RSCC Policies & Guidelines
Roane State Community College
Policy Number: GA-13-03
Subject: Emergency Notification and Evacuation
“Quick, constant, and accurate” is our purpose for information flow in a time of crisis. By making sure information is shared quickly, updated constantly and provided accurately, we can do our very best to achieve the plan’s number one objective: protecting the lives of students, faculty, staff and visitors.
When a crisis happens, it’s important to remember that we are not talking to the media. Instead, we are talking to the audience that the media serves — our students, our students’ families, future students, our alumni, our own families and friends.
Yes, the media is right in front of us. We must remember that they have a job to do, an important job, and we should assist them in their coverage. But our audience is the faceless crowd watching events unfold in their homes all across our service area. As we consider what we want to say and how we want to say it, we must remember our true audience.
For the purposes of this communications plan, a crisis is defined as an act or circumstance with no prior warning that could endanger students, faculty, staff or visitors of Roane State Community College; could disrupt college operations; or could cause physical or environmental damage to the college.
Examples of a crisis include a violent act on campus, a sudden severe weather phenomenon or a catastrophic accident that could endanger others. Elements of this timeline may also be incorporated into a crisis of a different nature, such as a financial crisis or crisis threatening public image, depending on the level of response those events require. This plan assumes a comprehensive level of response is required and assumes lives are at risk in the initial stages.
Many of the stages listed include guidelines. A crisis is, by nature, a fluid changing situation. The guidelines are intended to provide a framework for decision-making, but are not intended to be rigid.
The crisis communications plan has four objectives, ranked by priority.
- Protect the lives of students, faculty, staff and visitors.
- Provide comfort to external stakeholders (families, community members, alumni) during a time of crisis by providing quick, constant and accurate information.
- Assist the media with their needs during coverage of the crisis.
- Be responsive to each other and the public throughout the crisis.
The following stages are based on a sudden crisis development that could endanger lives and is organized by times each action should be taken to provide best possible chance for success in meeting objective one (protect the lives of students, faculty, staff and visitors).
Stage One: First seconds and minutes of a crisis guidelines
In the initial moments of a crisis, speed is the key to saving lives. In this section, the communication message of utmost importance is the first, initial warning that there is a crisis that could endanger lives. This warning should come from the first authorized person who has credible knowledge of the crisis.
Authorized persons should include all members of President’s Cabinet, public relations personnel, all site directors, Roane State Police Department (RSPD), or those designated to serve in this role in the absence of others. The only objective that needs to be fulfilled in this stage is Objective No. 1 (protection of lives). All other objectives are irrelevant at this point.
- The authorized person(s) or designee who first obtains credible knowledge of a crisis should immediately use the phone PA system to deliver the appropriate emergency warning to the campus location, assuming they are in a position of safety. Appropriate warning could include lockdown or evacuation.
- The authorized person(s) or designee should then call 911.
- The authorized person(s) or designee should contact the Roane State Police Department through the button labeled “Security” on their Roane State phone. If an office phone is not available, call (865) 882-4500.
- The Roane State Police Department will contact Public Relations to send a RaiderAlert. If PR staff is not available, the RSPD will contact another RaiderAlert administrator to send an alert. RaiderAlert admins are listed in the college’s inclement weather plan, which is distributed each fall.
- The person who sent the RaiderAlert should send an e-mail with the same information as the text message.
- If we receive information about a crisis/threat, but are not sure which campus has been affected, we will assume the threat is real, with an unknown location, and follow the steps listed above. This may include locking down all campus locations, as a precaution, until more specific information is available.
Stage Two: Next few minutes/few hours' guidelines:
Once the initial call to law enforcement has been made and the warning sent, the crisis moves into a phase of information management. The objectives in this stage still include the protection of lives as the top priority; however, providing comfort to external stakeholders and assisting media with coverage are also important.
- A Crisis Communications Leader (CCL) will be identified. This may include the President, President’s Designee, Public Information Officer (PIO) or PIO designee. While in general the President would be the Crisis Communications Leader, the CCL designation may depend on the nature of the incident and the availability and responsibilities of college administration during the crisis. The goal is to best align the Crisis Communications Leader with the communications needs of the crisis. For example, in the case of a weather-related event that affected facilities, the VP for Finance, which has oversight over facilities, might be needed to provide information or to serve in a communications capacity.
- The CCL will serve as the ONLY spokesperson for the duration of the crisis unless the CCL directs otherwise.
- The CCL will direct the actions of the vice presidents, assistant vice presidents and Public Relations. One of the first priorities is to replace the current home page with an “Emergency Site,” a dormant Web site that can be turned on during a crisis. The components of the Emergency Site will be contact information for law enforcement and other reference material. The primary components are real-time updates about the crisis posted on the site through Roane State’s Twitter page.
- The Emergency Site should be online, if possible, within 30 minutes of a crisis report that warrants its use. Webmasters will be responsible to activate the Emergency Site. Public Relations will post information to the Emergency Site via the Roane State Twitter account. Updates to the Emergency Site will be done through Roane State’s Twitter account. Updates via Twitter are also automatically posted to Roane State’s Facebook page.
- The CCL will travel to the command post designated for the crisis at or near the campus where the crisis happened. If the CCL is away from the main campus, the CCL should designate someone to handle media/public inquiries at the main campus. Each campus director should report to their campus site to handle possible media/public inquiries. In addition, the CCL may designate individuals to assist in the following roles.
- PR admin assistants
- Callers will be directed to the Emergency Site as the best source of information.
PR will produce information for Emergency Site.
- Fact-gatherers will report to PR office.
- They will help run down information at the request of PR.
- Staff members as assigned.
Schedulers will help schedule media interview requests for senior administrators. Schedulers will place interviews on the Outlook calendars of the President and Vice Presidents. Schedulers will get the name of the media member and contact information for media member.
- A Media Center will be established in the Library. Press conferences will be held in the upper floor of the library. The spokesperson should be facing the windows.
Stage Three: Next few Hours/days after crisis guidelines
In the hours after a crisis, the issue of safety has generally passed, and the crisis becomes much more involved with information management and media management. It’s important to understand that, in general, the media plays a helpful public service role in a crisis. However, inaccurate reports are very likely. We should immediately correct inaccurate reports, whether we provided incorrect information or media outlets report incorrect information. The worst mistake in this stage is to try to hide errors we make.
- Public Relations will provide media with a regular schedule of news conferences as that information is available.
- If victims want to speak to the media, they should be allowed to do so. Public Relations will facilitate this by working with victims and families if they want our assistance. It’s important that victims and families retain control over how they speak to the media. Choices over how many media members they want to talk to, where they want to talk to the media, whether they want the media close to them or a few feet away, should be presented to the victims and families, and the choice should be theirs. Giving victims and families a chance to decide helps them have a sense of control at a time when it may feel as if they have lost control. This relates to objective 2: providing comfort to stakeholders.
- After the Emergency Site is turned off, webmasters will work with Public Relations, Counseling, Foundation, etc. to make any appropriate changes to the Roane State website in light of the crisis.
- The student Services Call Center will become a crisis call center. Other staff members may be identified that could provide extra staffing to the call center if needed. Public Relations will provide regular updates to call center staff as information comes in.
- Student Activities will facilitate event-planning if needed with support from Alumni Relations and other departments with event-planning expertise.
Stage Four: Aftermath
- No later than one week following a crisis, President’s Cabinet and Administrative Council will convene for a review of lessons learned.
- Public Relations, in coordination with Student Activities, will develop a year-long calendar that will highlight possible events that could be tied to the crisis. For example, the calendar would note the first graduation since the crisis, the first athletic event since the crisis.
- Public Relations will continue to respond to media inquiries and monitor media coverage. Again, correcting inaccurate reports is paramount. In addition, Public Relations will alert college leadership about possible windows when the crisis might receive coverage (a one-year anniversary, for example).
General Evacuation Procedures
- All building evacuations will occur when an alarm sounds and/or upon notification by institutional personnel.
- When the building evacuation notice is activated during an emergency, those present are to leave by the emergency evacuation route for the area in which they are located. If the exit is blocked, use the nearest marked exit and alert others to do the same.
Assist those with disabilities in exiting the building. Do not use the elevators in case of fire and/or potential power loss. Once outside, proceed to a clear area that is at least 1000 feet away from affected building. Keep streets, fire lanes, hydrant areas, and walkways clear for emergency vehicles and personnel. Identify an assembly point to congregate once outside.
DO NOT RETURN to an evacuated building unless instructed to do so by institutional personnel or law enforcement.
All persons are to immediately vacate the area in question and move to another part of campus as directed. Persons with disabilities should be given necessary assistance to evacuate.
Test of Emergency Procedures
- The institution will conduct emergency drills and post-drill assessments at least on an annual basis.
- Information regarding the institution’s evacuation procedures will be provided as part of the drills.
- Documentation regarding the drill will be maintained.
The annual Inclement Weather Plan includes contact information for the Police Chief, potential Crisis Communication Leaders, webmasters, Roane State Police Department and personnel with access to send RaiderAlerts and media contact numbers. Administrators should keep a copy of the Inclement Weather Plan with them at all times and use it for reference.
Key Media Contacts
Please refer to the annual inclement weather plan for contact information for key media outlets which consistently cover the institution and represent a core media group that generally will be contacted in a crisis.
Dissemination of Public Alert Notice Information
The Public Relations Office to the extent feasible will coordinate the dissemination of public alert notice information including the use of the institutions text messaging system, emails, and other communication.
The director of Public Safety/Chief of Police shall be responsible for development and maintenance of this policy for issuance by the president.
Revision History: 08/27/2014
TBR Policy Reference: 4:01:05:70
Revision Date Effective: 06/01/2016
Revision Approval By: Christopher L. Whaley, President
Original Date Effective: 07/01/2013
Original Approval By: Christopher L. Whaley, President
Office Responsible: Vice President for Business & Finance
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