Public Affairs | Illinois

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Crisis communications


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Overview and Tips

What do you mean by crisis?

An issue that affects a member of the campus community, a campus facility, etc., in a way that might be of wide public interest and of interest to media at the local, regional, or national level constitutes a potential crisis.

Who handles what?

The answer depends on the nature and magnitude of the crisis. An established "Campus Emergency Operations Team" headed by Todd Short (217) 333-1491, leads the response to campuswide crises, especially those involving life, health, and safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Examples of crises in which the "Campus Emergency Operations Team" would take the lead include:

And less serious crises, such as:

What should I do if I think something in my unit might become a crisis or has become a crisis?

If the crisis involves an immediate threat to people, call 9-1-1 (from campus phones call 9-9-1-1). Otherwise, notify Public Affairs at (217) 333-5010.

What should I do when reporters show up or call about the crisis?

If you have been designated by your supervisor as the spokesperson for the situation, you should familiarize yourself with interview preparation strategies. If not, refer inquiries to Public Affairs at (217) 333-5010, where Robin Kaler is the designated spokesperson for the campus.

What do I tell my colleagues and staff?

Public Affairs will work with you to create information to be shared with staff who field inquiries from the public. Check your e-mail inbox for a message with the headline: Critical Incident: ___ Forward it to whomever you think should have it.

What if the crisis is at the campus level? How do I get information? What do I do?

Check the campus home page and the campus hotline at (217) 265-8473 (265-UIPD).

Depending on the magnitude of the crisis, announcements will be posted and periodically updated on the campus home page and recorded on the campus hotline at (217) 265-8473 (265-UIPD). Public Affairs will also alert the local media when appropriate, so you may wish to tune into local TV news, radio or Internet sites for information. The campus also communicates via text message and e-mail alerts during campus emergencies. Sign up for those alerts here.

If the crisis involves your area, you might be asked to assist with logistics for media briefings, research for media inquiries, and other communications-related duties.

Is there any information our unit can release to callers or to people who come in the office?

Information contained in the Critical Incident Summary can be released to the public or the media. If further information is requested, refer the inquiry to Public Affairs.

What if I have a faculty expert who could speak to reporters about a breaking story?

Contact the faculty member and confirm that he or she is willing and available to speak to reporters, and call the News Bureau at (217) 333-1085 with contact information.

What are the most common crises?

At the campus level, they range from natural disasters (tornados, ice storms, etc.) and criminal activity (robberies, vandalism, etc.) to political controversies (demonstrations, protests, etc.).

At the unit level, they include such things as human resources issues (the firing of a popular professor), student issues (the disappearance of an undergraduate), and health or safety concerns (the discovery of asbestos in a high-traffic building).