Annex 10 - Crisis Communication Plan
Key Information at a Glance
Campus Emergency Communications
- The Binghamton University Crisis Communications Plan provides procedures for the coordination of communications within the University, and among the University, the media and the public in the event of an emergency or other critical event.
- During a major emergency or incident, the campus will activate its Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), a formal emergency management structure led by the director of emergency management or his designee, in coordination with the president's Senior Officers Group (SOG) and numerous campus units including New York State University Police, University Health Services, the Office of Student Affairs, Environmental Health and Safety, and the Office of Communications and Marketing.
- Communications and Marketing is the lead communications organization for the Binghamton University campus, both on a daily basis and, to a greater extent, during major emergencies in which the CEMP is activated.
- 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 campus president or the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) director.
- Information released through Communications and Marketing and the EOC director is the only information regarding an emergency that campus leaders should be sharing with internal and external audiences. Any plans by campus leaders to share other information must first be discussed with the EOC and Communications and Marketing. This will help to ensure that all information is confirmed as factually accurate and consistent.
- During the early stages of major emergencies, it's imperative that our message is delivered as quickly and in as many places as possible. In the early stages, B-ALERT messages via text, email and social media sent by Binghamton University Police or the director of emergency management could be used in the first few minutes to initially get information out. After that, more detailed information would be on the Binghamton website for up-to-date, quick and timely information. The campus alert page (binghamton.edu/alert) serves as Communications and Marketing's primary tool for providing continually updated information to the campus community, the media and the public. News releases, media advisories and other means of media and public communications can be used as campus business functions begin to return to normal.
- Campus emergency communications tools include B-ALERT — the campus emergency warning
system that allows emergency staff to send out text, email messages, RSS feeds and
social media updates, alerting the campus community and relaying instructions about
what to do. Other tools include the outdoor siren located on the roof of Bartle Library;
B-Line and Dateline, the campus-wide email system; the campus call center; and the
campus emergency phone line (BU Alert Line at 607-777-7700) that provides recorded
emergency messages. Emergency messages may also be conveyed through commercial media
and social media.
- Use of these systems is outlined in the CEMP, Annex D – Emergency Notification Systems
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 Binghamton University president 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 individuals 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, 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 at 607-777-2131, Communications and Marketing at 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. It is a compilation of duties, assignments, instructions and delegations of authority for the use of various communications tools available on the campus.
Purpose of the Crisis Communications Plan
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.
Objectives of the Crisis Communication Plan
- To factually assess situations and determine whether communications responses are warranted and the requisite urgency of the notification.
- To assemble a crisis communications team that will implement and support appropriate responses.
- To define the immediate actions to:
- Identify audiences that should be informed about the situation.
- Make those audiences aware of potential emergency situations and protective actions.
- Communicate facts and updates about the situation quickly and factually.
- Provide protective action guidance as appropriate.
- Minimize rumors.
- Restore order and/or confidence.
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 (IMT) in communicating a response to the crisis.
Press Conferences/Media Availability
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 IMT and Communications and Marketing, decides 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 alert page website, binghamton.edu/alert, 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. This official campus emergency website 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.
General Media Inquiries
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.
Media on Campus
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., they 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.
Rumor Control and Media Monitoring
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.
Social Media – General Guidelines
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 copyedits before it is posted. Information provided will be drawn from EOC PIO information posted on the campus alert 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 the spokesperson's designated Communications and Marketing manager.
Communication Technology Infrastructure
Information Technology Services (ITS)
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 930-acre campus. Utilizing a large-scale underground copper and fiber network the system serves about 5,000 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 web server and bandwidth during a crisis.
Delivery of emails
As in the case with web servers, 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 and 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 email addresses, cell phones, the University's Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as an RSS feed. Students receive a welcome email 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. This 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
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 (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 listservs that may be utilized during emergency incidents. B-Line is the official listserv for students and Dateline is the official listserv for staff and faculty. The listservs may be utilized to provide updates and critical information during emergency situations. The technical aspects and delivery results rest within ITS.
All of 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.
Department Responsibilities and Authorities
Communications and Marketing
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 assume roles at multiple levels in the campus Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) hierarchy, including:
- Supporting the president and the Senior Officers Group (SOG)
- Serving on the campus Incident Management Team (IMT)
- Providing Binghamton University staff to the multi-agency/multi-institution emergency information center known as a Joint Information Center [JIC], when a JIC is activated
- Providing field public information officers to address on-scene media inquiries
- Supporting NYS University Police and Emergency Management in posting time-sensitive public safety alert messages
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 newswriter 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:
- B-ALERT emergency notification system
- Outdoor siren
The Binghamton University Emergency Dispatch Center and its staff are managed by the Emergency Management Program.
New York State University Police
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.
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:
- BU Alert Line
- Campus voice mail
- Electronic message boards and TV screens
Information Technology Services (ITS)
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.
- Web server and redundant backup (Rack Space)
- Web bandwidth
The University Call Center is prepared to provide emergency call center/information center services within its current location (LN-G214) 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 10 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.
Crisis Communication Logistics
The president, or the president's 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):
- Nature of the incident
- Number of deaths
- Number of injured and their last known medical status
- How many still at risk?
- Chronology of events
- Actions currently being taken
- Status of the campus
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.
Comprehensive Communication Center (CCC)
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.
Joint Information Center (JIC)
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 the PIO's 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.
Media Center (MC)
The media center 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:
- Binghamton University backdrop
- Appropriate lighting
- Extension cords/power cables
- Press kits (information on the University)
These supplies are currently stored in AD-G10, under the control of Media and Public Relations arm of Communications and Marketing.
Media Workroom (MW)
For events that may last several days, consideration should be given to creating a media workroom close to the MC for the media to file stories and conduct their operations. It should be equipped with desks, electrical power and wireless Internet access.
Working with ITS, journalists can be provided passwords to gain wireless access.
If a MC 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.
- University Union (Mandela Room, Old Union Hall)
- Events Center
- Chenango Champlain Collegiate Center
- Engineering and Science Building
- University Downtown Center
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 for 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.
Preparedness and Planning
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, and to regional and national wire services, 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 IMT. 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.
Media crisis kit
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.
Share the Plan
Communicate this plan in advance. This plan should be communicated to the University community before a crisis occurs.
Identifying a Crisis
Different types of crises call for different responses. For example:
- An immediate, unforeseen crisis with many lives at risk/lost (examples: earthquake, large fire, flood, terrorist attack, chemical spill)
- An immediate, unforeseen crisis with individual lives at risk/lost (car accident, homicide/suicide, small fire, disease outbreak)
- An ongoing crisis that increases in scope and impact as more information becomes known (examples: sexual harassment lawsuits, scandals)
- An unusual, unexpected crisis or critical incident that does not fit into the above categories (example: Virginia Tech campus shootings)
Crises outside a Declared Emergency
Frequently situations arise that might not require a full response of the campus 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:
- Respond to media calls.
- Analyze the situation and advise campus leaders and emergency responders on communications strategy.
- Revise and update the campus home page swiftly, as the situation warrants.
- Prepare and update the campus emergency telephone number, as the situation warrants.
- Write and distribute talking points, backgrounders, news releases and related items, as necessary.
- Identify campus spokespersons and help them prepare for interviews.
- Organize press conferences and other media events.
- Monitor ongoing news media and social media coverage of emergencies, and respond to and correct inaccuracies quickly to prevent the dissemination of misinformation.
- Assist media while they are physically on campus.
If the situation warrants partial activation of emergency procedures, Communications and Marketing will consult with the designated campus administrator on communications issues.
Immediate Action Checklist
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:
- Activate the Incident Management Team (IMT) if necessary. Report to the EOC director/manager (usually the director of rmergency management or designee) and coordinate all actions and messages through the PIO.
- Gather and assess the facts. Work with IMT Planning Section, as available. Quickly post confirmed information online when any (not necessarily all) key elements are known. Once posted to campus web page, Communications and Marketing officials will distribute the message through all appropriate means (see Annex D – Emergency Notification System for guidance).
- Activate appropriate elements of the Crisis Communication Plan.
- Prepare a statement and background information. Tailor the pre-scripted messages to the events, and prepare background information for the media.
- Identify key audiences. Campus community will always be highest priority. Determine who needs to be informed of the situation, and in what order (both on and off campus).
- Designate a University spokesperson(s).
- Coordinate with the local Joint Information Center if the event is regional (i.e. not confined to the campus).
- Provide guidance to the campus and community as developed by the IMT or a crisis communication team if the EOC is not activated.
- Activate all available and/or appropriate mass notification systems to communicate the message (see CEMP Annex D – Emergency Notification System for guidance).
- Develop additional messages to be delivered repeatedly and clearly, and by one voice.
- Control the message and the flow of information.
- Keep track of all calls and requests with a contact log.
- Respond to the media quickly and fairly.
- Manage rumors and misinformation.
Emergency Communications Timeline
Distribute appropriate messages within minutes, providing information, as brief as it might be, about what's happened and instructions on what to do. Show the 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 NYSUP or EOC manager, report that an incident/crisis/emergency has been reported or has occurred even when only limited information is available: an earthquake has struck; an explosion has been reported; emergency responders are on the scene; more information is coming. Provide instructions on what to do. Post to website and social media ,send B-ALERT message
- Notify Communications and Marketing staff to stand by for assignments.
- Report to EOC (PIO, web editor, news writers), if activated. Otherwise operate out of Communications and Marketing offices.
Within the First Hour
- Update incident report and instructions on web as frequently as possible.
- Update situation with B-ALERTs as warranted (ongoing).
- Prepare short statement for president, senior administrators or EOC manager, get approval, post on web. If possible, include instructions to employees and students.
- Record message to emergency BU Alert Line. Update as necessary (Ongoing)
- Alert media to website postings as source of University information updates.
- Handle incoming media calls (ongoing).
- Monitor news reports, blogs, social media, etc. for inaccuracies and rumors; post corrections and rumor control information to the web (ongoing).
Within Two Hours
- Dispatch field PIOs to manage any on-site media, and report conditions on campus back to the PIO in the EOC (ongoing).
- Tell students to contact their parents and let them know they are safe.
- Determine potential need for manned call-center; begin establishing it, if needed.
Within Four Hours
- Prepare, get approved and post message for off-campus parents/staff family members.
- Determine need/timing to establish media center. Begin preparations.
- Determine need for press briefing, media site tours; set time and location if formal briefing is necessary, post announcement on web.
- Determine need to send PIO to JIC, if established, and/or to area hospitals.
Within 8-12 Hours
- Hold formal press briefing (if possible, do so when/if situation on campus is NOT chaotic, has been controlled, contained) with president and/or EOC director, others as appropriate.
- Determine need for ongoing operations; plan for food/supplies; contact backup PIOs/writers.
- Consider preparing and posting a video message from the president/other senior administrator (if applicable, likely day two or later. Other options include call-in conference calls for regional and national media).
Spokesperson Media Training Tips
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.
General tips/helpful knowledge
- Always remember that courtesy and cooperation are essential ingredients in any successful media encounter. Also, only a spokesperson should be making an official organizational response in talking to the media. If you are approached, simply say, "I'm not the spokesperson, but if you'll wait right here, I'll let him/her know that you are here now and would like to speak to him/her."
- Get to know the members of the press before a crisis occurs. Watch a different TV channel every night or listen to a radio station or read different newspapers. Get to know what "beats" they usually cover; i.e., entertainment, finance, healthcare, etc.
- Management and all employees, including security, should be aware that the media during a crisis will attempt to get to the location of the event, especially television, as it is driven by visuals. Make sure that all entrances are attended by employees and security.
- The media should be taken to an area you have designated as your media briefing area. Do not call it a press area, as electronic media are not "press" as it relates to the print media. Make sure your media briefing area has enough telephone lines to accommodate multiple calls at once. You should also make available a fax machine if possible. Make sure that all have a badge so that you know who is present.
- Never go "off the record." If you don't want the information used, don't say it.
- Never embellish an event to make it seem larger than it really is: Be straightforward, honest and use simple language.
- When talking to reporters in a crisis, talk "through" them to the audience beyond. Your face will be much more compassionate and reassuring to the audience.
- In the early stages of any incident, never try to assign blame, transfer responsibility or speculate about "probable causes." Your after-action conferences are made for that.
- Remember, the media is the ideal place to let the public know exactly what you are doing, and that you will have results for them as soon as you can. This is free publicity, and with the right approach, even in a crisis situation, you have a tremendous marketing opportunity. Take advantage of it by being credible, honest, forthcoming, accurate and complete. Above all, let your face speak volumes for you and your organization. Make your face a pleasant, compassionate one, not somber or stressed.
More specific techniques for interviews for spokespeople
- Know the facts – don't guess. Get the latest information available prior to an interview on the subject at hand.
- Rehearse your message. Know what you're going to say and how you want to say it, but don't over-rehearse and lose spontaneity.
- Help set the "ground rules." Journalists need help getting the story . . . help them with background and locations for good visuals, and give them fact sheets or other information that will help them round out their stories.
- Prepare for the worst – do your homework. Prepare for the worst case and practice responses that answer the reporters' questions while bridging to positive actions or facts about your organization. For television, being able to answer and bridge in less than 15 seconds assures a sound bite that is both helpful for the reporter and provides a positive impression of the university.
- Answer questions – stay alert – listen. Listen to your interviewer...don't start formulating the answer to a question that is not being asked. And, "listen with your face." Don't be afraid to show compassion, which lets you be viewed as someone who is likeable, which translates to the University being viewed as likeable.
- Say it in 12-15 seconds. Remember, your time with a TV news story is very valuable and very limited. Talk in sound bites to ensure that you are not edited out of context.
- Admit mistakes. No one will fault you for being honest and forthright, but follow the admission with how you have corrected the situation and place the incident in its proper perspective.
- Relate to the viewer, not the interviewer. Think about how the viewer will receive your information, not how the interviewer posed the question. While you are looking at the journalist, talk through the journalist to the audience, picturing a friend or family member at the other end. A technique that works for many is to picture talking to a child, which often results in your face softening, and your language being simple and understandable. Never look at the camera.
- Humanize yourself and your organization. The audience will always relate to a real human being, no matter what the subject is.
- Think like the media. What kind of story are they after? How will they most likely tell it? And how can you tell it in a way that helps them achieve their goals but is sensitive to your public?
- Be politely persistent, but don't get angry. Try to always finish your statement without being interrupted. Smile, be patient and allow your overall grasp of the situation to come through.
- Use the news conference sparingly. The news conference is one of the most overdone of events. Journalists don't like to come out for an event where honest, full-picture and critical information is not given. A conference should be held when major news that needs to be shared all at once occurs.
- Stick to the subject – don't ramble. Don't open other situations unnecessarily. Answer questions with enough information to answer the question, add a positive action taken and then STOP! Don't be afraid of silence; simply wait patiently with an attentive look for the next question, but do not continue to talk!
- Dress for the occasion. Conservative dress and a professional image go a long way toward presenting a positive impression of you and your organization on television.
- Never go "off-the-record." If you don't want to see it on the news or in the morning paper, don't say it.
- Keep it on a "one-on-one" basis. The interview is with one person in the audience – the viewer, through the interviewer. Keep it personal and direct.
- Never say "no-comment." A "no-comment" is perceived as a "guilty," period. At the very least, tell the reporter why you can't comment instead of using the words "no comment."
- Maintain solid eye contact. Your facial language tells more about you than what you are actually saying. Keep eye contact with the journalist.
- Avoid arguments and hostility. It is impossible to win an argument with a person who has the editing equipment or prerogative. And remember, the questions from the journalist are rarely shown on the newscast; the only thing they can use is your answer, so if a question is hostile, answer it as if it isn't. It won't be on camera.
- Provide advance biographical/background data. Always try to provide a "one-pager" on your organization and you, and other facts that will help reporters "flesh out" the story.
- On camera, don't fold your arms and don't be afraid of gestures. Remember, people are looking at your body language and listen with their eyes first, and then with their ears. Folding arms is a classic defensive gesture. Also, keeping your arms down allows you to gesture, which means the camera will typically back up to accommodate your gestures, avoiding unflatteringly close camera angles.
- Don't squint at the lights. Give yourself enough time in an inside interview to get used to the lights. If outside, close your eyelids and tilt your face to the sun for a few seconds, so your eyes can adjust. You will appear more relaxed and confident.
- Suggest talking points before the interview. Again, help set the agenda. You know the story, the reporters only know what they've been told. Help them to help you tell the story.
- Always have at least two "themes" going into each interview. Know what the interview is about, have two positive themes that relate to the subject and always bridge to them after answering each question.
- Bridge potential adverse, negative stories into positive responses. Bridge immediately, after making a direct short answer, to the themes that will round out your story.
- Anticipate tough questions. If you have done your homework on the subject, you should be able to anticipate the areas of tough questions within the story, and answer them in the best possible light, remembering to bridge to your themes.
- Never guess...and never, ever lie Having to retract or alter your comments is both awkward and, in most cases, almost impossible. Your comments in print or on tape are the essence of your reputation. You can turn a simple 15-second sound bite into a five-part investigative series by lying.
- Arrive early for questions and pre-talk with the interviewer. Pre-talk about the other stories that the reporter has done and establish a rapport. Try to remove artificial barriers that exist between reporters and government, reporters and business, etc. Establish yourself as a professional in your field early on — before the interview begins. This is an excellent time to provide the reporter with a fact sheet about the university.
|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||