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Guidelines/Tips for Operations in a Crisis

UR/Communications Duties/Responsibilities

  • Establish a media center for information sharing and dissemination for both local and national media so that all get the same message; work with lead public information officers from other agencies (city/county; state/federal) involved.
  • Establish appropriate media access procedures, credentialing, ground rules for news conferences, briefings and interviews.
  • Establish daily briefings – morning, afternoon, evening or when need arises – to give periodic updates and confirm information about incident, cause, rescue work, investigation, casualties/injuries, etc.
  • Designate official spokesperson/spokespersons, experts and/or specialists. UR/Communications approves news releases, official statements and other media information by heads of affected departments/agencies.
  • Balance information needs with security and confidential information so as not to compromise operations, and explain why certain information cannot be released.
  • Work with various news outlets on requests for interviews; also determine pool camera, if that’s necessary; and reporters allowed at scene, obtaining obvious clearances from appropriate law enforcement or public safety groups.
  • Make arrangements for information to be on public access cable television channels.
  • Memorial services, safety reassurance campaigns, injury updates, counseling services, and natural follow-up stories are just a few of the areas where communications will play a key role.

Individual Tips and Responsibilities

  • Anticipate tough questions before briefings and/or interviews; think through responses; stick with what you know; don’t try to answer questions outside your area of expertise.
  • Don’t be reluctant to say, “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to find out and get back to you.”
  • Go over sensitive issues with all official spokespersons; make a note sheet of info.
  • Ensure that news conference/interview areas are appropriate: use backdrop, podium/mike, etc.
  • Consider dress for interviews/press conferences; wear required safety and regulatory equipment if necessary (such as hard hats, etc.)
  • WVU, other officials should avoid on-the-spot interviews; refer reporters to UR/Communications personnel who will coordinate.
  • Maintain a calm appearance and demeanor; public needs assurance incident is under control.
  • Open with a strong convincing statement; set the tone with your message; then take a few questions (or announce that this is a statement only and not taking questions at that time).
  • Never assume cameras/microphones are off.
  • Be aware of body language and facial expressions.
  • Be clear and concise; avoid jargon or technical language. Be factual; never confrontational or argumentative.

Remember: Crisis communication doesn’t end after the victims have been transported to the hospital and emergency responders leave the scene. Sustaining effective communications with our various constituencies (media, students, parents, community) is crucial in recovery and restoration stages days and weeks after the actual event.