connected to the emergency generator
  • Equipment supported by uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) systems (temporarily on the battery backup)

Please note that the systems connected to emergency generators may experience a brief (less than 10 seconds) interruption as power is switched to the emergency generator and when power to the building is restored. In most buildings, only the alarm systems and emergency lighting are connected to the generator.

Most elevators will not function during a power outage.

General Steps to Take

  • Remain calm and stay where you are unless there is an imminent threat to your safety (e.g. a fire).  Since most power outages last less than 5 minutes, it may be best to remain in place, rather than attempt to evacuate the building
  • Contact Facilities – Service Center at 258-8000 to report an outage in your building or to find more information about the outage. See the Facilities website for a list of known outages and related information. 
  • Do not call 911 or contact Public Safety to report the outage or to find out more information.
  • If you are in an unlit area, proceed with caution to an area that has emergency lighting.  The backlighting on your cell telephone may function as a source of light to help you navigate.
  • If you are trapped in an elevator, stay calm.  Use the elevator telephone to alert Public Safety of your location. 
  • Persons with disabilities should call Public Safety at 911 from a campus phone or 258-3333 from a cell phone for mobility assistance.
  • Turn off all computers, light switches and appliances to avoid a surge when the power is restored.


  • Ensure experiments, equipment, and machinery are stabilized and safe.
  • Cease work, close containers in fume hoods and close the sash.  In most buildings, the fume hoods are not connected to generator power. Do not use hazardous materials, or enter areas that require mechanical ventilation during the outage.
  • Avoid opening environmental room, refrigerator or freezer doors until power is restored. 
  • Maintain a log of equipment that must be reset, restarted or that requires special attention following an outage.
  • For an extended power outage, consider consolidating materials in freezers and using dry ice. Order additional dry ice supplies immediately.
  • Equipment that runs unattended should be programmed to shut down safely and not restart when power returns.
  • After the outage, reset or restart equipment.  Check air flow in hoods.

Classroom and Assembly Spaces

  • Faculty and front-of-house personnel should instruct the class/assembly to remain in place and await the restoration of power. 
  • If power does not return in 15 minutes, an orderly evacuation should be attempted.  Contact Public Safety at 8-1000 for assistance in conducting an evacuation.

Dormitories and Residential Areas

  • Use caution within your residence and on the stairs – lighting will be minimal.
  • Do not open your refrigerator or freezer: this will keep items cold and frozen.
  • Do not use candles or any other open flame as a light or heat source.
  • The carbon monoxide detectors in your residence may start beeping.  To stop the beeping, please carefully unplug the unit and remove the battery (remove the panel located on the back of the unit to access the battery). 
  • For residents of Hibben and Magie, after the power is restored, please allow about two hours for the hot water, cooling and the elevator to be operational.  These systems take some time to restart.
  • PROX cards needed for entry are not always working because of the power problems. 
  • Turn off any appliances, including stoves, in order to prevent them restarting unattended when power is restored.

©2003 The Trustees of Princeton University. Last modified 24-Aug-2011 17:02 by Robin M. Izzo