Crisis Situation



A crisis situation shall be defined as any situation or event identified by the Chancellor or Chemical and Hazardous Materials Safety Officer as having a major impact on the campus community as a whole. Examples of such a situation include explosions, chemical spills from a railroad boxcar, a sniper in a central location, a hostage situation, tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. It does not include isolated crime incidents, which are routinely handled by the SU Police Department. The term "crisis" most frequently refers to the period immediately following a situation which has wide spread interest among the local, state and national community, thus generating interest from the local, state and national media and requiring the University's full attention for its duration.

Crisis Plan

Purpose of the Plan
Phases of Response
Organization/Assignment of Responsibilities
Media Relations
Crisis Team
Direction and Control
Media Relations Team Members

This plan describes the role of the Office of Media Relations in collecting and conveying information to the public during or immediately following a crisis or emergency situation.

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A. Each crisis or emergency will require a unique public information response. The extent of the response will depend on the nature of the crisis.

B. The Office of Media Relations contacts include print and broadcast media, and the office serves as liaison with other campus units during a crisis.

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A. Often the only information the public receives about an emergency is through the media; therefore, media relations is an essential element of any crisis plan. Time is critical and a response must be issued as soon as possible with follow-up bulletins, as required.

B. A crisis situation is big news and is likely to result in more public exposure for the University than hundreds of "good news" stories.

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A. General

1. To ensure that the University's public information response to an emergency is quick, accurate, sensitive and responsible, the Office of Media Relations will coordinate crisis communications with campus and off-campus media. The Office of Media Relations will--at the Chancellor's request--set up a crisis communication center in its offices to remain open 24 hours a day during a crisis. This is not to be confused with the command post in J. B Moore Hall in charge of making decisions pertaining to the handling of the crisis itself. (See University Contingency Plan)

2. If the Chancellor is unavailable, the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration will serve as the senior university official.

3. During an emergency, the Assistant to the Chancellor for Media Relations will serve as the University's Spokesperson. Other Media Relations staff and student workers will be given the spokesperson's name and phone number for referral of media phone calls.

B. Phases of Response

1. Immediate

a. The Chancellor's Office and the official spokesperson will determine if an official statement should be prepared and released. If warranted, they will also develop answers to specific questions that may be asked by the media.

b. Spokesperson will brief all media relations personnel who are assigned to answer the phone. Telephone hot lines: Two telephones at Campus Police will be designated as crisis hot-line phones with recorded messages of the latest information on the situation. Those phone numbers will be made available to the media at the beginning of a crisis period for dissemination to the public. A staff member will be assigned to update recorded messages for those phones. E-mail will also be used to send campus wide advisories.

c. Spokesperson will get basic information (type of emergency/disaster; time of disaster; actions taken; areas and number of people involved; fatalities, injuries and extent of damage) and prepare an official news release. The Assistant to the Chancellor for Media Relations will answer media questions.

d. Spokesperson will verify all sources of information.

e. Spokesperson will clear press release with the Chancellor as quickly as possible before releasing it to the media.

f. In cases involving employee or student injuries or deaths, families will be notified by appropriate personnel before the information is released to the public.

g. Spokesperson will coordinate the release of factual information with local hospitals and other disaster agencies, providing as prompt, accurate and complete information as possible.

2. Ongoing period

In a crisis, the Office of Media Relations staff will:

a. Provide--via the news media--the public and constituents with basic information about an emergency or threatened emergency.

b . Keep the public, media and constituents informed of the situation and provide advice on what they should or should not do to prevent further damage or loss of life, panic or interference with emergency response efforts.

c . Keep the public, media and constituents informed of where to seek temporary housing, food, etc.

d . Instruct the public on how to obtain further advice or information.

3. Recovery period

The Office of Media Relations will issue media updates as long as necessary, then scale back activities as warranted. Upon termination of the crisis situation, the Assistant to the Chancellor for Media Relations will meet with all of the key players to review all actions taken and "lessons learned." These will be included in an after-action report to be forwarded to the Chancellor and any other appropriate university departments.

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Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities

A. Organization

1. The Assistant to the Chancellor for Media Relations will supervise crisis communications with the media.

2. Media Relations staff members in the Media Relations unit, as well as other campus units and staff members, will be called upon for assistance when necessary.

B. Responsibilities

1. Media Relations will provide assistance for compiling and relaying official statements to print and broadcast media.

2. Press Conferences: When a press conference is called, the Chancellor and the Assistant to the Chancellor for Media Relations will attend. The Chancellor will speak at the press conference when a major crisis needs to be announced or when he wishes to issue updates on the situation.

a. Site: Magnolia Room of Mayberry Dining Hall. Media Relations will contact Campus Dining to reserve use of the room for press conferences.
Contact person: Renee Washington, Catering Manager (phone) 771-2363.

b. Time: Must be convenient to University personnel but also be early enough for media to make their evening news deadlines (no later than 3:30 p.m.) This consideration is important for maintaining positive relationships with the media.

c. Parking: Request that a Traffic Control officer be stationed at Mayberry Dining Hall parking-lot to allow media with credentials to park.

d. Contact person: Kevin Johnson, Deputy Administrator (phone) 771-2770.

C. Media relations

1. Interviews
Members of the crisis team (see"Crisis team") will be available for interviews related to their specific areas and may be interviewed at their posts or some central location to be determined by the Chancellor and the Assistant to the Chancellor for Media Relations. When a reporter contacts a member of the crisis team directly, the designated spokesperson for that unit may respond to questions in his/her area of expertise and immediately inform the Office of Media Relations of the interview.

2. General observations
Dealings with the media should always be honest and courteous to encourage the media's confidence in and respect for University personnel. Spokespersons' attitudes toward media reflect on the image of the University. Withholding information from the media will generate suspicion and distrust.

D. Crisis team

Based upon the type of crisis, certain key people will work directly with the Office of Media Relations and the Chancellor's Office to facilitate dissemination of information.
O = Office telephone; H = Home telephone; C = Cell phone

1. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Brandon Dumas (O) 771-3922.

2. Executive Vice-Chancellor Dr. Verjanis Peoples (O) 771-2360.

3. Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, Mr. Flandus McClinton (O)771-5021.

4. Interim Chief of Police, Joycelyn Johnson (O) 771-2770 Deputy Administrator Kevin Johnson (O) 771-2770, (C) 324-1727.

5. Student Health Services, Mrs. Shirley Wade (O) 771-4770.

6. Athletic Director, Roman Banks as events pertain to athletics (O) 771-2435, and Sports Information Director, Chris Jones (O)771-2601, (C) 284-7345.

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Direction and Control

A. The Chancellor will direct and approve the work of the Office of Media Relations.

B. The Assistant to the Chancellor for Media Relations will direct the work of SU Media Relations.

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Media Relations Team Members

O = Office telephone E = E-mail H = Home telephone P=Pager C = Cell phone

Primary: Henry Tillman
(O) 771-5497

Secondary: Erin Fulbright
(O) 771-3216