Oregon State University


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Oregon State University

  1. 1. Oregon State University Crisis Communication Plan 1
  2. 2. Last Updated: Nov. 12, 2007 Contents About the plan 3 Objectives 5 Procedures Assessment 6 Action plan 8 Color-coded threat-level system 13 Other OSU crisis plans 14 Appendices index 15 Crisis Communications Team Contact Information 16 2
  3. 3. About the Plan In the event of a crisis, the Oregon State University (OSU) community and constituents connected to the university must be prepared to react. But to do so effectively, they must first be made aware of relevant information through clear and consistent communications. The OSU Crisis Communication Plan provides policies and procedures for coordination of that communication within OSU as well as between the university, the media and the public. Incidents requiring mobilization of the plan are wide ranging and include (but are not limited to) student or employee deaths, power outages, financial difficulties, personnel actions, international crises, arrests or major protests regarding social/civil issues, crimes or similar incidents regarding students or employees, or other significant controversies requiring a public response. The plan does not change the way such incidents are initially reported or management of other crisis needs beyond communications. (Depending on the nature of the event, such operations are governed by the OSU Master Emergency Management Plan [Appendix 2] or by the university’s standard operating procedures.) This plan addresses both internal and external communications and establishes guidelines for dealing with a variety of communications challenges. It also aims to ensure that campus officials and communicators are familiar with those procedures, as well as their communications roles in the event of a crisis. The plan is designed to be used in conjunction with the normal decision-making hierarchy of the university and does not supplant that decision-making process. The Crisis Communication Plan was created with input from representatives of University Advancement, Finance and Administration, Academic Affairs, Office of the General Counsel, Public Safety, the Emergency Preparedness Steering Committee, Environmental Health and Safety, Extension/ 3
  4. 4. Experiment Station Communications and the Oregon State Police University Area Command. It takes into account existing university response groups, such as the Critical Incident Response Team and Bias Response Team, as well as existing plans, such as the OSU Infectious Disease Response Protocol (Appendix 4) and OSU Radiation Center and Oregon State TRIGA Reactor Emergency Response Plan (Appendix 8). It also recognizes the university’s commitment to the Memorandum of Cooperation and Support for the Linn/Benton counties Regional Public Information Network (Appendix 6). Finally, the plan was created with knowledge of emergencies that OSU has faced in the past and may face again in the future, as well as the specific communications needs of such incidents. 4
  5. 5. Objectives • To outline how the university assesses emergency or crisis situations and whether communications responses are warranted. • To identify individuals responsible for creating, approving and executing crisis communications, as well as the variety of tactical responses available to meet the communications needs of such situations. • To implement clear, consistent and standardized processes and actions designed to: o Identify constituencies to be informed about the situation. o Communicate facts about the crisis immediately through appropriate channels/media. o Minimize rumors and misinformation through provision of timely information and ongoing updates. o Help restore order and/or confidence. 5
  6. 6. Procedures Assessment: A crisis is defined as an event or situation that: • could affect or has affected negatively the health, safety or welfare of students, faculty, staff or campus visitors, • severely impedes or limits the core function of the university, or • could or has negatively affected the reputation/image of the university and/ or public confidence in the institution. Law enforcement officers, fire department personnel or other “first responders” who encounter a crisis or other emergency situation will follow their prescribed chain of command in notifying dispatchers and other appropriate personnel of the situation. Area, state and federal law enforcement and related agencies have established protocol for interfacing with OSU Public Safety officials as well as officers with Oregon State Police who have law enforcement jurisdiction at OSU. Those officials, in turn, are part of the OSU Emergency Preparedness Steering Committee, which oversees crisis response planning for the university. Other individuals who encounter a potential crisis should call 911 (or 541-737-7000) if a law enforcement or public safety response is desirable or necessary. If not, the individual should share whatever information he or she has with his/her supervisor, department head, dean or other appropriate university leader (if he or she does not serve in such a role), and that person should consult with one of the following Crisis Communications Team leaders who can determine whether an immediate internal and/or external communications response is necessary: • The Vice President for University Advancement or 6
  7. 7. • The Assistant Vice President for University Advancement/Director of News & Communication Services or • Vice President for Finance and Administration • In the absence of any of the above, the Asst. Director of News & Communication Services Any of these three individuals may make determination as to whether to convene a full Crisis Communications Team (Appendix 1). The team will consult the President, Provost and General Counsel, as well as other team members as appropriate. In the event of a major emergency or disaster, the OSU Master Emergency Management Plan is activated by the OSU Incident Commander, also triggering the communications assessments and procedures outlined in this plan (the AVP/Director is recognized as the Public Information Officer within the Disaster Management Plan). Core members of the Crisis Communications Team whose consultation is most likely to be sought on a consistent basis in such situations include: • General Counsel and/or Assoc. General Counsel • Vice Provost, Student Affairs, and/or Dean, Student Life • Director, Facilities Services • Oregon State Police and/or Director of Public Safety If a determination is made to mount a communications response, the following additional secondary team members may be called upon to help formulate a plan of action and execute that response, depending upon the situation: • President • Provost & Executive Vice President • Vice President, Research 7
  8. 8. • Vice Provost for Information Services • Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and International Programs • Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement • Appropriate college dean/s (Agricultural Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, Forestry, Health and Human Sciences, Liberal Arts, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Pharmacy, Science and Veterinary Medicine) • Director, Intercollegiate Athletics • Director, Human Resources • Director, Student Health Services • Director of International Education and Outreach • President, Faculty Senate • Assoc. Director of Facilities Services., Environmental Health & Safety • Director, Housing & Dining Services • Director, Government Relations • Dept. Head, Extension and Experiment Station Communications or EESC News Group Leader Action plan: Appropriate members of the Crisis Communications Team convene to develop and execute a plan of action specific to the event or crisis. The plan may include some or all of the following actions: 1. Identify facts, critical information and key messages. University Advancement coordinates the release of any institutional information, including official statements from appropriate university individuals. University Advancement consults the General Counsel’s office prior to such release where potential claims may be raised. Objectives in the release of information are: • Timely release of accurate information; • Communicate verified facts rather than speculation; 8
  9. 9. • Facilitate information flow; • Promote and protect the welfare of involved personnel and/or students and their families; • Retain employee, student, public and news media confidence in the institution; • Use a crisis, when appropriate, to educate the public on broader issues raised by the crisis (i.e., how we’ll prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, what programs we have in place and what we’re doing now). Information that is speculative should not be released. Examples of such information include estimates concerning the dollar value of damage resulting from a fire or comments on judicial processes in which findings have not been issues. 2. Designate a spokesperson. In Human Resources matters, this will be the University Advancement vice president; in Athletics matters, the director of Intercollegiate Athletics; in other cases (including events triggering the OSU Master Emergency Management Plan), this will be the AVP/Director. Other members of the Crisis Communications Team with more direct knowledge of the situation may also be designated spokesperson by the AVP/Director or the University Advancement Vice President. Efforts will be made to ensure that a single spokesperson is identified for any individual event to help ensure consistency and accuracy in whatever information is released. 3. Share messages with key communications personnel with responsibilities related to this plan, including University Advancement Web Communications staff, Internal Communications Editor, Assistant Director of News and Communication Services and select other NCS staff members and campus communicators. The Web Communications Staff is responsible for loading approved messages on the official OSU site. The 9
  10. 10. AVP/Director and/or OSU Dispatch record approved messages on the OSU emergency telephone message lines, 541-737-8000. 4. The AVP/Director also may provide key messages to university switchboard operators (541-737-1000), including estimated time of next information update. 5. Notify key constituencies. Administration, faculty, staff and students must be informed of appropriate details and actions taken by the university during a crisis. Effective communications helps quell rumors, maintain morale and ensure orderly operations of the university. Among the groups that should be considered for communication in a crisis situation: • OSU Foundation, OSU Alumni Association and OSU Advisory Board leadership (with recommendations on how they may want to communicate to their constituents) • Administration, faculty and staff • Students • Parents of students • Law enforcement agencies, health care facilities and other local civic authorities as needed • General public 6. The Director of News & Communication Services distributes key messages, including estimated time of next update, via campus-wide e- mail using the “OSU Inform” lists and the new Color-Coded System for Campus Threats (see p. 13 of this document). [New text-message based systems for disseminating information to campus constituents are currently under evaluation, and it is likely that one will be put in place in the 2007-08 school year. This plan will be amended to reflect that change 10
  11. 11. and the new capabilities such a system would offer in the event that implementation takes place.] 7. Draft a fact sheet or news release containing a summary statement of the situation including all details appropriate for release to media. This information should be made available to and approved by the Vice President of University Advancement. This fact sheet should be analyzed with respect to the public’s right to know and concerns for privacy and security in consultation with General Counsel. News & Communication Services takes appropriate considerations into account, including time, place and manner in which information is released. 8. Distribute to media the fact sheet or news release, taking into account audiences and reach, deadlines and expected time of publication, broadcast or posting. Media includes broadcast, print and digital outlets. Fact sheets or news releases will be shared via e-mail and/or facsimile or, when appropriate, in person. 9. In the event that the situation draws a significant media presence to campus, convene a press briefing at which the appropriate university leader, law enforcement representative or the PIO can convey key messages to media. 10. In the event that the media presence is expected to last more than 24 hours, establish a Joint Information Center as required to provide a central point for coordinating emergency public information activities. Representatives and public information officers from involved entities may meet and determine what information to communicate to media outlets and what methods to use. At each briefing, share estimated time of next update, when appropriate. 11
  12. 12. 11. When feasible, use existing internal communications media, including the OSU Web site, OSU Today and OSU This Week, to convey key information to faculty and staff. 12. When feasible, use other university media to convey key information to campus and off-campus audiences. Such media include the OSU home page, The Daily Barometer, My OSU News, KOAC, KBVR and the InfoCaster television service. 13. Public Forums: Whenever desirable, a public forum may be scheduled and coordinated by University Advancement to communicate to members of the university community. Representatives from the secondary team may be asked to be on hand and prepared to answer questions/share pertinent information. Specific departments and/or individuals also may be requested to attend and participate depending upon the nature of the crisis. Such forums must be approved by the University Advancement Vice President. In order for many of the above actions to be properly executed, individuals responsible for those tasks must have access to functioning telephones, computers, university servers and other support components for OSU communications. The AVP/Director will work closely with Information Services and the Emergency Preparedness Steering Committee to ensure that communication tools are in place and sufficient and that there is adequate backup for key responsibilities, should any individual(s) be unable to fulfill their duties. In the event of loss of telephone service, cellular phones and/or hand-held public frequency radios will be used by OSU emergency responders. The Director of News & Communication Services maintains a list of cellular phone numbers and other contact information for key university officials (Appendix 1). Environmental Health and Safety has hand-held public frequency radios in 12
  13. 13. storage and ready for use by members of the OSU Incident Command Team and related officials. Color-coded system for campus threats The U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses a color-coded system as a tool to help communicate to public safety officials and the public at large, in a fast and graphic manner, the level of terrorist threat currently facing the United States. That system features five levels, ranging from Green (low risk of terrorist attacks) to Red (severe risk). In recognition of serious and sometimes life-threatening issues that can manifest on campus at any given time, OSU will now use a similar OSU Alert model to classify and communicate around significant threats, as follows: OSU Alert Red Campus is experiencing a Examples: Campus significant threat to individual shooting; Gas leak or fire and/or public safety. Individuals requiring evacuation of should immediately consult the campus buildings; OSU Web site, OSU emergency substantial earthquake; loss phone line and/or external media of electrical power to for directions and await notification campus; ice/snow storm from the OSU emergency requiring campus closure. notification system. Yellow A threat to individual and/or public Examples: Forecast of safety is anticipated within a severe weather likely to specific period; individuals should effect driving conditions, stay in contact with OSU and campus functionality; terror- external media for further style threat targeting a information and instructions and specific future date. take appropriate precautions. Green No threat at this time. All operations normal. 13
  14. 14. The color-coded system will be used in all manner of OSU emergency management communications as a means of quickly imparting the nature of any individual crisis and prompting personal and group action. Other OSU Crisis Plans As noted above, OSU has multiple additional plans specific to numerous crisis situations. The Crisis Communications Plan was created with those plans in mind, and is sufficiently flexible to address communications functions articulated in them without modification. Those plans include: • OSU Infectious Disease Response Protocol (Appendix 4) – communications protocols represented on pages 6 – 9. • OSU Pandemic Response outline (Appendix 7) – communications functions represented on page 3. • The OSU policy on “social distancing” relative to pandemic flu. • OSU Radiation Center and Oregon State TRIGA Reactor Emergency Response Plan (Appendix 8) – public information officer and communications responsibilities outlined on page 3-8 and articulated elsewhere throughout the document. In addition, Facilities Services and News & Communication Services operate under the agreement that in the event of an power outage, building access issue or other facilities situation not requiring mobilization of the OSU Disaster Management Plan, the Facilities Services Director will be in direct contact with the AVP/Director regarding information sharing with the campus and surrounding communities. 14
  15. 15. Appendices (note: not attached for online dissemination) 1. Crisis Communications Team Members 2. OSU Emergency Management Plan (draft, review and approval pending) 3. Memo of Cooperation and Support between Benton County, OSU and other leading area organizations 4. OSU Infectious Disease Response Protocol 5. OSU Extension and Experiment Station Contacts List 6. November 28, 2006, Memorandum to University Employees from Human Resources Director Jacquelyn T. Rudolph, “Closure or Curtailed Operations Due to Inclement Weather of Hazardous Conditions” 7. OSU Pandemic Response outline, August 2006 8. OSU Radiation Center and Oregon State TRIGA Reactor Emergency Response Plan 15