Back to the Index

Crisis Communication Plan


The Vice President for Public Relations has been designated as the official spokesperson for the University (see Governing Documents, Administrators’ Handbook).

Crisis Situation:

A crisis situation shall be defined as any situation or event identified by the President or the Office of Security Services as having a major impact on the campus community as a whole, including but not limited to natural disasters, explosions, hostage situations or chemical spills. The term crisis most frequently refers to the period immediately following such a situation, which generates widespread interest in the local area, state and nation, therefore drawing media interest, and requires the Universitys full attention for its duration.

I.           Purpose:

The role of the Office of Public Relations in collecting and conveying information to the University community and the public during or immediately following a crisis or emergency situation is described.

II.          Assumptions:

A.    A crisis situation is big news and is likely to result in more public exposure than hundreds of good news stories. We will live out our Catholic, Franciscan identity in our response, being honest at all times and cooperative to the greatest extent possible, recognizing the value of the media but remaining focused on maintaining the welfare of students and the rest of the University community as our primary mission.

B. St. Bonaventure has worked to develop and maintain a strong relationship with local media, who are our line of communication with the surrounding community. We will recognize that in such a situation time is critical and issue a response containing all available, pertinent information as soon as possible, with follow-up bulletins as required.

C. We will maintain internal communication to the greatest extent possible, using the electronic notice board and University web site for breaking news and information as well as student print and broadcast media and our own weekly publications.

III.         Assignment of Responsibilities

A.    The director of media relations will be responsible for issuance of approved statements to print and broadcast media.

B. If a press conference is called, arrangements will be made by the Vice President for Public Relations, with the director of media relations assisting in contacting local, state and national media, as warranted.

C. The standard site for University press conferences will be the Robert R. Jones Board of Trustees Room in Doyle Hall. The time of any press conference will take into consideration the urgency of the message as well as news media deadlines in order to reach as many constituents as possible.

D. At any press conference, the President, Vice President for Public Relations, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Vice President for Student Life and Director of Security Services will attend, as well as a media relations representative who will immediately relay any new information or questions to the public relations office.

E. A written press release will be issued to media on the regular distribution list as well as those who have expressed interest but could not attend, and pertinent information and contact numbers will be posted on the University web site.

F. The director of media relations will schedule interviews with the President and other University officials as deemed appropriate.


IV. Operations:

A. General

1. To ensure quick action and informed response in the event of a crisis, theVice President for Public Relations will issue a letter to all departments annually, reminding them to contact the Office of Security Services in the event of a crisis, and to refer all questions during a crisis to the Office of Public Relations.

2. To ensure that the Universitys public information response to an emergency is quick, accurate, sensitive and responsible, the emain open 24 hours a day during a crisis.

3. During an emergency, the Vice President for Public Relations or his/her designee will serve as the Universitys spokesperson. Other University staff and student workers, both in the Office of Public Relations and elsewhere, will be given the spokespersons name and number and instructed where to refer all media inquiries.

4. If the President is unavailable, the Vice President for Academic Affairs will serve as the senior University official.


B. Response Phases

1. Immediate

a. The University President and Vice President for Public Relations will determine whether a press conference will be held and/or if an official statement should be prepared and released. When appropriate, they will develop answers to specific questions that may be asked by the media. If a case involves employee or student injury or death, families will be notified by appropriate personnel before the information is released to the public. Student Life, the Registrars office and University ministries will also be notified.

b. The Vice President for Public Relations and staff will brief all Public Relations and other staff assigned to answer telephones. In the event of a major news event, each staff person may be assigned a national network (ABC, CBS, NBC) or area (print, broadcast) to lessen duplication of effort. All Public Relations staff will be kept apprised of breaking news to enable them to answer basic media questions, if authorized by the spokesperson.

c. One or more telephones in the Office of Public Relations (Suggested: ext. 2453 and 2348) will be designated crisis hot-line phones with recorded messages of the latest information on the situation, while another will handle incoming calls requiring personal attention. Those numbers will be provided to all media at the beginning of a crisis for dissemination to the public, while Room 17 on the ground floor of the Reilly Center, will be designated as a media information center. The room, normally used by media covering St. Bonaventures Division I, Atlantic 10 athletics contests, contains facilities for 12 telephone lines. In addition, a nearby student lounge may be temporarily designated as a media lounge, with reporters/photographers invited to obtain food and beverages at the Reilly Center cafe.

d. In the event of a campus-wide, sustained power outage, natural disaster or hostage situation, for example, that necessitates moving communications off-campus, Public Relations staff will consider the option of setting up an information base at local media outlets. Internal communications will continue by cellular phone among the President and administrators in the Student Life, Security Services and Public Relations areas.

    2. Ongoing - during any crisis, the Office of Public Relations will

a. Provide the surrounding community and constituents with basic information about an emergency or threatened emergency, via the news media.

b. Keep the surrounding community, media and other constituents informed of the situation and provide advice on what they should or should not do to prevent further damage or loss of life, panic or interference with emergency response efforts.

c. Keep the surrounding community, media and other constituents informed of where to seek temporary housing, food, etc., as appropriate.

d. Instruct the surrounding community, media and other constituents on how to obtain further advice or information.

3. Recovery period

The Office of Public Relations will issue media updates as long as warranted, scaling back activities as the need for crisis communications wanes. Upon termination of the crisis situation, the Vice President for Public Relations will schedule a meeting of all key players to review all actions and formulate changes as needed. (created 9/99; updated 6/29/01)