The rise in college campus shootings has so worried university officials that Yale University recently sent an email to all students encouraging them to plan ahead for such an "unthinkable" event. The December 2015 message included a link to a video depicting fictional scenarios of Yale students responding to a campus shooter.

Knowing ahead of time what to do in any sort of campus crisis, from a shooting to a fire to a natural disaster, is essential for college students and faculty, says Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a firm in Juliet, Georgia that consults with schools on safety.

When you’re under severe stress “and your heart hits 115 beats a minute, you often experience a loss of fine motor skills and may not even be able to unlock your cell phone,” says Dorn, coauthor of “Staying Alive: How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters.”

Related: How Safe Is Your Child's College Campus?

Keeping safe: It’s all in the planning

If you’re a student, the first step to surviving a crisis is making sure you’re connected to your school’s emergency alert system. “Sometimes students are required to opt in,” says Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, a national nonprofit devoted to creating safer campuses. (Parents: It wouldn’t hurt to make sure your college kid has done this.) This way you can get instructions, usually by text message or email, for what to do.

Next, take a fresh look at your campus with safety in mind. “Familiarize yourself with emergency exits, where the AED [automated external defibrillator] is, where the fire alarm is and where the phones are,” Dorn says. Look for multiple ways out of any building you’re in. Think about where you would take cover or hide if you could not leave the building.

Think about what you might need if you have to stay in one location for an extended period of time. You might want to carry some snacks, water and any important medications you need in your backpack.

Related: Dorm Safety 101: A Checklist for College Students

Actions to take in an emergency

In the event of any type of crisis, the University of Michigan and the University of Delaware offer these tips:

  • Evacuate a building immediately when you hear or see an alarm.
  • Don’t use an elevator to get out. Use the stairs. If you happen to be in an elevator when a disaster strikes, use the elevator phone to call for help.
  • Call the campus police and 911 if necessary. Stay on the line until the dispatcher ends the conversation.
  • Keep your cell phone charged and always have it with you. Most universities send text messages in the event of an emergency.

In a fire emergency:

The University of Delaware advises students to take these steps.

  • Leave using an evacuation route if you remember it from fire drills. (Otherwise, follow the exit signs.)
  • Activate the fire alarm if it hasn't been activated already.
  • Use the stairs, not the elevator.
  • Get at least 200 feet from the building.

During a campus shooting:

If you're near an incident involving gunfire, the University of Michigan and the University of Delaware say to:

  • Warn other students and faculty to take shelter immediately.
  • Get as far away from the shooting as possible, take cover, call 911 and wait for help to arrive.

If you can’t get out of the building where the shooting is occurring:

  • Warn other students and faculty to take shelter immediately.
  • Go to a room that can be locked or barricaded. Lock and barricade the doors.
  • Turn off lights and close blinds. Get out of sight and take cover (behind a concrete wall or filing cabinets or under a desk, for example).
  • Have one person call 911 and provide details on the attack.
  • Silence your cell phone.
  • Depending on the circumstances, consider quietly escaping from a ground floor window.
  • Do not respond to unfamiliar voices telling you it’s safe to come out. This may be the shooter trying to lure you from safety. The same holds true if you hear a fire alarm. Unless you smell smoke, stay put, as a shooter may have set off the alarm to flush people out of hiding.
  • As a last resort, fight back. The University of Delaware advises that if you’re being attacked, quickly develop a plan to overcome the shooter. Use items such as backpacks, computers, purses and textbooks for improvised weapons, and consider tackling the shooter, taking away his weapon and holding him until the police arrive.
  • When the police arrive, stay calm and hold your hands in the air with fingers spread. The police will want to question and identify everyone before letting you go home.
  • Wait until a uniformed officer provides an “all clear” to leave.

Daniel S. Levine is an award-winning journalist who heads the Levine Media Group and hosts The Bio Report and RARECast podcasts. He was an editor of The Burrill Report and worked for the Oakland Tribune, Adweek, the San Francisco Business Times and other publications.