Crises can happen anywhere, at any time, and often occur when they are least expected. When a crisis does occur, events usually unfold rapidly, leaving little time for planning. That is why advance preparation is essential.
Some crises can be predicted and prevented, and those that cannot be avoided can be minimized if handled properly. Aside from tangible damage, a crisis can also destroy an institution's reputation. The longer a crisis goes on, the more damage it can do to public support, employee and student morale, enrollment and fundraising. Therefore, it is necessary to handle crises in a swift and organized manner.
This plan deals specifically with crisis communication and coincides with the university's various emergency plans. The President of Binghamton University and/or the President's designee will activate this plan, if necessary, but the entire university community should be aware of the plan and of the roles they play in executing it.
If any member of the Binghamton University community believes there is an emergency that has the potential to endanger life or property then the Binghamton University Emergency Dispatch Center should be notified by calling 911 or (607) 777-2222. All other potential crises should be reported immediately to the President's office (607) 777-2131, Communications and Marketing (607) 777-2175 or the Dispatch Center non-emergency line at (607) 777-2393.
In an emergency or other crisis, effective and timely communication helps to protect life, public safety and property, and upholds the long-term integrity of the university. This plan provides the framework for the delivery of public information to the campus community during an emergency or natural disaster. This plan is a compilation of duties, assignments, instructions and delegations of authority for the use of various communications tools available on the campus.
A crisis communication plan provides policies and procedures for the coordination of communication within the university, and among the university, 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, protests or other situations that demand a public response. The plan is not intended to change the way emergencies are initially reported. All emergencies on campus should be reported immediately to the Binghamton University Emergency Dispatch Center by calling 911 or (607) 777-2222.
It is the goal of this crisis communication plan to establish guidelines for addressing a range of situations, and to ensure that campus officials and communicators are familiar with those procedures and with their roles in the event of a crisis. The plan may be used in conjunction with the normal decision-making hierarchy of the university or during a state of campus emergency, when the campus Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) is activated.
When leadership determines there is a danger or threat to the campus community, an emergency alert will be issued. The President, member of the Senior Officers Group (SOG), Chief of Police, Director of Emergency Management or any of their designees, can make the decision to issue an alert(s).
Emergency communications will be directed and managed by Communications and Marketing. Communications and Marketing will work in concert with the university's Incident Management Team in communicating a response to the crisis.
A press conference and/or less formal media availability may be called to allow campus officials to directly brief news media on the situation. The campus President, with consultation from the Incident Management Team (IMT) and Communications and Marketing, would decide whether to hold a press conference. Communications and Marketing would be charged with organizing the location, timing and general format of the press conference, and notifying news media. Physical Facilities will be responsible for providing the equipment necessary to conduct it. Communications and Marketing would prepare remarks and talking points based on information provided by the EOC Public Information Officer (PIO).
The experts in Communications and Marketing are professionally trained in creating clear and concise information on an urgent basis and delivering these messages through a multitude of channels and mechanisms. Communications and Marketing would create press releases, manage press conferences, manage the campus web page and emergency web page, update the emergency 1-888 toll-free information number(s) and create and disseminate mass email messages, as required. Information released through Communications and Marketing and the EOC Director serves as the only information about the unfolding emergency that leaders across all campus units should be sharing with internal and external audiences.
Campus leaders who receive inquiries from high-level constituents and stakeholders (including key lawmakers, donors, SUNY officials, parents, policymakers) should convey to those stakeholders the same information released to the public by the EOC Director and Communications and Marketing. Any plans by campus leaders to share other information in private or public conversations with stakeholders must first be discussed with the EOC Director and Communications and Marketing. This will help ensure that all information is confirmed as factually accurate and consistent with information released through the EOC and Communications and Marketing. Without such a system, inadvertent miscommunications can occur and can cause the public to lose faith in the credibility of the information released by the university, and to question whether the university has the emergency under control.
The campus homepage/gateway website, www.binghamton.edu is the primary tool for all crisis and emergency communications – campus community members, press and others will be directed to the site for frequently updated and reliable information. Social media will also be deployed when necessary. The official campus emergency website, www.binghamton.edu/alert, shall be used to provide official information from Binghamton University.
In addition, Communications and Marketing will use all additional, appropriate alternative communication tools available, including social media, to disseminate information. This will be especially important when the Web, electrical power or cell and landline phones are out of service.
Any campus emergency generates a large volume of telephone calls from media, and media may also appear on campus. Most calls will go directly to Communications and Marketing and University Police, although reporters may also try to go directly to impacted departments or units. In the event of an emergency, campus employees should be reminded to direct all media queries to Communications and Marketing at (607) 777-2175 or 2174.
Communications and Marketing is primarily responsible for responding to media inquiries, based on the information supplied via the EOC PIO. When necessary and advisable, Communications and Marketing will arrange interviews with appropriate campus officials, in coordination with the EOC PIO.
In a rapidly unfolding crisis, or an event occurring during non-business hours, University Police and/or Emergency Management may initiate urgent communications independently, as Communications and Marketing staff is en route to assist.
Communications and Marketing is primarily responsible for enabling news media to cover an ongoing event on campus without disrupting emergency relief or recovery operations or interfering unduly with routine campus operations.
Public areas of the campus are normally open to the news media. News media may be denied access to the location of an incident on the basis of risk to their own safety or other grounds for legally excluding news media from a defined area -- for example, if it is declared a crime scene.
News media generally do not have access to areas such as classrooms or laboratories without the consent of an official responsible for use of classroom or building space (e.g., the class instructor, dean). Media access to residence halls is limited. They must obtain permission from Communications and Marketing and/or residence hall officials to gain access to common areas of the residence halls. If media gain entry as a guest of a student who lives in the residence hall, interviews, filming, etc., are limited to the student's room only, not common residence hall areas.
In the event of a significant emergency, news media will be present and moving around on campus. It may be appropriate to channel this by setting up staging areas where media will find appropriate parking and access to Binghamton University spokespeople, visuals and other needs. Communications and Marketing will be responsible for setting up and managing such staging areas in coordination with the EOC PIO. When appropriate, and working in coordination with University Police, Communications and Marketing may escort small groups of reporters to restricted areas for brief periods of time; reporters must agree to Communications and Marketing ground rules before they are granted such access.
When it is clear that numerous news organizations will be on campus for extended periods of time, the EOCʼs lead PIO may designate an Assistant PIO / spokesperson to meet regularly and informally with reporters, perhaps every hour, to provide reporters with the same EOC-approved information posted online, and to clarify what has been confirmed by the campus.
Communications and Marketing staff will be assigned to monitor TV and radio broadcasts, Internet news sites, blogs, and social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. A rumor control/response capability should be maintained to identify and correct substantive rumors and misinformation. Such rumors and misinformation will be reported to the lead PIO based in the EOC who will arrange for corrective action through the fielding of media calls, assembling of press briefings or distribution of written news updates. Staff handling emergency phone lines should make a record of rumor and misinformation from the public and convey that information to the EOC PIO. In all cases the PIO team in the EOC shall be kept aware of significant inaccuracies and rumors.
Communications and Marketing will use the official campus Facebook and Twitter accounts and other social media, as needed, to reach our core audiences to alert them to emergencies and to provide them with critical information needed to remain safe and up to date about unfolding issues.
Such social media sites will also be monitored for misinformation or matters that need to be shared with the EOC PIO. The campus Facebook page, in particular, will provide a space for the campus to post crucial information and provide a location for individuals to share information and support as a campus community.
Ideally, any social media message will be reviewed by one other Communications and Marketing staffer for content and copy-edits before it is posted. Information provided will be drawn from EOC PIO information posted on the campus home page or, when needed to respond quickly to vital Facebook or Twitter posts, from the appropriate EOC unit. In non-EOC activation situations, information will be provided via the campus spokesperson, or his designated Communications and Marketing manager.
Information Technology Services (ITS) holds overall responsibility for significant portions of the communication and data systems used for routine business purposes and emergency communications needs. Depending on the type of emergency and the possibility of damage or degradation to the campus infrastructure that could occur during or as a result of an event, ITS is prepared to address:
Cellular Telephone Systems
If local cellular provider networks become congested, ITS and campus Telecommunications shall work with cellular providers to increase tower capacity. Multiple cellular providers have "Cellular on Light Trucks - COLTs", "Cellular on Wheels – COWs", and "Cellular Repeater on Wheels – CROWs" systems that may be positioned on campus to provide additional cell capability, emergency-use phones and accessories.
Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)
Binghamton University's campus telephone system connects to the rest of the world through the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Should call volume dramatically increase in the Binghamton area, call blocking could occur. The PSTN is engineered to avoid call blocking under normal circumstances, but not during emergencies. This engineering method is the practice nationally.
PBX / VOIP Telephone System
The campus owns and operates a VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) PBX telephone system connecting 115 buildings on the 890 acre campus. Utilizing a large-scale underground copper and fiber network the system serves more than 4000 faculty, staff and administrators. VoIP technology allows the telephone system over the same campus data network that carries email, wireless and other communications and life safety systems.
1-888 Telephone Numbers
The Telecommunications office of ITS maintains two toll free 1-888 telephone numbers that may be activated during an emergency incident. These numbers are designed to handle increased traffic of incoming calls to the University.
Web Site Bandwidth and Web Server Functionality
During a crisis a large amount of sudden traffic can overwhelm web servers if they are not properly maintained and monitored. It's imperative that the bandwidth and web server functionality be prepared for and monitored during a crisis. Information Technology services is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the webserver and bandwidth during a crisis.
Delivery of emails
As in the case with webservers, a listserv's functionality can become bogged down and backed up during a time of crisis. Preparedness and reaction to this is important. Information Technology Services is the department on campus that is responsible for maintaining the emails contained in the listservs and the functionality of the delivery of the email. Although emails are not the end all and be all of emergency communications, they can provide valuable information and next steps. It should be considered a valuable resource to the campus.
The emergency management program is responsible for the administrative and operational management for portions of the emergency communications system.
Emergency Responder Radio Communications
The campus UHF public safety radio system, used by law enforcement and other campus departments, may become degraded due to loss of power, overuse or other system damage. Emergency Management responds to such demands in order to maintain a functional communications system, triaging needs at the direction of the EOC.
B-ALERT Emergency Notification System
Binghamton University has partnered with Rave Mobile Safety to provide an emergency alert system capable of delivering messages to e-mail addresses, cell phones, the University's Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as an RSS feed. Students receive a welcome e-mail as they enroll at the University, with instructions for reviewing and managing contact information within Rave. Faculty and staff are also encouraged to register for the service at https://www.getrave.com/login/binghamton.
As part of Binghamton University's emergency notification system, the university utilizes an outdoor warning siren on the Vestal campus. T
his public address speaker / siren is designed to warn individuals who are outdoors only. It is not intended to be heard by people inside buildings on campus.
Operational policies and procedures regarding the outdoor siren are provided in the CEMP, Annex D – Emergency Notification System.
Mobile Public Address Systems
Emergency Management and University Police are equipped with mobile public address devices (vehicle mounted and hand-held) that can be deployed to assist with communications at a localized incident.
Communications and Marketing is responsible for the administrative and operational management for portions of the emergency communications system.
BU Alert Line – (607) 777-7700
This call-in line provides a recorded message with updated information regarding all emergency incidents and weather related information for the Binghamton University campus.
Electronic Message Boards and TV Screens
Communications and Marketing has emergency access to a series of electronic message boards and TV screens that are placed at various locations throughout the campus. Common locations for these types of signs include the entrances to campus as well as dining facilities. These boards may be quickly 'captured' and programmed to display emergency messages whenever necessary.
University Web Page
The university web page (www.binghamton.edu) is the official site of Binghamton University. This page will contain important information regarding critical incidents.
University Email Listservs (B-Line and Dateline)
Communications and Marketing manages the messaging that goes out via two listserves that may be utilized during emergency incidents. B-Line is the official listserv for students and Dateline is the official listserve for staff and faculty. The listserves may be utilized to provide updates and critical information during emergency situations. The technical aspects and delivery results rests within ITS.
Management of all the main Binghamton University social media accounts are managed by Communications and Marketing. The office has the ability to post to some department and school social media pages as well.
Communications and Marketing is the lead communications organization for Binghamton University, both on a daily basis and during an activation of the campus emergency operations plan. Staff from Communications and Marketing assumes a role at multiple levels in the campus Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) hierarchy, including:
Communications and Marketing is charged with and responsible for gathering, writing, editing, posting and otherwise disseminating all communications and emergency response instructions, including official directions and announcements from the President or EOC Director.
In the event of an EOC activation, the Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing would work with and advise the President and the SOG from within the Couper Administration Building. The senior Public Information Officer (PIO) would be based in the EOC working with and advising the EOC Director as well as overseeing Communications and Marketing's communications efforts. Also based in the EOC, working with the PIO may be a PIO-News writer, and PIO-Assistant, as needed. An Emergency Website Editor from Communications and Marketing may also be based in the EOC to manage and edit the campus website / emergency website, as needed.
Additional Communications and Marketing staff would be based in the Communications and Marketing main office, Couper Administration Building, handling the bulk of press inquiries, tracking press and social media coverage, setting up supplemental emergency communications tools, and providing overall assistance to Communications and Marketing's broad internal and external communications effort.
The emergency management program is housed within the NYS University Police department and is tasked with the management of critical incidents. The Director of Emergency Management is charged with coordinating the university's Incident Management Team (IMT) and directing that group's actions during an incident. The IMT shall operate from the campus Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and shall manage emergency operations campus-wide.
The emergency management program is responsible for the management and implementation of the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP). Additionally, the emergency management program is responsible for the contract management, maintenance and all other actions necessary to maintain the following emergency notification systems:
The Binghamton University Emergency Dispatch Center and its staff are managed by the emergency management program.
The police chief, or his designee, has the authority to activate all or parts of the university's Crisis Communications Plan. Typically, University Police is the first university department to be made aware of emergency situations and maintains an around-the-clock (24/7/365) presence on campus. University Police will typically be the first emergency response agency to arrive on the scene and shall provide critical incident information to senior campus officials.
Telecommunications The Binghamton University Telecommunications office is housed within the Information Technology Services (ITS) department. Telecommunications staff shall be responsible for the management and maintenance and all other actions necessary to maintain the emergency notification systems listed below. Furthermore, as a redundant way to ensure messages are promptly delivered, select Telecommunications staff shall maintain the ability to post messages or deliver emergency information to the following systems:
ITS staff shall be responsible for the management and maintenance and all other actions necessary to maintain the systems listed below. Furthermore, as a redundant way to ensure messages are promptly delivered, select ITS staff shall maintain the ability to post messages or deliver emergency emails.
Call Center The University Call Center is prepared to provide emergency Call Center/Information Center Services within it's current location (LNG214) or from a satellite location as necessary by working closely with Telecommunications and Communications and Marketing. Equipped with two 1-888 toll-free numbers and ten emergency response staff login IDs the Call Center would publish the toll-free numbers and provide customer service/information services up to 24/7 or as necessary throughout the duration of an incident. These services can be instead of or in conjunction with our regular Call Center responsibilities depending on the nature of the incident and the needs of the campus community. Information provided to callers would be based on scripting from the University's Public Information Officer.
The President, or his designee, shall provide status briefings to key stakeholders including, but not limited to, SUNY, State, regional and local officials. The briefings shall provide the must current information regarding the incident and may include the following details (if applicable):
Binghamton University has designated the Vice President for Student Affairs as the primary spokesperson. With the guidance of Communications and Marketing, the spokesperson will convey details of the incident and the University's response to the crisis.
If the Vice President for Student Affairs is not available the President's Office, in consultation with Communications and Marketing, shall designate an alternate spokesperson.
The Vice President for Student Affairs, the EOC PIO and/or Communications and Marketing may request the assistance of any person possessing direct knowledge of the crisis (i.e. Chief of Police in the event of a campus crime). Communications and Marketing may recommend and prepare these subject matter experts based on their area of responsibility, availability and skill at communicating often complex, sensitive information to the news media and general public. In cases of significant crisis, the President or highest ranking university official may take the lead in conveying the administration's response to the crisis, showing that the university has control of the situation, calming public concern and setting an example for the entire campus.
In the field, Communications and Marketing staff will conduct news briefings as needed in coordination with Incident Commander(s), the PIO, and in keeping with the Incident Command System.
The need to have an organized and centralized location to coordinate communication is essential. A CCC may include any of the three components as listed below depending on the scope of the crisis. The CCC will be managed by Communication and Marketing. As soon as the potential need for opening a CCC is identified, Physical Facilities and IT shall be notified to assist with the identification of space and mobilization of resources necessary to implement this plan.
In the event of an incident involving both Binghamton University and another jurisdiction (e.g., local, regional, state or federal authorities), a Joint Information Center (JIC) may be established to share information and coordinate releases to the public. The JIC will liaise directly with the EOC PIO, or their designee.
A JIC is a central location that facilitates incident / event communications. The JIC is a location where personnel with public information responsibilities perform critical emergency information functions, crisis communications and public affairs functions. A single JIC location is preferable but the system is flexible and adaptable enough to accommodate virtual or multiple JIC locations, as required.
The media will serve as the sole dedicated space for the University to interface with the media. At the minimum, the media center must have a briefing room for news conferences, with separate access for the media / public and for university officials. A media center should also be located near an area where satellite or other large media vehicles can park. General supplies that will need to be included in all media centers are as follows:
These supplies are currently stored in Admin-G10, under the control of Media and Public Relations
For events that may last several days, consideration should be given to creating a media workroom close to the Media Center for the media to file stories and conduct their operations. It should be equipped with desks, electrical power and wireless Internet access.
Working with Information Technology, journalists can be provided passwords to gain wireless access.
If a media center is to be established, immediately contact Physical Facilities and ITS for logistical support. Physical Facilities may be tasked with securing the physical location and ITS with the establishment of phone banks, and television and Internet accessibility.
A location should be chosen where there is ample space to accommodate the needs of Comprehensive Communication Center as previously identified. The facility chosen should be in close proximity to the JIC, MC and MW, and should have the physical space available to expand if the crisis dictates. A list of locations that would work well to accommodate a CCC is listed below. This is not a comprehensive list and is intended to assist and expedite operations in the event of a crisis.
Communications and Marketing or the EOC Director shall determine the need to assign a photographer or videographer to take pictures of the scene. This may prove helpful in responding to media inquiries, for possible later litigation, as well as documenting events.
Communications and Marketing shall determine whether it is appropriate to allow location shooting by TV and newspaper photographers. Communications and Marketing shall also determine when, where and who will accompany the media.
Communications and Marketing shall prepare a standby statement and pre-scripted messages. A general statement and messages for expected crises should be drawn up and approved in advance. Accurate details can be inserted at the time of the event. Communications and Marketing is trained in providing quotes and key messages.
Binghamton University's first news release should go to all media in the area, regional and national wire services, all at the same time. If at all possible this release should go out within the first hour (or sooner) of the crisis, following the advisories that announce only core facts and actions for audiences to take; safety information should be disseminated on campus earlier as soon as reasonably possible, depending on information from the Incident Management Team. This safety information will then be included in the first media release.
The first release should contain all of the information we can give at the time without jeopardizing the safety of individuals. This will alleviate many media calls to simply "ferret out" basic information. The release must be factually accurate, and should be reviewed by Communications and Marketing, the President's office, the Incident Commander, and the University's Counsel, if time allows. "Uniformity of response" is critical.
Be prepared after the initial release to receive a number of calls from the media. It is important for the spokesperson to be readily available to make additional statements, or to clarify information in the first media release to dispel any rumors. Information in the release will be used as the basis for verbal comments to the media. Comments should answer the reporter's question and whenever possible transition to positive or proactive action items taken by the university.
Prior to any interviews, a basic fact sheet about the university (available through Communications and Marketing) can be provided as background information for the eventual report. Some reporters may not be well informed, and a good way to ensure key messages get out is to suggest "You know, the question we are most being asked is . . ." Most reporters will appreciate the answers to most asked questions. Once an EOC is activated, news updates will be prepared at the EOC from information obtained by the IMT about emergency conditions, response actions, recovery decisions, etc.
Once the EOC is operational, the EOC Director, working closely with the lead PIO and the President's office, will approve news information for release.
Communications and Marketing shall maintain a media crisis kit. The crisis kit should contain emergency templates and how-to documents, phone lists, media contact lists, several legal pads, pens, maps, press badges, clip boards, two-way radios if available and a laptop computer.
Communicate this plan in advance. This plan should be communicated to the university community before a crisis occurs.
Different types of crises call for different responses. For example:
Frequently situations arise that might not require a full response of the campus Incident Management Team (IMT) but do require a prompt and effective communications response to minimize disruptions to the campus, dispel rumors or protect the reputation of the university.
In these cases, Communications and Marketing is primarily responsible for managing the communications response. It should be alerted as early as possible in the event of an emerging or potential crisis.
In consultation with appropriate campus units and the Binghamton University Administration, Communications and Marketing will:
If the situation warrants partial activation of emergency procedures, Communications and Marketing will consult with the designated campus administrator on communications issues.
When a crisis strikes, it is essential that the university take immediate action. The following steps should be taken as soon as the crisis is identified:
Distribute appropriate messages within minutes, providing information, as brief as it might be, about what's happened and instructions on what to do: show campus is taking action. As time progresses, reports can get longer and more in-depth.
Accuracy and credibility are vital; report information quickly and correct errors quickly.
Working with the Media in a Crisis
The following tips are provided as reference for the benefit of the emergency operations team and any experts who may be called upon to interview when working with our media contacts during crises or day-to-day operations.
|Appendix A: - Recommended Spokesperson / Subject Matter Expert Chart|
|The Vice President for Student Affairs shall be the designated spokesperson for all incidents of significance. Subject matter experts may assist the spokesperson as requested.|
|Incident||Subject Matter Expert||Channels of Internal Communication|
|1||Death on campus of a faculty member, Student, Student-athlete, Staff||
|2||Suspicious death or incident on campus. Student or faculty member missing.||
|4||Incident on Campus||
|5||Community incident (riot downtown, large frat parties)||
|10||Budget Concerns (tuition increases, etc.)||
|11||Incident at a Planned Event||
Last Updated: 4/7/14