Guidelines on how YSU will communicate with students, employees, the news media and the community during a crisis are included in the university’s updated Crisis Communications Plan.
The plan, first developed in 2007, recently underwent major revisions and is available at http://www.ysu.edu/ccplan.pdf.
“The plan is designed to provide a roadmap for communications, both internally and externally, in the event of a campus emergency or crisis,” said Ron Cole, director of University Communications. “More than anything, in a crisis, we want to be able to quickly gather and understand the facts of the situation, and to then promptly provide accurate and consistent information to the campus and the community.”
Cole emphasized that the Crisis Communications Plan is part of a larger set of plans to manage the university’s affairs during an emergency situation. “This plan focuses squarely on communications,” he said.
The YSU Police Department is leading efforts to review and revamp the university’s emergency operations plans. Several YSU officers and others on campus, including President Cynthia E. Anderson, members of the President’s Cabinet and college deans, have recently undergone crisis response training by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
Cole said the Crisis Communications Plan will be reviewed and revised regularly to keep pace with the latest technologies and best practices in crisis communications response.
“The plan is written to be general in nature,” he said. “Every crisis is different. Every crisis has its unique challenges and characteristics. It’s important to allow for some flexibility in how we respond.”
The plan creates a Crisis Communications Team; explains how, when and where that team will convene; and describes the team’s responsibilities. The plan also designates who will speak on behalf of the university in the event of an emergency. “In a crisis, it is imperative that messages from the university are consistent,” Cole said.
In addition, the plan identifies the various tools YSU has to communicate in a crisis, many of which the university did not have in place five years ago, including the YSU Alert notification system and a campus-wide mass communications and alarm system.
“This is not a perfect plan; I’m not sure there is such a thing,” Cole said. “We feel we have the pieces in place to communicate effectively, but we are continuously looking for ways to improve.”