Crisis Communications on Campus

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A crisis on our campus is a major emergency situation that stands to affect a large number of people at Wentworth and requires immediate action by public safety officials and senior administrators. This can range from a serious crime or threat to the public safety on or directly adjacent to campus; to a sudden death on campus; to a widespread controversy involving students; to an outbreak of contagious disease; to an incident involving the use of weapons on campus; to a natural disaster or another serious threat—including one that might necessitate the evacuation of residence halls, administration buildings, labs or classrooms.

The Developing Process

1)      A serious situation materializes on campus. Typically, the need for crisis management begins with a call about a major occurrence to the Office of Public Safety or to the Dean of Students Office. But regardless of how a serious event is first detected, the Office of Public Safety must be notified immediately. In most cases, it is the Office of Public Safety that initiates the crisis communications process.

2)      Immediately upon hearing of an emergency situation,the director of public safety or his designee assesses the occurrence, gathers the first-available facts, and as appropriate notifies the President’s Advisory Council (PAC), including the vice president of executive affairs; the president; the senior vice president and provost, the vice president of student affairs; the vice president for business; the vice president for enrollment management; the vice president for institutional advancement; the vice president for technology services; the vice president for human resources; the director of media and public relations; and the Institute’s general counsel (see step 3 for additional notifications).

a)      If news of an emergency or crisis is first reported to another office on campus, other than the Office of Public Safety (such as the Dean of Students Office), then that office must immediately contact the Office of Public Safety emergency line at 617-989-4444.

3)      The vice president for executive affairs, working with the Office of Public Safety, ensures that all appropriate notifications have been made to members of the Board of Trustees, members of the President’s Advisory Council (PAC), and members of the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) and Behavioral Incident Response Team (BIRT).

4)      The director of public safety, coordinating with the vice president of student affairs, the Office of the Provost and Office of Human Resources, begins the process of notifying all students, faculty, and staff members—the campus community at large—and may issue an initial RAVE alert or campus-wide email message at this time. Additional messages will be distributed at appropriate intervals during and through the end of the crisis situation.

a)      These messages from Public Safety will contain information on specific steps to follow during an emergency. Any questions about procedures from campus constituencies should be directed to the Office of Public Safety, at 617-989-4400 (Non-emergencies) or 617-989-4444 (Emergency Line).

5)      The director of public safety, assessing the severity of the threat with the appropriate law enforcement and designated campus authorities, determines what steps beyond information updates must be taken to protect members of the campus community (such as evacuation, shelter in place, etc.).

6)      The Institute adopts a one-source-only protocol for issuing public information and incident updates. ALL information on the incident will be issued by one spokesperson (generally the director of media and public relations, who serves as the Institute’s public information officer).

a)      The Office of Public Safety (or a designated member of PAC and/or CIRT) will regularly provide the spokesperson with the facts of the emergency and will update the spokesperson at appropriate intervals as more information becomes available.

b)      This spokesperson’s role is to a) immediately engage with media representatives and explain to them how and when information will be made public, and b) to provide that information accurately and forthrightly. All media inquiries are to be directed to this designated spokesperson without comment.

 7)      The Institute’s social media coordinator and the chief marketing officer coordinate and monitor the flow of information to the Institute’s social media channels (principally the @WITNews Twitter handle).

8)      The director of public safety, with the principal spokesperson, identifies one central area for media to park and to physically assemble on campus. A designated location is used so that the principal spokesperson and Institute officials (as chosen by the spokesperson) can meet with media and conduct briefings on the unfolding situation as needed.

a)      The designated spokesperson will determine whether a press conference is necessary. This option is considered if media interest is very high and it would make more sense to present information in a group setting.

b)      The Office of Public Safety is responsible for issuing regular updates to the campus community. All means of communication, including the RAVE alert system, email, and the Wentworth website, will be employed to share regular updates with the campus community.