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ESH Manual Page: 6000: Emergency Prevention & Management

The Sanford Underground Research Facility's Crisis Communication Plan provides procedures for communicating timely and accurate information during emergencies to:

  • SURF personnel who are not directly involved in the emergency
  • Relatives of personnel affected by emergencies
  • The general public
  • Media
  • • Local institutions and agencies not directly related to emergency response

The Crisis Communication Plan complements SURF's Public Information Policy, which is a part of the SDSTA Employee Handbook . The Public Information Policy provides procedures to follow for any communication with media, community organizations and other institutions or agencies. The Crisis Communication Plan and the Public Information Policy also should be followed when communicating information about incidents that are not emergencies but involve personal injury, harm to the environment, or property or equipment damage.

This Plan has been prepared in conjunction with SURF’s Emergency Management Policy and Emergency Response Plan (ERP). The latter provides procedures for communicating with personnel affected by the emergency and with local, regional, and national emergency-response agencies. SURF's Incident Notification System (INS) provides procedures for communicating information about emergencies to senior management and funding agencies.


Executive Director, South Dakota Science, and Technology Authority (SDSTA)

  •  Formally activate the Crisis Communication Plan.
  •  Contact the family of seriously injured employees.
  •  Approve release of information to relatives of personnel affected by emergencies.
  •  Act as the sole spokesperson for SURF during emergencies or designate other spokespersons.
  •  Approve statements, press releases or other information before they are released to the media and the public.

SURF Laboratory Director

  • In the absence of the Executive Director, assume the duties outlined above.

SURF Communications Director

  • Provide advice and assistance to the Executive Director, the Laboratory Director, the Emergency Management Group, the Emergency Response Coordinator, or to theIncident Commander regarding release of information to media during emergencies.
    That assistance could include:
    • − Receiving, logging and processing media requests during emergencies
    • − Writing and sending press releases
    • − Arranging interviews or press conferences
    • − Serving as the Public Information Officer and setting up a media section in an Emergency Command Center when expansion of the Incident Command System is required
    • − Acting as a spokesperson, if so designated
    • − Providing photographs, video, graphics or other multimedia products as directed by the Executive Director or the Laboratory Director
  • Maintain an accurate, accessible, up-to-date contact list, including e-mail addresses and phone numbers for members of the media and local city governments.
  • Maintain accessible electronic and hard-copy files of background information and fact sheets about SURF, which can be distributed to media in the event of an emergency.
  • At the direction of the Executive Director or Laboratory Director, communicate information about emergencies, including press releases, to the SURF staff and to contractors, science collaborations, local communities or other groups, as directed by the Executive Director.
  • Designate a Deputy Communications Director to act in the absence of the Communications Director.
  • mergency Response Coordinator (ERC)
  • Work with the Communications Director to provide timely, accurate information about the emergency.

Other Personnel

  • Refer all inquiries about emergencies to the Communications Director or to a supervisor.


Emergency: A serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly, poses an immediate risk to life, health, property, or environment, and demands immediate action.

Formal Emergency Declaration: Reserved for emergencies that may impact the entire facility or have a negative impact on the future of the facility; made by the Laboratory Director with input from the EHS Director.

Emergency Management Group: Group that coordinates emergency and non-emergency incident response at SURF; a matrix organization coordinated through the Emergency Response Coordinator (ERC).

Incident Command System (ICS): Nationally recognized system utilized by SURF for managing emergency response.


5.1 Activation of the Plan

As defined in SURF’s Emergency Response Plan, all formal emergency declarations lead to activation of the Crisis Communication Plan. In addition, this plan can be activated at the discretion of the Executive Director or the Laboratory Director. Notifications should occur in the following order.

  1. Relatives of affected employees (Section 5.3)
  2. SURF employees and staff(Section 5.4)
  3. Media and surrounding communities (Section 5.5)

5.2 Types of Information Released

As established in the SURF Public Information Policy, all information released to the public and media must be approved by the Executive Director or the Laboratory Director. Additional requirements include:

  • The Communications Director will work with the Executive Director, the Laboratory Director, or their designees to write statements or press releases.
  • Information about emergencies will be timely and factual. Speculation should be avoided about causes, effects or other aspects of the emergency.
  • Information could include:
  • − Confirmation that an emergency exists

  • − A description of the event, including type (e.g.: fire, chemical spill, security threat, etc.)

  • − How the event happened (if verified)

  • − Where the event occurred

  • − Extent of injuries or property damage (if verified)

  • − Agencies notified

  • − Remedial action taken

• Information released will comply with confidentiality rules for SURF personnel and others involved in the emergency.

5.3 Notification to Relatives of Affected Employees

In the event that an employee is seriously injured, the Executive Director or the Laboratory Director will notify the immediate family of the injured employee. This notification should happen before any official information is released to other employees or media.

5.4 Notification to Employees and Staff

The Communications Director will notify employees not directly affected by the emergency by e-mail, phone, or word of mouth.

5.5 Notification to the Media and Surrounding Communities

Release of information to the media and surrounding communities is managed by the Communications Director at the direction of the Executive Director or the Laboratory Director. The Communications Director maintains an accurate, accessible, up-to-date media contact list, including e-mail addresses and phone numbers. In addition, the Communications Director maintains an up-to-date contact list of local city government officials who may be notified of an emergency at the discretion of the Executive Director or the Laboratory Director. Further information concerning media relations is provided in the SURF Public Information Policy.


6.1 Related Documents

  • Employee Handbook
  • Emergency Management Policy
  • Emergency Response Plan (ERP)
  • Incident Notification System