Quick Jump:

Areas of Refuge – Tornadoes & Severe Weather

Areas of Refuge have been identified as places that may offer additional protection during severe weather events in several campus buildings. In general, these are located centrally in the structure on lower floors away from exterior windows and doors. Some areas may be marked or signed as areas of refuge during storms but do not represent all the locations on campus that may offer additional protection during a tornado emergency. Analysis of refuge locations in existing structures as well as in future construction projects is ongoing.

SAFETY TIP: Housing & Residence Life staff will provide instructions to their residents for seeking refuge during severe weather.

If a Tornado Warning is Issued for Campus

General Guidance

SAFETY TIP: Immediately seek safety in an interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building and stay away from windows and doors.

  • Follow instructions from Housing staff regarding safe locations in residence halls.
  • Follow updates from @MaroonAlert on Twitter and local weather reports.

Tornado Warnings & Operational Status

During Normal Operations

If a tornado warning for campus occurs during Normal Operations, as defined in the University’s Operational Guidance document (, all normal operations are suspended, classroom instruction stops, and everyone should seek safety. If you are located in a building containing identified area(s) of refuge --which could include classrooms, restrooms, and/or common areas experiencing normal daily use prior to the warning-- these are immediately acceptable locations to shelter in place until the warning has passed. If you do not know within the building where such an area is located or the quickest path to get there, follow generally accepted safety recommendations and move quickly but safely to the centermost locations on a building’s lower floors away from exterior windows and doors.

SAFETY TIP: Leaving a sturdy building for another location during an active tornado warning is highly discouraged.

During Remote Operations

Often tornadic / severe thunderstorm conditions are forecasted well in advance by the National Weather Service which issues a tornado watch preceding the expected event by several hours.

SAFETY TIP: Plan ahead. Do not wait until severe weather strikes to consider what you should do and keep your phone charged and ready for an emergency.

An expectation of widespread and particularly severe conditions may warrant a University shift to Remote Operations. In such cases, as defined in the University’s Operational Guidance document [], many campus buildings will be closed, locked, presumed empty, and thus inaccessible in case of an emergency. Unless otherwise announced some locations are designated to remain accessible to the MSU community as they would during a normal operational day if the University has elected to shift to remote operations due to anticipated severe weather. These locations and others on campus have been structurally reviewed by a qualified external professional and are preferred due to overall sturdy construction, interior location, and proximity to areas of dense usage. However, these are not FEMA-certified storm shelters or safe rooms.

SAFETY TIP: A FEMA 361 certified storm shelter [capacity 1,500] designed to withstand winds of 250 MPH is located at the corner of Lynn Lane and Industrial Park Road approximately 2.5 miles west of the MSU campus.

Building Area Description
Colvard Student Union* Room 123 (The Dawg House), located on the first floor. Enter from the YMCA/Union Plaza.
Mitchell Memorial Library* Rooms 1050, 1054, 1056, and 1252, located on the first floor. Enter from the Hardy Rd. entrance.
Wise Center* A1200 and A1306, located on the first floor. Enter via the Main/Hospital entrance.
Lee Hall Areas 0010, 0011, and 0014 of the Basement hallway.
Allen Hall Rooms A11, A12, A13, A14, A25, A34, and A37, located on the first floor.
McCool Hall Rooms 103, 107,109, 111, 113, and 117, located on the first floor.

* Building has designated a staff member to be onsite when the refuge area is open.

During a University Closure

Employees have been instructed to leave campus, and most campus buildings will be closed, locked, presumed empty, and thus inaccessible in case of an emergency as defined in the University’s Operational Guidance document. Students remaining in residence halls should follow the instructions of their residence hall staff following general safety guidelines to immediately proceed to the interior hallway of the lowest floor away from windows and doors.

If a Severe Storm / Tornado Impacts the Campus

SAFETY TIP: Remain cautious and situationally aware. Debris and heavy rains can overwhelm drains, causing flash flooding. Tree limbs, powerlines, or other debris may be in the roadways, on sidewalks, and elsewhere. Weakened trees and/or tree limbs may fall well after a storm. Stay off the roads to allow responders and utility crews to respond as needed.

  • Notify others that you are ok. This may be from a phone call, direct message, or social media post.
  • Contact MSU Police if you need assistance. Call 662-325-2121 or 911 if you have an emergency.

Additional Information

Staying in your current building vs going to an Area of Refuge:

All campus classroom buildings and residence halls have spaces that provide protection from severe weather. However, Areas of Refuge have been evaluated by architects and structural engineers and determined to offer substantial protection. If you plan to wait in an Area of Refuge, make plans ahead of time and arrive before dangerous weather arrives. If you receive a Maroon Alert for a tornado warning or if you hear the outdoor warning sirens, go to an interior room on the lowest level of the nearest building – even if it is not a designated Area of Refuge. Do not attempt to drive during a tornado warning.

After hours:

A building's Areas of Refuge will not open after their normal hours. However, if severe weather extends past the building's closing time, that AoR will remain available until the threat has passed. If you feel you need a safe place during storms that occur when Areas of Refuge are closed, please visit the Oktibbeha County Safe Room at 984 Lynn Lane.

Area of Refuge staffing:

Building staff will be onsite at the Wise Center, Library, and Union. These staff members are responsible for ensuring the spaces are open and can report any problems to the MSU Police Department. They can also inform you when the Area of Refuge is closing.

What to bring:

We encourage you to bring a phone, tablet, or laptop that will allow you to monitor local conditions. You can see the latest Maroon Alert messages at or follow @MaroonAlert on Twitter. Students often bring class assignments to complete while they wait for severe weather to pass. Outlets may be limited, so conserve your phone battery or bring a power bank.

When to leave the Area of Refuge:

Areas of Refuge will remain open until the threat of tornadoes has passed. Guests of the AoR will be informed by the staff and given enough time to gather personal belongings prior to leaving. Continue to use caution as their still may be rain and strong winds even after the tornado threat has passed.

Pets and Service Animals:

Service animals are welcome. Other pets or animals, including ESAs, are not allowed in the Areas of Refuge.

Residence Halls:

If you live in a residence hall, follow the instructions provided by your Housing staff. They can assist you in finding a safe place to wait during severe weather.