Plan Testing & Validation
After-action Report/Review (AAR)
Communication is an essential component in the University’s plan to handle a crisis situation. How the University communicates with the students, faculty, staff, parents, media and the general public can have a lasting impact on its reputation. An effective communications plan, coupled with the early involvement of communications professionals, will help limit possible negative impact of the crisis and allow those charged with mitigating the crisis to fulfill their responsibilities.
A crisis situation is any situation or event that has a major impact on the campus community and the broader public. Examples of a crisis situation may include fires, bomb threats, deaths or serious injuries, natural disasters, major crimes or major disruptions of campus operations, such as a campus-wide power or network outage or severe weather. Crisis situations may include police investigations, protests or other situations that require a public response.
This plan is not intended to change the way emergencies are initially reported. All emergencies on campus should be reported immediately to University Police.
The purpose of this plan is to establish and delineate the procedures and methods for disseminating accurate and timely information to the UK campus community, media and public during a crisis situation.
1. Assessment: People who become aware of a potential crisis or emergency must contact the Office of Public Relations and Marketing. The Executive Director or a designee, in conjunction with other campus authorities, will determine whether it is appropriate to invoke this plan and notify crisis communication team.
2. Crisis Communication Team: The Crisis Communication Team is comprised of UKPRM employees and others whose organizations may play a critical role in addressing the crisis. Members may be called into action during a crisis based on each individual situation.
Time is of the essence in communicating crucial information to the university community and the news media, and the team will be assembled as quickly as possible. Based on the timing, location and severity of the incident(s) or event(s), this may occur either in person or virtually. The Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing will determine when a sufficient number of the team is engaged.
3. Information: As soon as possible after the incident, informational material will be prepared to supplement communication with key constituencies and information provided to reporters by the spokespersons. It will be approved by the Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing and checked for accuracy by those with a direct knowledge of the crisis. Information released publicly or posted to the Internet will be updated as information changes.
4. Notifying Key Constituencies: The Crisis Communications Team will determine which groups need to be informed first. It is important to keep in mind that people will seek – and believe – other sources of information (e.g., news reports, rumors, word of mouth) in the absence of official communication. Effective communication will help quell rumors, maintain morale and ensure public safety.
Key constituencies include:
• Students • Faculty
• Staff • Parents of students
• Board of Trustees • Public officials—Governor, Mayor
• Alumni • Neighbors
• General Public • News Media
5. Alerting the media: UK Public Relations and Marketing shall decide the best way(s) of reaching the news media. In cases where a crisis is likely to be prolonged and/or especially complex, the Executive Director may choose to create a Joint Information Center and/or a news media briefing center to coordinate the information flow and assure that the appropriate people are involved in collecting and disseminating information. Consideration will be given to appropriate media staging locations that can accommodate vehicles such as satellite trucks. Communication with the media will occur as new information becomes known. Information from news briefings may be captured in audio and/or video and posted to the Internet, along with updated informational material. Effort will be made to monitor news coverage in key media and correct significant inaccuracies, either in those media themselves or in material distributed by the university. In general, the university will welcome reporters and allow them as much access as public safety and common sense permit. Public information officers will facilitate access to key knowledgeable individuals and respond quickly to as many requests as possible.
6. Phases of Response
Five criteria shall be considered to determine the type of communication response necessary:
Phases of response include the immediate phase which incorporates the time between when Public Relations officials learn of the crisis and the first communication about the crisis is made to the constituencies. The ongoing phase constitutes the time period following that first communication; this is when the crisis may be continuing or may have ended but new information is being learned and its communication is critical. The recovery period follows resolution of the crisis and its aftermath and involves reviewing the success of the crisis communications efforts.
- The Office of Public Relations and Marketing and the official spokesperson will determine if an official statement should be prepared and released. If warranted, Public Relations staff members will also develop answers to specific questions that may be asked by the media.
- The Public Relations staff will obtain basic information (type of crisis/emergency; time of emergency; actions taken; areas and number of people involved; injuries or fatalities; extent of damage; etc.) and prepare an official news release. Public Relations staff is authorized to obtain information from all emergency personnel to enable a timely and accurate flow of information.
- Determination of the means of communicating – i.e. broadcast email, UK Alert, news release/conference, website update, social media, etc.
- The Public Relations staff will verify all sources of information.
- The Public Relations staff will clear news releases with the chief university official and/or official spokesperson as quickly as possible before releasing to the media.
- To the extent possible, the Public Relations staff will log all media inquiries.
- In cases involving student injuries or deaths, families will be notified by appropriate personnel before the information is released to the public.
- Spokesperson will coordinate the release of factual information with local hospitals and other disaster agencies, providing as prompt, accurate and complete information as possible.
- Ongoing Period
Public Relations staff members will continue to monitor the unfolding nature of the emergency and collect information; will provide ongoing communication with public, media and other constituencies; will make determinations on and contact with possible experts to address questions about the circumstances of the crisis; will provide ongoing communication as new information is learned. The Office Public Relations and Marketing will issue media updates for as long as necessary, then scale back activities as warranted.
- Recovery Period
Upon resolution of the crisis situation, the Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing will schedule a meeting of all key players to review all actions taken and lessons learned. These will be included in an after-action report (AAR) to be forwarded to the President and other appropriate university officials or departments. Changes to this Crisis Communication Plan may be made as a result of lessons learned.
PLAN TESTING AND VALIDATION
This plan shall be updated and tested at least once a year. Full activation of the plan will be incorporated into the University’s annual Emergency Operations Center disaster exercise. Responsibility for updating the Crisis Communications Plan rests with the Executive Director of Public Relations.
AFTER-ACTION REPORT/REVIEW (AAR)
Following resolution of the crisis, the Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing will convene the Crisis Communications Team for a review of lessons learned. The AAR may be used to provide summary information to a more comprehensive campus-wide AAR coordinated through the UK Office of Crisis Management and Preparedness.