Crisis Communications Plan

Effective communication during a crisis is essential. Timely, broad-based communication is critical to mitigating the consequences and problems caused by an emergency, disaster or other disruption to daily university operations.

The goal of University Communications during a crisis is to disseminate pertinent information in a timely manner to all affected campus and community audiences. These audiences would include students, faculty, staff and others with close ties or associations to WSU.

Every crisis or emergency presents its own set of unique challenges. For instance, a major earthquake along the Wasatch Front might limit the university resources available to communicate with key campus audiences. Likewise, commonly used communication devices, such as cell phones, may be unavailable due to increased demand for service.

All of the communication channels listed below will be utilized by WSU to reach key audiences if circumstances and resources permit.

Media Used to Communicate Information:

1. WSU Web page

The WSU Web page serves as a quick reference guide for news and information at all times. In the event of a crisis, updates and information would be posted on the main Web page as quickly as possible. Headlines on the page would serve as hyperlinks to more information, additional resource pages, etc.

The news alert function has been used in the past by University Communications to inform the campus of closures and cancellations due to weather, as a well as electrical, computer and/or water outages that may affect portions of campus.

The Web page would be used for messages intended for multiple internal and external audiences.

2. Text messages sent to cellular phones

The university is in the process of implementing a voluntary cell-phone database that could be utilized in the event of a campus emergency. Individuals would be notified of emergencies via text messages sent to all cell phone users who have provided their contact information.

Students, faculty and staff will be strongly encouraged to provide current cell phone numbers for this system, so they can receive alerts about problems occurring on campus or actions they should take to ensure their personal safety or security.

University Communications, working in conjunction with I.T. staff, would write and disseminate these alerts to campus cell phone users.

3. Campus Switchboard

The main campus switchboard at 626-6000 is a resource for information regarding a crisis. In the event of an emergency, University Communications will provide switch board operators with statements and updates pertaining to an ongoing situation. In the event the call volume is heavy, statements could be recorded for playback. A dedicated toll-free number could also be established and given out for crises that would result in a high number of callers and/or are ongoing in nature.

4. Campus-wide E-mails

If events warrant, a campus-wide or group-specific e-mail communication may be used to inform the campus audience of an emergency or crisis. This communication may also include instructions or steps to follow.

Targeted e-mails may communicate with a specific group affected by the situation or provide specific instructions of response. This option might be less useful during a developing crisis, but could be beneficial during the recovery process as the university attempts to return to normal business operations.

5. eWeber Portals

The eWeber portals allow communications and messages directed at specific audiences. The password protected access allows the information communicated to be restricted to only those groups or audiences that need the information.  This form of communication might have minimal value during an actual crisis, but would be beneficial during the recovery phase.

6. Mainstream Media

During times of crisis, disaster or emergency, the traditional electronic media outlets can be valuable resources for sharing information.

All announcements and alerts affecting the entire campus population and surrounding population will be shared with Ogden and Salt Lake City media outlets. Those outlets would include:

Local Television:
All four SLC television stations that produce a daily, local news broadcast (KSL-5, KSTU-Fox-13, KTVX-Channel 4 and KUTV-2 News) would receive notice.

Local Radio:
KSL News Radio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM), KLO (1430 AM) and the campus radio station KWCR (88.1 FM) are all local radio outlets that historically have shared WSU bulletins with listeners in a timely manner. The university will also send updates and alerts to KALL, KRCL and KUER.

Newspaper Web sites:
Alerts and bulletins will be shared with the Standard-Examiner, Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret Morning News and Signpost newsrooms, in hopes that those updates will be posted on the Web sites of these newspapers.

(NOTE: WSU's office of Media Relations will send releases and bulletins to all stations and media listed above, but the decision to broadcast and/or share those statements rests with the individual newsrooms.)

7. Electronic Marquees

The electronic marquees may have limited value during an actual emergency. If a message can be entered and displayed in a timely manner, the marquee might be used to let external audiences know campus is closed or classes are canceled.

If a disaster left the university closed for an extended period, the marquee might be an effective way to let visitors or the public know the status of the university. Following a tragedy, it also could be used as a way to express sympathy or acknowledge loss.

(NOTE: The office of Student Involvement & Leadership manages and posts messages appearing on the marquees by the Shepherd Union Building and at 4100 S. and Harrison Blvd. University Communications would need to work with the office to get messages posted. Damage to infrastructure might hinder or prohibit use of the marquees.
The Dee Events Center marquee is another resource. It is managed by the Dee Events Center staff and is independent of the two marquees on the main campus.)

8. Daily Bulletins

Daily bulletins would probably not be used in most crises, because they only reach audiences who subscribe to the bulletins and are posted once a day. A campus-wide e-mail would be a better means of communication during the initial response.

Bulletins might prove beneficial during a recovery process, but again, the limited, voluntary audience minimizes the value of the bulletins as a communication tool.

9. Campus Memo

Due to the time it takes to deliver a hard copy memo, this means of communication would not be used in a time of crisis. A memo might be effective in raising awareness about university emergency plans and preparedness in the event of a disaster. Following a crisis, a memo might provide a way to debrief the campus community.

10. UNews

The production cycle of UNews (the university's faculty and staff newsletter) make it an ineffective tool for communicating during a crisis. It would be a suitable resource for raising awareness about university planning and preparation for a crisis or emergency. Likewise, a special issue of UNews could be created to debrief faculty and staff following an incident. This communication tool does not reach students.