Crisis Communications Plan

The President of the University has designated the Executive Director for Marketing and Communications as the official Spokesperson for the University.

The role of Marketing and Communications is to collect and convey information to both internal and external constituencies during or immediately following a crisis/emergency situation. In every crisis, the primary goal is the safety, security and well-being of students, staff, and all on or near the University campus.

The term "crisis" most frequently refers to the period immediately following a situation which has widespread interest among the local, regional, state, and national community, thus generating greater media focus and requiring the University's full attention for the duration of the situation. When a crisis occurs, decisions may have to be made without time to examine every aspect of a situation. A crisis situation is defined as any circumstance or event identified by the President as having a real or potential major impact on the campus community as a whole. Examples of such a situation include explosions, hazardous materials, a hostage or firearm situation, major accidents, inappropriate relationships, violence, unexpected deaths and natural disasters. It does not include incidents of isolated crime, which are routinely handled by the Campus Safety Department and/or Aston Township Police and/or other law enforcement agencies.


    1. Each crisis/emergency will require a unique public information response. The extent and kind of response will depend on the nature of the crisis.
    2. The person who becomes aware of the incident will report the situation to his/her unit vice president who will attempt to quickly ascertain basic details of who, what, where, when, and how, etc.; The Vice President will immediately report this information to the President.
    3. The President or Vice President for Human Resources and Risk Management will inform the appropriate vice president(s), and a plan of action is initiated.
    4. The President and the Executive Director for Marketing and Communications will quickly determine the magnitude of the incident and whether information needs to be communicated externally with the media, internally to the University, or handled confidentially because of the nature of the incident and sensitivity to the victims.
    5. During a crisis, the Marketing and Communications Department contacts will include print and broadcast media and, under the direction of the Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, the Department will serve as liaison with other campus units.
    1. General

      1. In consultation with the President and Vice President for Human Resources and Risk Management, the Executive Director for Marketing and Communications will coordinate, if needed, crisis communications with campus and off-campus media to ensure that the University's public information response to an emergency or crisis situation is prompt, accurate, sensitive and responsible.
      2. Key points of contact (Receptionist, Campus Safety personnel, administrative assistants, etc.) should have advanced instruction about to whom they should direct reporters' calls. They should be instructed not to comment on the incident, and to report inquiries immediately to the Executive Director for Marketing and Communications.
      3. The Marketing and Communications Department will - at the President's request - set up a Crisis Communications Center on campus. The Crisis Communications Center will remain open 24 hours a day for the duration of a crisis.
      4. During an emergency, the Executive Director for Marketing and Communications or designee appointed by the President (see "CERT Team") will serve as the University spokesperson.
    2. Phases of Response

      1. At the start of the incident: Take immediate action to control the problem. Grasp the circumstances and take charge; move decisively. Nothing can or should take precedence over solving a crisis.
        1. The President's Office and the University spokesperson will determine if an official statement should be prepared and released. In some cases, this may require the advice of legal counsel.
        2. Spokesperson will brief all University personnel who are assigned to answer the phone. Marketing and Communications staff members will handle all communication with media outlets.
          Telephone hot lines: Two telephones in the Office of Marketing and Communications will be designated as crisis hot-line phones with recorded messages of the latest information on the situation, one for the campus community, one for all other incoming calls. Those phone numbers will be made available to the media at the beginning of a crisis period for dissemination to the public. A staff member will be assigned to update recorded messages for hotline phones. E-mail (and/or other communication methods) will also be used to send campus wide advisories.
        3. The University spokesperson will get basic information (type of emergency/crisis; time of incident; actions taken; areas and number of people involved; fatalities, injuries and extent of damage); S/he will prepare an official statement or news release. Marketing and Communications staff members will be kept apprised of breaking news to enable them to help the Spokesperson formulate answers to media questions.
        4. The University spokesperson will verify all sources of information.
        5. The University spokesperson will clear any press release with the President's Office as quickly as possible before releasing it to the media.
        6. In cases involving employee or student injuries or deaths, families will be notified by appropriate personnel before the information is released to the public.
        7. The University spokesperson will coordinate the release of factual information to local hospitals, the police and other agencies, providing information that is as prompt, accurate and complete as possible.
      2. If the crisis incident continues, longer-term steps are needed to eliminate the cause, remove the problem and prevent a recurrence.
        The Office of Marketing and Communications staff will:
        1. Provide--via the news media--the public and constituents with basic information about an emergency or potential emergency.
        2. Keep the public, media and 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.
        3. Keep the public, media and constituents informed of where to seek temporary housing, food, etc.
        4. Instruct the public on how to obtain further advice or information.
      3. Recovery Period: The Office of Marketing and Communications will issue media updates as long as necessary, then scale back activities as warranted.
  3. Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities

    1. Organization
      1. Marketing and Communications staff members, as well as other campus units and staff members, will be called upon for assistance when necessary.
      2. The Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing or designee, appointed by the President, will supervise crisis communications with the media.
    2. Responsibilities
      1. The Office of Marketing and Communications will provide assistance for compiling and relaying official statements to print and broadcast media.
      2. Press Conferences: When a press conference is called, the Vice President for Human Resources and Risk Management and Executive Director of Marketing and Communication will attend. When deemed necessary, the President will speak at a press conference if a major crisis needs to be addressed or to provide updates on the situation. For consistency, there will be one spokesperson.

        1. Site: To be determined, depending upon the circumstances of the situation.

          Contact Person: Executive Director for Marketing and Communications (610-558-5549).
        2. Time: Must be convenient to University personnel but also timely enough for media to make their news deadlines. This is an important consideration for maintaining positive relationships with the media.
        3. Parking: A Campus Safety Officer will be assigned to allow media with credentials to park on campus.

          Contact person: Campus Safety (610-558-5555).
    3. Media Relations

      1. Interviews:
        Internal: Upon approval of the President, members of the CERT Team (see CERT Team, below) will be available for discussion related to their specific areas and may be consulted at their posts or some central location to be determined by the President and the Executive Director for Marketing and Communications.

        External: When a reporter contacts a member of the CERT Team directly, only the designated University spokesperson may respond to questions.
      2. General Observations:
        In order to encourage the media's confidence in and respect for University personnel, dealings with the media require prior approval and should always be honest and courteous. In addition, the University spokesperson's attitudes toward media reflect on the image of the University. Every effort will be made to maintain credibility with members of the media by being open and straightforward. However, all University personnel must take care not to step over legal lines or offend the parties or families of the parties involved in the incident.
    4. Campus Emergency Response Team (CERT)

      Based upon the type of crisis, certain key people will work directly with the Office of Marketing and Communications and the President's Office to facilitate dissemination of information. The CERT Team will meet in the President's office, when requested by the President/designee.

      • President- 610-558-5501 and Executive Director for Marketing and Communications – 610-558-5549
      • Vice President for University Advancement - 610-558-5512
      • Vice President for Human Resources and Risk Management - 610-558-5628
      • General Counsel – 610-358-4585
      • Vice President for Student Affairs as events pertain to student affairs – 610-361-2448.
      • Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing as events pertain to admissions and enrollment – TBD
      • Vice President for Mission and Ministry as events pertain to mission and ministry - 610-558-5510.
      • Vice President for Academic Affairs as events pertain to academic affairs - 610-558-5506.
      • Vice President for Finance and Administration - 610-558-5503.
      • Director of Campus Safety - 610-558-5584.
      • Director of Facilities- 610-361-5323.
  4. Direction and Control

    1. The President's Office will direct and approve the work of the Office of Marketing and Communications.
    2. The CERT Team will make recommendations to the President.
  5. Marketing and Communications Team Members

    1. Executive Director for Marketing and Communications, Primary (610-558-5549)
    2. Director of Publications, Secondary (610-558-5550)
    3. Director of Website Communications
  1. Constituencies and Public

Board of Trustees

Executive Administration

University Management Team






Sisters of St. Francis – Congregational Leadership

Local Community


Local Officials




General Friends

  1. Channels of Communication

Email and social media

University Website


Employee Meetings

Campus LED signs

Internal Memos


News conferences


Overnight Mail

Personal Visits

Press Releases



Town Meetings

Video News Releases