Safety and Security

Message Me: Harvard University Emergency Text Notification System

Under the Harvard University Emergency Management Plan, members of the Harvard community should sign up for the SMS/text-message alerts.

The system is activated if there is a life-threatening campus or schoolwide emergency, or there is important information that must be conveyed immediately. This system operates in parallel with other notification systems.

Harvard Summer School students are expected to sign up for this text messaging service to facilitate rapid and effective communication should there be an extreme emergency on campus. A valid HarvardKey is required for access to this service. A mobile phone that is able to receive text messages is also required for registration; regular text-messaging charges will apply. All contact information that is provided is considered confidential and will not be shared. The system is tested twice per year.

Once you have claimed your HarvardKey, log in to MessageMe to sign up for this free service. Please check the box indicating your affiliation as “Summer School,” so that you will receive notices that are relevant for Harvard Summer School students.

University Police

Emergency: (617) 495-1212

Non-emergency: (617) 495-1215

The Harvard University Police Department is located at 1033 Massachusetts Avenue. The Harvard emergency phone system (blue-light phones) provides rapid access to the department. The University Police and security guard forces are trained and equipped to handle emergencies. As part of their role in crime prevention and detection, they provide a number of services, including emergency and nonemergency medical transportation, bicycle and laptop registration, safety escorts, and a sensitive crime unit to deal with domestic violence, harassment, identity theft, and sexual offenses. The University Police have full police authority; all incidents occurring on Harvard property, including obscene or annoying phone calls, should be reported to the department. In compliance with the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, the Harvard Summer School makes available to students the Harvard security guide, Playing It Safe. Students may pick up a copy of this guide in the Dean of Students Office.


(617) 495-1212

In case of fire:

1. Sound the alarm.

2. Alert your neighbors.

3. Leave the building immediately.

Do not try to put out the fire. Use common sense. Your safety is more important than property.

If the alarm sounds:

1. Feel the door. If it is hot, do not open it. Stay in your room. Put a towel or blanket (preferably wet) under the door to keep the smoke out. If your telephone works, call University Police to report the fire and let them know where you are. Attract attention to yourself. Open the window if possible and hang a sheet or other highly visible object out the window.

2. If the door is not hot, open it slowly: smoke and fire gases are deadly. If smoke and heat fill the hall, stay in your room.

3. If you can leave your room safely, close your windows and door. Take your key. Leave by the nearest clear exit stairway. Never use the elevators. Do not reenter the building until the Fire Department gives permission.

Note: Each room or suite is equipped with a smoke detector that sounds an alarm in that room only. In the event of fire, it is up to you to activate the nearest common area fire alarm to alert other residents and summon the fire department.

Fire Regulations

1. Smoking is prohibited in Harvard Yard and in all University buildings, including the residential Houses and dormitories.

2. Any abuse of or tampering with fire alarm, smoke detector, or extinguisher systems is strictly forbidden.

3. Emergency doors between suites in Houses or dorms may be opened only by the building manager. Small red boxes (fire locks) separate the suites. Fire locks are alarmed. Students breaking a fire lock for any reason other than emergency may be fined $30 and face disciplinary charges.

4. Fire escapes are intended for use only in case of fire; any other use is prohibited.

5. Flammable liquids and combustibles are not permitted in Houses or dormitories.

6. Falsely pulling any alarm or maliciously causing a smoke detector to initiate a general alert is illegal and may be punishable by a fine of $500 or imprisonment.

Building Safety

1. Residents should keep their room doors locked at all times even when in the room or when going down the hall for only a few minutes.

2. Do not prop open outside doors and do not allow anyone to enter your House or dorm behind you (“piggyback in”) unless he or she can show a current Harvard University ID card. Report faulty locks to your building manager.

3. Do not lend your room key to anyone. It is illegal to have copies made of room keys.

4. First-floor windows should be kept closed and locked to prevent entry when the room is unoccupied.  Residents should close their windows when leaving their rooms, even for short periods of time; should not disengage the “ventilation stop” on first-floor windows; and should keep all property away from windows in order to prevent someone from reaching in and removing it. At night, first floor windows may be locked in a partially open position. 


5. If at any time you observe someone acting in a suspicious manner in your building or attempting to enter residences, please call the Harvard University Police Department immediately. Suspicious behavior may include a stranger knocking on your door and asking an out-of-place question, such as “did you lose these keys,” or making an excuse for being found in your room (“I was looking for …”).

6. If you arrive home and it appears that entry has been made to your room, please do not enter. Call the Harvard University Police Department immediately from the safety of a neighbor’s room. At no time should you enter the room, touch anything, or confront someone in the room or the building.

7. No objects should be placed on outside windowsills, ledges, or fire escapes. Nothing may be thrown from the windows of a residence.

8. Students are not allowed to use fire safety equipment (hoses, extinguishers, fire escapes, etc.) except in an emergency.

9. Students may not have furnishings that constitute fire hazards or threats to safety.

10. Students must stay clear of construction scaffolding at all times.

Note: Students and others who bring personal property onto University premises do so at their own risk. The University assumes no responsibility and will not be liable for any damage or loss or theft. The University urges students to obtain appropriate property insurance for valuable articles.

Personal Safety

In the summer months, Harvard Square is a magnet for students, tourists, shoppers, and those who prey on them. To avoid being a victim of larceny, harassment, or worse:

1. Do not walk alone after dark. If you do not have a walking partner, use campus transportation

2. Do not carry large sums of money or valuables or wear expensive jewelry.

3. Do not leave your belongings unattended.

4. Do not visit the homes or ride in the cars of new acquaintances.

5. Do not invite new acquaintances to your House or dormitory room.

6. Call the University Police if you see suspicious people or activities.

7. Always lock your bicycle when it is not in use.

8. Take one or more friends along when exploring the city.

9. Be alert when standing in crowds.

10. Exercise caution when crossing streets and intersections.

11. Summer School expectations found under “Student Conduct” and “Residential Policies” serve as a helpful guide to Summer School rules, and rules help keep students safe. So do the tips and advice found above. But staying safe is also a matter of common sense, of making safety a priority, of being smart and avoiding danger. It’s a matter of being responsible, and being aware. Safety is one’s own responsibility. Be aware of danger, especially life-threatening danger. And avoid it. For starters, understand that anything illegal is likely so designated because it can get you killed. Thus, texting while driving is against the law. Drinking alcohol if you’re under 21 is against the law. Swimming in the Charles River is against the law. Riding a bicycle without lights and a helmet is…well, it may not be illegal, but it’s foolhardy and could get you killed, so do wear a helmet and show some lights if you’re riding a bicycle, day or night.

12. And one’s responsibility for safety doesn’t end with oneself. It includes looking out for others, too. If you know of someone who’s thinking about doing something dangerous, dissuade them. Remind them of the potential harmful consequences of their acts. Do all you can to prevent them from harming themselves, or others. Avoiding all hurt and pain is not possible, but avoiding dangerous situations is. So think. Use common sense. And take responsibility—take care of yourself. And take care of others.