Learning College Manual
Appendix C: Emergency Response Communication Plan
An Emergency Response Communication Plan provides policies and procedures for the coordination of communications within the college and between the college, the media, and the public in the event of an emergency or controversial issue. Emergencies may include fires, bomb threats, natural disasters, or major crimes. Controversial issues may include police investigations or other situations that demand a public response.
THIS PLAN IS NOT INTENDED TO CHANGE THE WAY EMERGENICES ARE INITIALLY REPORTED.
ALL EMERGENCIES ON CAMPUS SHOULD BE REPORTED IMMEDIATELY TO CAMPUS RESOURCE OFFICER AT EXT. 457 OR CELL# 828 447-7168, CAMPUS SWITCHBOARD AT EXT. 0, AND/OR BY DIALING 9-911.
It is the goal of this Emergency Response Communication Plan to establish guidelines for dealing with a variety of situations, and to ensure that campus officials and communicators are familiar with those procedures and their roles in the event of a crisis.
II. Objectives of the Plan
- In case of an emergency, to factually assess the situation and determine whether a communications response is warranted.
- In case of an emergency, to provide policies, procedures and guidelines for the Marketing and Community Relations Department, working closely with the Emergency Management Team and under the direction of the College President to implement immediately action to:
- Identify constituencies that should be informed about the situation
- Communicate facts about the emergency
- Minimize rumors
- Restore order and/or confidence
III. Assessment Procedures
The Vice President of Administrative Services and/or other college departments or individuals that encountered the potential crisis should gather accurate information from the appropriate sources as quickly as possible. This information should be forwarded to the Vice President of Administrative Services, who will determine whether an immediate response is necessary and, if so, will consult the President.
IV. Response Procedures
The College President, working with the Emergency Management Team, after assessing the nature and scope of the situation, shall develop a plan of action including some, or all, of the following measures or others as deemed necessary:
- Designate a spokesperson(s). The President or his/her designee is the lead person in conveying the administration’s response to the crisis, showing that the college has control of the situation, calming public concern and setting an example for the entire campus.
Public information spokespersons (those dealing most directly with day-to-day media inquiries) may also include the Vice Presidents and Deans from specific areas and the Director of Marketing and Community Relations.
- Draft a fact sheet. The fact sheet prepared by the Director of Marketing and Community Relations in consultation with the President and the Emergency Management Team should contain a summary statement of the situation. This summary should include all known details to be released to the media. This fact sheet should be fully evaluated with respect to the public’s right to know and concerns for privacy and security in consultation, if necessary, with the college attorney.
- Notify key constituencies. As time permits, the Emergency Management Team will determine key constituents to be informed of the crisis. These can include:
- Law enforcement agencies
- Administration, faculty and staff
- General public
- Mass media
- Accreditation organizations
- Community and State officials
- Methods of communication. The Director of Marketing and Community Relations will communicate the facts of the situation (contained in the fact sheet) and the college’s intended response. Methods of communication may vary depending on the group to be contacted and may include:
- Law enforcement agencies – The Director of Marketing and Community Relations should coordinate this communication using appropriate means—fax, email, and radio.
- College administrators, faculty, and staff – Information to administrators other than those on the Emergency Management Team should be provided via fax, email and/or mass meetings. College employees can be e-mailed important updates. The Director of Marketing and Community Relations should handle this.
- Students – Notices to students can be posted on the Website, posted on bulletin boards, and through mass meetings if needed. Fliers may be distributed on site.
- Trustees – May be reached via telephone or fax. The President maintains phone lists.
- Local community – If the situation has an impact on local residents, fliers listing student information and faculty-staff hot line numbers can be distributed. If appropriate, meetings can be arranged with leaders of the communities. Local media can be contacted to assist the college.
- Mass media – The Director of Marketing and Community Relations may prepare news releases for distribution. All media inquiries should be directed to this office.
- Government agencies – If government entities (mayor’s and governor’s offices) need to be informed, this should be handled only by the College President.
- Alerting the Media – The college must determine whether a news conference and/or news release is an appropriate means of conveying information to faculty, staff, students, the news media and the public. The Director of Marketing and Community Relations in consultation with the President, as Incident Commander, will determine logistics of the news conference. This includes when, where and how the media will be contacted, which media will be contacted, who will supervise the news conference, who will appear, etc.
- Establish Emergency Operations Center. Determine whether the magnitude of the crisis merits establishing an Emergency Operations Center (for public safety and college officials) and/or a Media Briefing Center (for larger gatherings of the media for briefings or press conferences).
- Photography. The Director of Marketing and Community Relations will decide the need to assign videographers and photographers to take pictures of the scene. This may prove helpful in responding to media inquiries, to possible later litigation, as well as documenting events. Determine whether it is safe and appropriate to allow location shooting by TV and newspaper photographers and to determine when, where and who will accompany the media.
- Other spokespersons. The College President will identify any other individuals who may serve as spokespersons or who might be made available to the news media and counsel individuals in terms of appropriate ways to deal with the media.
- Internal communications. The College President, working with the Emergency Management Team, will determine strategy of internal communications to be used if the crisis affects college students and employees (refer to point 4).
- Rumor control. The Director of Marketing and Community Relations should consider establishing a rumor control hotline and/or a dedicated call-in line (i.e. the Student Information Line 286-3636 Ext. XXX or the Faculty/Staff Information Line 286-3636 Ext. XXX) for media use. These dedicated lines can be used for taped telephone updates.
V. Ongoing Procedures during an Emergency
The Director of Marketing and Community Relations will:
- Give high priority to immediately scanning daily newspapers and video reports for stories related to the situation. Deliver copies of these clips or reports as appropriate to the President, Vice Presidents and Deans.
- Set-up information files on the emergency to reside in office of the Director of Marketing and Community Relations. Material related to the emergency, including clippings, statements, letters, memos and any other documents.
- Monitor the situation at least daily, and frequently update staff and appropriate administrators.
- Take notes during emergency to be reviewed and used to improve future crisis response.
- Whenever possible, a public forum should be scheduled and coordinated by the President with appropriate members of the Emergency Management Team to communicate details of the incident and events to all interested members of the college. The timeliness of this meeting is critical and every effort should be made to see that it occurs within two to three working days from the close of the emergency. Selected College Council and Emergency Management Team members should attend and be prepared to answer questions and share pertinent information. Specific departments and/or individuals also may be requested to attend and participate depending upon the nature of the emergency.
- It is not unreasonable to expect that rumors would follow an emergency, further creating an atmosphere of anxiety. One means of combating rumors would be to take full advantage of electronic mail, rumor-control hotlines, etc, and report facts as appropriate. Voice mail and email broadcasts to faculty/staff, students and others with voice/email accounts can be arranged.
- Depending upon the nature of the emergency, services and assistance may have been rendered by agencies, companies and/or individuals from outside the college. The Director of Marketing and Community Relations should ensure that applicable follow-up information, as well as thank you letters, is forwarded to appropriate persons.