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XII. Crisis Communications

A crisis communications plan is intended to ensure that, in the event of a crisis, disaster, or emergency related to the college, information about the crisis and the action being taken is disseminated appropriately, accurately, and clearly.

 

Generally, an issue requiring the use of this plan will fall into one of two categories:

 

Emergency: Any situation that may involve or threaten to cause loss of life or injury to employees or students. Examples: fires, explosions, accidents, tornado.

 

Non-Emergency: Any situation that threatens the reputation or stature of the college, poses legal ramifications, but does not pose a direct physical threat to employees, students, or property.

 

Both types of crises will make news. Whether a crisis is deemed an emergency or non-emergency does not necessarily reflect on the gravity of the situation, particularly in terms of long-term consequences. Two examples may illustrate this point. A brush fire quickly brought under control would be deemed an emergency, but probably not escalate to a crisis. However, a pending legal action or damaging news article/report would not be an emergency in terms of threatening life or limb, but may present a situation that the college needs to address as a crisis nonetheless.

 

In all cases, the college needs to provide full disclosure of factual information as quickly as possible, communicate instructions if necessary, and make decisions with full regard to individual privacy and legal responsibility.

 

This document deals specifically with crisis communication. It is intended to coincide with the Contingency Operations Plan outlined elsewhere in this manual.

 

This portion of the plan does not address operational issues such as providing first aid or sustained mass care. Those procedures and areas of responsibility are outlined in the Contingency Operations Plan.

 

Communications Procedures

In case of an emergency, first priority should be given to notifying appropriate emergency response agencies, specifically police, fire, or ambulance departments. Procedures can be found under sections II and III of this manual, and contact information on page ii.

 

To the extent possible, the following information should be gathered:

  1. Nature and location of emergency/disaster

  2. Whether persons have been injured

  3. Extent of property damage

  4. Disaster potential

 

In the case of a non-emergency, where emergency response agencies are not involved, the president's office should be notified.

 

Communications Team

In the event of a disaster or natural emergency, the operations team outlined in section II of this manual also will have responsibility for communication. In the event of a situation that does not require the implementation of the contingency operations plan, the following individuals comprise the Crisis Communications Team:

  College President

  Vice President, Instruction

  Vice President, Student Development

  Vice President, Finance & Administration

  Public Relations Director

  Facilities & Grounds Director*

  Information Technology Director*

  Imaging Services Coordinator*

  Vice President, Career & Outreach Education*

  Evening Services Specialist*

  Executive Assistant to the President*

 

*As deemed appropriate to the situation by the president or acting administrator in charge.

 

Role of Crisis Communications Team

The role of the team is to gather information, assess the situation, and decide on the appropriate communication strategy. A position paper describing the situation, action being taken, and other relevant information will be prepared and distributed to all members of the crisis communications team.

 

In the event of a crisis, it shall be the responsibility of the president or the administrator in charge to convene the crisis communications team. Notification of team members will be the responsibility of the executive assistant to the president, or another designee of the president.

 

When it is deemed necessary to convene the crisis communications team, the board of trustees also shall be notified and apprised of the situation at hand.

 

Policy decisions and administrative action are functions of the president and vice presidents. Other members of the crisis communications team serve primarily in operational roles to implement the decisions made, as well as to provide advice as appropriate.

 

Command/Communications Center

The board room on the second floor of Buescher Hall will serve as the meeting room/command center for the crisis communications team. An alternative meeting site may be designated if necessary.

 

The command center will include the following materials, which shall be maintained by public relations:

  District map

  Campus map

  Aerial photograph of campus

  Diagrams and schematics of college buildings (including locations of first aid

  supplies)

  College policy manual

  Personnel directory

  Organizational chart

  Emergency agencies contact list

  Media contact list

 

If necessary, a separate communications center will be established by the facilities and grounds director, information technology director, and imaging services coordinator. The center will be located in Imaging Services on the lower level of the Multipurpose Building, due to existing telephones (4), copiers (2), computers, and access to additional equipment and the television control room.

 

Spokesperson

The college president will serve as the sole spokesperson for the college, unless and until this responsibility is otherwise assigned. Questions and inquiries from the media and others shall be referred to Public Relations, who will notify the president or designated spokesperson.

 

An updated list of media contacts is maintained by the Public Relations office. If appropriate, a news conference or teleconference may be called to disseminate information to the media or answer questions.

 

Position Paper

At the direction of the president or the administrator in charge, the public relations director will draft the position paper which will be distributed to other members of the crisis communications team. This paper, and any relevant collateral material, will serve as the primary reference document for the team. The position paper will include the date and time issued, so as to ensure proper use as updates occur.

 

News Releases/Notification of Media

The public relations director shall draft and distribute news releases and, if appropriate, photographs, to the media. Notification of the media shall also be the responsibility of the public relations director.

 

College policy (3.12), in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1973 (FERPA), provides for the following directory information to be released about students: student name, parent's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, most recent previous school attended. The college may disclose any of these items without prior written consent, unless notified in writing to the contrary.

 

College policy (1.8) and Missouri state law (RSMo. 610.021) states that employment personnel and performance records or rating which pertain to identifiable individuals are closed records, except for the following information which may be released: name, position, salary, and length of service of officers and employees of the college.

 

In a crisis, particularly an emergency involving injury or death, there will be inquiries regarding injured or deceased persons. Names of injured or deceased persons will not be released until after next of kin are notified.

 

Cable Television

The college's cable access television channel may prove useful in the disseminating to the public information regarding the crisis. The media services coordinator and public relations director will be responsible for using the system, if necessary.

 

Web Page

If necessary to utilize the college web page for dissemination of information, the information technology director will be responsible.

 

Personnel Notification

As it becomes necessary to notify other college personnel, each vice president shall be responsible for notification procedures for his or her division.

 

Student Notification

Notification to students shall be primarily carried out through public channels such as local media, cable television, and the college web page. Individual notification shall be carried out as necessary, as determined by the crisis communications team.

 

Minutes

Minutes of the crisis communications team meetings shall be kept by the executive assistant to the president, unless otherwise directed by the president.

 

Canceling Classes/Closing the College

If the nature of the crisis is such that it becomes necessary to cancel classes or close the college, procedures used will be the same as those for inclement weather (Section XI).

 

Evaluation

Following a situation in which the crisis communications team has been convened, the president shall reconvene the team within two weeks of the close of the crisis, in order to evaluate the situation, actions taken, and effectiveness of the Crisis Communications Plan. The following will be considered:

  * How and if the crisis could have been prevented.

  * What, if anything, should be done differently under similar circumstances.

  * Strengths and weaknesses of the Crisis Communication Plan in this situation.

  * Recommended changes, if any, to the Crisis Communications Plan.

 

A summary report shall be drafted, addressing the above, and presented to the college president.

 

 
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