REG 04.00.01 – Emergency Notification and Crisis Communications
Authority: Vice Chancellor for University Advancement
History: First Issued: September 1, 2001. Last Revised: January 29, 2019.
NCSU REG04.20.07 – Adverse Weather and Other Emergency Conditions
NC State Emergency Operations Plan
Contact Info: Chief Communications and Marketing Officer (919-515-7373)
NC State Emergency Notification and Communication Protocols
This emergency notification and crisis communications regulation serves as an additional component of the NC State University’s Emergency Operations Plan. This regulation is intended for use in conjunction with the normal decision-making process within the university when dealing with issues or emergencies that may impact university operations and/or reputation. This regulation further describes key processes and responsibilities, but is to be used flexibly with specific emergency decision-making procedures of the university, as outlined in the Emergency Operations Plan.
The following are meanings of key terms and team descriptions as used in this protocol, and in University crisis or emergency communications:
2.1 A crisis means an issue or incident that requires immediate and coordinated action to minimize the impact on the University operations, business, reputation, and/or the University community.
2.2 .Crisis Communications Team (CCT) refers to a group consisting of the Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, Executive Director of University Relations, Director of Media Relations, Director of Web Communications, and University Communications Issues Management Lead working in collaboration with members of the Emergency Operations Group to triage, plan, create and deliver an effective communications strategy as warranted by each situation.
2.3 Emergency means a threat, planned or unplanned, to NC State that is relatively unexpected, abrupt and requires a collective reaction as the negative impacts worsen and, if not addressed, will jeopardize the university’s ability to carry out its mission or conduct business.
2.4 The Emergency Operations Group (EOG) is a group of University employees authorized by the Chancellor to staff the Emergency Operations Center and to exercise decision-making authority during an emergency. The EOG reports to the Emergency Operations Center dependent on the level of activation. The EOG has the authority to assign University resources, make operational decisions and coordinate with external emergency agencies to provide the most efficient response and recovery possible.
2.5 The Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) means the strategy that establishes the management framework for NC State to follow during an emergency. The EOP is the management system that defines the organizational structure and general procedures for the management of people, information, activities, and operations during an emergency to facilitate effective response and recovery from the emergency. The EOP is modeled on the Wake County EOP and follows the framework established by the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
2.6 WolfAlert refers to the University’s primary brand for emergency and related notification systems. WolfAlert uses include notifications for emergencies as well as non-emergency situations causing a significant and real or perceived threat to the campus community. The University issues three types of WolfAlerts:
2.6.1 WolfAlert Emergency Notifications are issued to immediately notify the campus community, upon confirmation, of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees occurring on campus. Examples of such significant emergencies or dangerous situations include, but are not limited to, shooters on campus or tornado warnings. Emergency Notifications are issued by the University Police Department by a combination of methods that may include broadcast e-mail, audible alert, campus billboards, desktop notifications, or text message. In addition, University Communications may issue emergency information via the University Home Page and social media. The CCT and University Communications will direct any follow-up communications.
2.6.2 WolfAlert Crime Warnings are issued to notify the campus community for Clery crimes occurring anywhere on NC State’s Clery geography that are considered to be a serious or continuing threat to students and employees. The crime may have occurred in the past but constitutes an ongoing threat. Examples of crimes where crime warnings may be issued include, but are not limited to, sexual assaults, burglary, robbery, or aggravated assaults. Distribution of a Crime Warning is generally by broadcast e-mail or text message by University Police and may include social media by University Communications.
2.6.3 WolfAlert Safety Notices are communications to the campus community for crimes that do not occur on NC State’s Clery geography but are determined to require the awareness of campus for safety purposes, or for situations that are not deemed an emergency or dangerous situation but are determined to require the awareness of campus for notification reasons. Distribution of a Safety Notice is generally by broadcast e-mail by University Police or University Communications, but could also include text message or social media if determined appropriate.
3.1 Initial Assessment and Action. The Chief Communications and Marketing Officer (CCMO) or Executive Director of University Relations will swiftly review and assess the situation to determine whether a communications response is warranted, and if so, the type of communications and scope of commitment needed. The CCMO or Executive Director of University Relations will be responsible for recommending appropriate communication actions and activating appropriate communication support as needed for any crisis or emergency situation.
3.2 Primary Crisis Spokesperson. The CCMO or Executive Director of University Relations, or their designee, will be the primary University spokesperson during crisis situations, unless otherwise delegated by the Chancellor. The CCMO or Executive Director of University Relations will manage the ongoing work of CCT members and supporting staff during a crisis. Daily issues management, and certain emergency situations handled by University Police, may not rise to the crisis level defined in this protocol and therefore may be handled in line with standard media responsibilities.
3.3 Initial Emergency Response. In the early stages of an emergency, before the EOG convenes or in a time limited emergency, the Associate Vice Chancellor of Environmental Health and Public Safety, University Police Chief or their designees are authorized to make decisions impacting life and safety.
3.4 Emergency Communications Content and Messaging. If the event or incident constitutes an emergency, the CCT, acting on direction from the EOG, CCMO and/or Executive Director of University Relations, will develop a strategy for timely, efficient, and appropriate messaging. A core content team will be assembled in the Butler Communications building, or auxiliary location. Working with representatives in the EOG, this content team will create messaging-based situational updates, and will work in collaboration with university units (such as Parent and Family Services, Housing, Athletics, etc.) as needed to ensure timely, accurate messages are pushed to key audiences as necessary.
3.6 Media. The CCT will develop a strategy for managing media relations in a crisis or emergency situation, and may include tactics to address media onsite and via typical distribution channels. Provisions may be set up, depending on the severity and proximity of the situation, to provide for an ongoing information center to keep the media, and public, abreast of key developments throughout the response efforts. Examples of the types of provisions may include:
3.6.1 Creation of a single, safe outpost, as designated in collaboration with University Police, where media may gather to report their stories and/or receive updates from the University; or
3.6.2 Preparation to operate the media center on a 24-hour basis as needed until EOG declares an all clear and normal university operations have resumed.
3.7 Updates. The CCMO, Executive Director of University Relations or designee will keep media staff members briefed continually on developments related to the issue. The CCMO, Executive Director of University Relations or designee will also keep the EOG apprised of information that may come in from outside the campus. The flow of information to and from all parties involved in the response is essential to the success of the response.
4. NOTIFICATION RESPONSIBILITIES
4.1.1 University Police have primary responsibility for issuing a WolfAlert announcement. University Communications will take appropriate steps to replicate the WolfAlert on various university communication channels, such as social media and web, as warranted by the situation.
4.1.2 University Police should immediately notify the Associate Vice Chancellor of Environmental Health and Public Safety of the emergency situation, notifications authorized/issued and any other actions taken to contain the emergency, and then immediately notify the CCMO.
4.2 Parents and Families
During a crisis or emergency situation, communications to parents and families will be coordinated through University Communications and Parent and Family Services. Parent and Family Services is responsible for maintaining contacts for parents. Additional channels can be used, such as web communications and social media, to keep parents and families informed.
4.3 Public Officials
During any crisis, emergency or other campus-wide notification situation, the Secretary of the University or other designee, in coordination with the Chancellor, will notify the UNC Board of Governors, the NC State Board of Trustees, the Governor’s Office and other public officials as necessary.
4.4 Other Constituent Groups
University Communications, acting under direction of the CCMO and/or Executive Director of University Relations, as a component of the EOG, will determine key constituent groups, and call in other staff (such as Advancement, Athletics or Greek Life) to determine and distribute appropriate alerts and/or ongoing communications to those groups given the particular situation.
5. ONGOING COMMUNICATIONS RESPONSIBILITIES
The CCMO, Executive Director of University Relations, or designated member of the CCT are responsible for leading the university’s ongoing communications efforts, including but not limited to the following:
5.1 Creating Clear Messages. As needed, a fact sheet and key messages will be prepared as base documents from which all communications will be created. These base documents will be continually updated as the situation continues. The messages will be checked for accuracy by those with a direct knowledge of the situation. Fact sheets released publicly or posted to a designated university web page will be time stamped and updated as information changes.
5.2 Establishing a Situation Web and Social Media Presence. Although web communication is one of many message distribution options available, the NC State Emergency Information site at wolfalert.ncsu.edu also serves as the key information repository for public information during an emergency situation. All other communications should drive the public to this site for updated information throughout the entirety of a situation. Therefore, it is imperative that accurate information regarding an emergency situation be posted as quickly as possible and consistently updated. The Director of Web Communications or designee will be responsible for keeping the Emergency Information site updated during an emergency situation.
5.3 Informing the University Community. Within the University Community, ongoing messages often require tailoring for specific groups, such as students, faculty and staff, and even different categories within these groups, such as on-campus students. Determinations must quickly be made about audience appropriate segments, channels and messaging for continual communications. Communications to the University Community will be posted on the university home page, circulated via broadcast email and/or text messaging, distributed through social media, posted across campus on the electronic billboard system, submitted for publication or broadcast in Student Media at NC State, and through mass meetings if needed.
5.4 Communicating with the Media and Managing Media Relations. Utilizing media outlets to help distribute accurate information in a timely manner is a vital strategy in an emergency situation. Factual communication with the media should occur as quickly as possible, and be updated regularly during an emergency situation.
5.4.1 The CCMO, Executive Director of University Relations or designee will determine which messages will be released to the media, through which channels, and at what times. The CCMO or Executive Director of University Relations, in conjunction with University Police if necessary, will manage all media requests.
5.4.2 The CCMO and University Relations staff will be responsible for arranging and managing any necessary press conferences or briefings. University Relations will also provide appropriate accommodations for media professionals (parking passes, water, etc.).
6. ADDITIONAL OPERATIONS
6.1 Informing Switchboards. The following locations, which receive high volumes of incoming telephone calls to the university, should be notified regarding the key facts of the emergency and instructions where to refer calls pertaining to the emergency:
6.2 Informing Key Offices. In addition to switchboards, approved information and instructions should be provided to key offices on campus, depending on the specific situation, which would be likely to receive calls from students, parents, employees or the media. These could include offices of the Chancellor, Provost, DASA, University Advancement, Parent and Family Services, Human Resources, Environmental Health and Public Safety, Alumni Association, Student Government and others.
6.3 Tracking. University Communications staff members will be responsible for monitoring and documenting related media coverage and social media conversations. Reports will be delivered to the CCMO, university leadership and others as determined necessary and appropriate.
6.4 Documenting. University Communications will maintain external information files on the emergency. These should include material related to the emergency, including clippings, statements, letters, memos, screen shots of web sites and any other relevant documents.
6.5 Review. Unless otherwise convened as part of the EOG, the CCMO, Executive Director of University Relations, and members of the ECT shall meet within ten (10) University business days following an emergency and review all actions taken as a result of the emergency to determine effectiveness and efficiency of operations and make any needed changes to this protocol.
PROTOCOL REVIEW AND TESTING
7.1 Key elements and communication methods contained within this protocol will be tested in conjunction with targeted and campus-wide emergency preparedness exercises.
7.2 This protocol will be reviewed on an annual basis to determine effectiveness and efficiency of operations and make any changes as needed.