Responding to Emergencies and Student Crises

There are times when challenges, emergencies and other significant life situations arise for students. These crisis situations may include, but are not limited to: car accidents, the death of a loved one, unexpected hospitalization, suicidal ideation, self harm, alcohol or other drug abuse, or just being close to someone else experiencing difficulty. When the staff in Student Assistance becomes aware of critical concerns, we contact students to ensure they are aware of the resources available to them. Student Assistance staff can also send an Emergency Notification when a student will be absent from class and is unable to inform the faculty directly.

In the event of a crisis requiring emergency response, please call 911 or contact the Iowa State Police Department at 515-294-4428. When an emergency occurs, the Dean of Students Office will typically be notified. If a critical campus-wide situation occurs, the ISU Alert emergency notification system may also be activated. For further information on understanding students in distress, ISU additional resources and contacting emergency responders, please consult the Faculty and Staff Resource folder.

General Guidelines

Your first priority in an emergency situation should be your own safety and security. If your health or safety is at risk, call 911. When a crisis or other significant event occurs in your life, the amount of support you need will also increase. Identifying resources and your support system is an important part of effectively responding to any crisis situation. Having supportive people in your life and accessing the resources available will help you create an action plan to respond. If you or a student you know need resources or support, please contact Student Assistance. We are here to help! The Student Assistance staff are here to help students identify campus and community resources and assist in responding to any crisis or emergency situation.

The Student Assistance staff is available to help from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday. For immediate assistance, stop in to the Dean of Students Office in 1010 Student Services Building, or call the office at 515-294-1020. Additionally, an Emergency Dean is on-call 24/7 and can be reached after business hours by contacting the ISU Police at 515-294-4428. For non-emergencies, call the Dean of Students office at 515-294-1020, email or fill out our on-line referral form.

Specific Guidelines

In addition to the general guidelines listed above, the following information provides additional details considered by the Student Assistance staff when helping students respond to specific emergencies.

Alcohol Overdose

Alcohol poisoning is life threatening and requires an immediate response. If a person has any of the following symptoms of alcohol poisoning or is suffering from acute alcohol intoxication you should call 911 immediately. Some common signs of alcohol overdose include the following:

  • unconscious or semi-unconscious state and cannot be awakened
  • cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin
  • breathing less than eight times per minute
  • breathing irregularly
  • breathing with ten seconds or more between breaths
  • vomiting while sleeping or passed out, and not waking up after vomiting
  • pulse rate less than 60 beats per minute.

When a student suffers alcohol poisoning or is transported to the hospital for alcohol or other drug overdose, this behavior is considered serious and appropriate interventions are created to assist the student. Student Assistance staff will contact these students and respond to the student's immediate health and well being, help students identify the appropriate campus and community resources, and discuss any impact on their academic success, and encourage the student to engage in healthier behaviors. 


If you have been hospitalized and will not be in class, you or a support person can notify the Dean of Students Office to initiate an Emergency Notification. Student Assistance staff contacts students who have requested Emergency Notifications when they return to campus to provide support and an opportunity to learn about other resources. Depending on the length of your absence and its impact on your semester, Student Assistance staff can also walk you through various academic options that might impact your success at Iowa State University.

Following your hospitalization, a meeting with Student Assistance can help you identify all the resources available to make your transition back to the university as seamless as possible. Iowa State University has both medical and mental health options available on campus at Thielan Student Health Center and Student Counseling Services. In some instances, a referral to Student Disability Resources may be appropriate to help with campus accommodations. If these services do not meet your individual needs, Student Assistance staff can assist in finding off campus resources to assist you.

Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Assault

Iowa State University strives to create a respectful, safe, and non-threatening environment for students. The University's Sexual Misconduct Policy prohibits sexual misconduct in any form. Sexual misconduct includes, but is not limited to, sexual assault or sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and other forms of nonconsensual conduct such as relationship violence or stalking. If you or someone you know might have had an unwanted sexual experience, there are resources available for immediate assistance. Go to the Sexual Misconduct website for information and resources regarding sexual misconduct or sexual assault. Several campus and community resources are available to assist students and to respond appropriately to reports of sexual misconduct.

Suicide and Self Harm

When a student attempts or considers suicide, this behavior is considered serious and appropriate interventions are created to assist the student. Providing appropriate follow-up for students with suicidal ideation or intent, as well as friends or others who might also be affected, is an important responsibility of the staff in Student Assistance. Student Assistance staff will contact these students and respond to the student's immediate health and well being, help students identify the appropriate campus and community resources, and discuss any impact on their academic success. This conversation will typically include an understanding of campus and community resources, strategies for self-care, navigating their academic experience, and discussion of the potential impact to the university community.

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