Common Hazards

Being ready for any emergency is the best way to prepare yourself for the unexpected. Sometimes there is no way of knowing that an emergency is coming, but knowing what hazards are common for Dartmouth and the surrounding area can minimize their effects. Use the information about the following hazards to be informed and be prepared. Be sure to know emergency procedures as well.

Scroll through the sections below, or jump to:

Power Outages

Severe weather, extreme heat, and electrical grid malfunctions can result in Dartmouth losing power for an undetermined amount of time. A large portion of the electricity that Dartmouth relies on is produced on campus by the heating plant, but the rest is supplied by commercial sources not under Dartmouth's control. While short power outages rarely result in serious hazards, long term outages can be inconvenient and hazardous.  

Our electrical grid is controlled by Liberty Utilities. To determine the extent of an outage go to Liberty Utilities Outage Map.  Contact the Dartmouth Work Control Center 603-646-2508 to report the outage.   

Understand the impacts: 

  • Many buildings on campus have generators, but in most cases these only support life safety equipment (fire alarms, emergency egress lighting, etc.). 
  • VoIP phones will only work as long as the network is operational.  In most buildings this will be approximately 30 mins.  
  • The wireless network will also begin to fail after approximately 30 mins. 
  • The heating plant can generate power, but depending on circumstances can take up to several hours to be operational and will only include some buildings on the Main Campus electrical feed.  
  • Take care when navigating dark spaces.
  • Do not use candles in Dartmouth buildings; take extreme care if using them off campus.
  • Do not attempt to access electrical control panels.
  • Monitor local radio stations for updates and recommendations.
  • Turn off all lights, computers, and appliances to avoid a surge when the power is restored.  

To be prepared...

  • Keep one or more flashlights and spare batteries easily accessible.
  • Use a surge protector for valuable electronic equipment.
  • Laboratories should plan for research continuity and understand what in their facility is on generator back-up.  
  • Keep a battery operated or hand-crank radio accessible.
  • Backup your data on an external hard drive or other media.
  • Remember that ATMs and cash registers often do not work in a power outage.
  • Keep your cell phone charged regularly and limit its use during an outage to extend battery life.

For a full guide, visit Ready.gov: Blackouts

Excessive Heat

Hanover is known for its bitterly cold and exceptionally snowy winters, but the summer brings heat and humidity that most would not associate with northern New England. Temperatures well over 80° and humidity up to 100% are not uncommon during the summer months. Students living on campus will likely live in residence halls without air conditioning. Employees working outdoors or in older buildings will meet the same challenges as students in residence halls. It is important that you take steps to stay safe.

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Dress in loose fitting, breathable, light colored clothing.
  • Limit outdoor activities when it is extremely hot.
  • Cover windows that receive sunlight with shades or drapes.
  • Seek air conditioned spaces to cool-off (the library, academic buildings, etc.).

    To be prepared...

  • Do not leave flammable substances in direct sunlight or in your car.
  • Do not leave pressurized containers (hair spray, deodorant, cleaners, etc.) in direct sunlight or in your car.
  • Check in with elderly family members or friends as these people are susceptible to heat related illness.
  • Be sure that your pets get plenty of water and are kept inside or have a shady spot to rest outside.
  • Never leave children or pets in the car on hot days; the temperature in the car even with the windows cracked can become dangerously high very quickly.
  • Monitor your email, the news, and the Emergency Preparedness web page for updates and recommendations.

For a full guide, visit Ready.gov: Extreme Heat


Floods account for the nation's most common and costly disasters. Being "The College on the Hill", the Dartmouth campus is not generally susceptible to river flooding, but the large amount of snow that accumulates during the winter months poses a risk to the Dartmouth community. With impending warm weather and the spring melt, basements may take on water that finds its way down stairwells, through windows and between cracks in aging foundations.

Those of you not living on the Dartmouth campus may find that your home is located in a flood zone. FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommend that you learn more about your risk for flooding and the availability of flood insurance in your area.

More than half of all flood-related deaths result from vehicles being swept downstream. Remember, flash flooding can take only a few minutes to a few hours to develop. Be prepared to take detours and adjust your route due to road closures if there is standing water. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

  • Never venture into flood waters; on foot or in your vehicle.
  • Pay close attention to your email, news broadcasts, and the Emergency Preparedness web page for updates and recommendations.
  • Learn if you are at risk.
  • Keep bottled water stocked for drinking.
  • If necessary, seek high ground.

    To be prepared...

  • Consider flood insurance as most homeowner's insurance does not cover flooding.
  • Take steps to make your home less susceptible to minor flooding.

For a full guide, visit Ready.gov: Floods

Influenza and Illness

In recent years, there has been an increase in cases of pandemic influenza that have received international attention. Regardless of the strain, the flu returns each year bringing with it illness and public health hazards. Dartmouth, like any residential community, is very good at spreading illness. Close quarters, shared space, and personal interaction help spread the flu and other illnesses. Avoiding the spread of the flu and other illnesses is simple if everyone does his or her part.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly.
  • Avoid close contact with others while an illness is "in season".
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Get plenty of sleep; at least 8 hours a night.
  • Pay close attention to your email, news reports, and the Emergency Preparedness web page for updates and recommendations.

    To be prepared...

  • Seek medical attention if you think you have the flu.
  • Stay home from work or school if you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Encourage others to help in stopping the spread of illness.

For a full guide, visit Ready.gov: Pandemic Influenza

See also Dick's House College Health Services

Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

Winter represents one of the most beautiful, yet challenging seasons in New England. The Dartmouth campus is blanketed by bitterly cold temperatures and massive amounts of snow each year. A long history of living in this climate has afforded Dartmouth the ability to manage the snow and ice. Preparations made each fall in anticipation of the winter are usually enough, but occasionally we get more snow or cold weather than is expected. To prepare for these instances there are precautions you can take to stay safe and stay warm during the winter months.

  • Dress in layers; wear clothing that will keep you warm.
  • Limit outdoor activities when temperatures drop below freezing.
  • Take care while walking or driving in icy conditions.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel during snow or ice storms.
  • Keep an AM/FM radio with NOAA Weather Radio capabilities accessible.
  • Monitor your email, news broadcasts, and the Emergency Preparedness web page for updates and recommendations.

    To be prepared...

  • Be sure that windows and doors are closed and insulated, if necessary.
  • Monitor plumbing for signs of frozen pipes.
  • Take care while clearing snow from roofs.
  • Keep your car's fuel tank full.
  • Monitor weather forecasts regularly.
  • Be informed about what winter weather terms (Advisory, Watch, Warning, etc.).
  • Be prepared for power outages.

For a full guide, visit Ready.gov: Winter Weather