Crisis Communication Plan

Crisis Communication Plan

The purpose of effective crisis communication is to mitigate the identified emergency, crisis, or controversial incident and protect the safety of the faculty, staff, students, and community by providing accurate information to all constituencies.

Activation of Crisis Communication Plan

During an emergency or crisis, College personnel should immediately notify the Campus Police at 328-COPS (2677) or call 911. An emergency or crisis includes fires, bomb threats, floods, pandemic flu, crime, accidents, etc. Campus police will notify the Vice Chancellor of Administration, who in turn, will notify the Chancellor and the Director of College Relations.

The Director will notify the Vice Chancellor for Development and College Relations.

After an assessment of the emergency, crisis, or controversial issue, the Director of College Relations will determine whether the Crisis Communication Team should be activated.

Media Inquiries

All media inquiries should be forwarded to the Director of News and Media Relations at 276-376-1027 (office) or 276-393-1818 (mobile). It is extremely important during emergencies, crises, and controversial issues that only factual information be distributed, speculation and rumors prevented, and security and privacy issues considered.

Crisis Communication Team members

  • Director of News and Media Relations, Leader
  • Strategic Communications Coordinator
  • Director of Technology Support Services
  • Web Systems Specialist

The Director of News and Media Relations serves as the leader of the Crisis Communication Team and is a standing member of the College’s Crisis Management Team, which directs the response to, and management of, Campus emergencies and crises.

Depending on the nature of the crisis or emergency, the leader may augment the Crisis Communication team with other college or external personnel, such as the University of Virginia’s General Counsel or external communication specialists.

Back-up team members will also be designated, as well as volunteer communication specialists from other state agencies.


Assess the situation: A fact sheet of the emergency, crisis, or controversial issue is developed

The fact sheet contains a summary statement of the situation including all known details to be released to the media, and other constituencies. This information is made available to (and approved by) the Chancellor or Provost, and appropriate Vice Chancellor. This fact sheet is analyzed with respect to the public’s right to know and concerns for privacy and security, in consultation with General Counsel when appropriate.

Designate a spokesperson: In most cases, the designated spokesperson is the Director of News and Media Relations. The director may appoint a person with direct knowledge of the situation to assist her/him in this task.

In case of a significant crisis, the Chancellor or the highest-ranking College official must take the lead in conveying the administration’s response to the crisis, showing that the college has control of the situation, calming public concern, and setting an example for the entire campus.

Determine if photography/videography is required for documentation or media releases.

Contact appropriate constituencies: Depending on the nature of the situation, appropriate constituencies will be contacted. Constituencies may include:

  • Full and part-time general and teaching faculty, on and off campus
  • Full and part-time staff, on and off campus
  • Students, on and off campus
  • Parents
  • Boards: College, Foundation, and Alumni
  • Alumni/Donors
  • Business community/opinion leaders
  • Vendors, College partners, granting entities
  • Mass Media
  • General Public
  • University of Virginia’s University Relations Office

Determine appropriate communication vehicles: The Crisis Communication Team will determine the appropriate vehicle(s) to communicate information and their priority order, which may include:

  • Campus list servs (,
  • Key campus individuals (land phone or mobile phone)
  • Web Site (Home Page, Lite Page for high traffic with FAQ’s, Podcasts)
  • Facsimiles
  • Crisis Communication phone line: 276-376-4SNO (4766)
  • 800 Lines
  • Media releases and/or interviews for Broadcast and Print Media
  • Press Conference
  • Hotlinks on Media Web Sites
  • Public access TV, Channel 55/Campus TV monitors
  • College Newspaper
  • Mass Meetings
  • Direct Mail
  • UVA Wise Magazine
  • 2-Way Radios

Tasks – Post incident

Factual information should be available through several communication vehicles for a period of time after the incident, as determined by the Director of News and Media Relations.

Follow-up and appreciation letters to external agencies or organizations who assisted will be sent.

The Crisis Communication Team will meet within 10 days of each incident to ascertain its effectiveness and to seek improvement strategies.

Other Responsibilities

  • Recommend appropriate communication systems for utilization during a crisis or emergency to the Crisis Management Team.
  • Ensure systems and equipment are in appropriate working order.
  • Coordinate media training for a cadre of probable spokespersons, and on-going crisis communication training for team members.
  • Designate communication center with required technology and resources.
  • Establish and maintain relationships with media and others.
  • Designate appropriate spaces for press conferences and media satellite vehicles.
  • Participate in simulations, drills, and tabletop exercises for readiness.
  • Maintain list of volunteer communication specialists who may be called upon if needed.
  • Create and regularly update a Crisis Communications Handbook that includes contact lists, members’ duties, checklists, fact sheet forms, sample press releases, etc.