UW-Whitewater University Handbook

UW-Whitewater Policy - Crisis Communication Plan

Source: Office of the Chancellor


Communication management is a key factor in the institutional response to an emergency or crisis incident. Effective communication policy and practice can assist in the administrative response to a crisis and provide essential direction to faculty, staff, and students with the goal to disseminate information accurately and responsively to interested constituencies and the general public.

It is the policy of UW-Whitewater to be forthright at all times and timely in its communication with the University community, news media, and general public during a crisis incident. Decisions regarding communications will be guided by the commitment for public disclosure and the public's legitimate right to be informed, balanced by a concern for the right of the individual for privacy and personal security as well as the effect that immediate public disclosure could have on impeding an investigation or legal action.

Definition and examples of an institutional crisis or special incident:

An institutional crisis situation is one that may involve the personal injury or death of a member of the University community or may include property damage to the institution. A communication crisis may also be defined as an incident which involves non-violent criminal offenses, professional misconduct, lawsuit action, or any event that may impact individual or institutional reputation and elicit considerable news media attention.

I. Identification of a Crisis:

The identification of a crisis communication incident is at the discretion of the Chancellor, Provost & Vice Chancellor, Assistant Chancellors (Administrative officers), UW-Whitewater Police Chief, Director of Risk Management and Safety, and/or Director of News and Public Affairs and in a time frame that is appropriate to the incident.

Because incidents can occur both on and off campus and at any time of the day or night, it is necessary to have a notification mechanism in place that will ensure necessary information is communicated to the appropriate administrative officer(s) in a time and manner appropriate to the nature of the incident.

It is not possible to define a precise notification protocol because there are so many variations that can occur. Consequently, the "Incident Notification Profile" is built on a principle of professional judgement. The University official (typically director level or above) has responsibility to determine if and when notification should be made to an administrative officer. The following list of officials is intended to be illustrative and to identify the most frequent scenarios. It is not exhaustive and individuals who are placed in the "University Official" position will need to assume responsibility for exercising professional judgement.

Incident Notification Profile

All events where campus police are directly involved:

All facility issues not involving police, i.e. water line break, etc.:

All international events involving UWW students, faculty, and staff traveling outside the U.S.:

All students and student organizations activities that occur off-campus:

All faculty/staff activities that occur off-campus:

In making the decision to notify an administrative officer, the University Official will evaluate the event and determine if immediate notice is required, and to whom it should be notified. While in contact with the administrative officer, determination is made as to what additional notification is required and who will do it.

II. Notification of Crisis:

Upon notification of a crisis incident or one with such potential, the Director of News and Public Affairs will convene a Crisis Communications Team (CCT) to assure a rapid, coordinated, and effective response to the situation. Each CCT will be composed of the most appropriate representatives for the crisis incident with a CCT Administrative Officer and team members selected by the Chancellor, Provost, Administrative Staff, Police Chief, Director of Risk Management and Safety, and/or Director of News and Public Affairs. The CCT's activities will be coordinated by the Director of News and Public Affairs in cooperation with the designated administrative officer. The CCT will use established University of Wisconsin System or UW-Whitewater procedures as a framework for action. Foremost among its responsibilities will be to safeguard the security, health, safety, and individual rights of the students, faculty, or staff members who may be involved in the incident through open truthful communication.

Standing institutional procedural manuals, such as the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), should be followed in the event of an emergency or designated disaster. The Crisis Communication Plan is designed to complement the EOP and provide effective communication strategies and response mechanisms.

III. First-line CCT Representatives:

Provost and Vice Chancellor
Administrative Staff
University Police Chief
Director of News and Public Affairs
Director of Risk Management and Safety
Dean of Student Life
Assistant Dean of Student Life and Academic and Nonacademic Conduct Officer
Assistant to the Chancellor for Affirmative Action
Director of Residence Life
College Deans
Directors of Offices in question
University of Wisconsin System Legal Counsel
Building Supervisors
Director of Health and Counseling Services

Other CCT Representatives:

Whitewater Student Government, residence hall or involved student organization officers
Faculty and staff governance officers
Local and area police, fire, or emergency officers
Community leaders
State or federal agency representatives
Athletic Director
Office of Continuing Education
Associate Director of Residence Life
Director of James R. Connor University Center
Area hospitals, urgent care, rescue squads, and fire departments
Critical Incidents Debriefing Team

IV. Incident Categories, Designated Administrative Officers, Key Administrators, and Possible Responding Offices:

Listed below are incident categories which may be considered significant enough to warrant institutional crisis communication coordination. The Director of News and Public Affairs, working with the designated administrative officer or his/her designee, will be responsible for coordination with other offices and staff members called upon to assist as needed:

V. Release of Information and Site Logistics:

All written or oral statements, including news releases, interviews, news conferences, open memoranda or letters to the news media, the University community, or the general public, will require the authorization of the Chancellor or Provost, or their administrative designee, (the CCT Administrative Officer), and the Director of News and Public Affairs.

A spokesperson will be designated by the CCT to respond to news media inquiries. All media inquiries will be directed to the Office of News and Public Affairs for coordination and immediate response. Other crisis communication logistical arrangements, such as parking, telecommunications, security, news conference sites, access to site and/or individuals, and other relevant tasks will be coordinated by the Office of News and Public Affairs in cooperation with the CCT Administrative Officer and the Chancellor or Provost.

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