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ESH Manual Page: 6000: Emergency Prevention & Management
Rev. 01

1.0 Purpose

1.1. The purpose of the Crisis Communications Standard is to lead communications during a crisis or emergency situation. The South Dakota Science and Technology Authority’s (SDSTA) ESH-(6000-S)-185207 Emergency Management Standard provides the framework to establish management strategies that ensure personnel are trained and equipped in reporting and response procedures. This plan focuses on communication during an emergency and/or crisis that may or may not involve the activation of the Incident Command System (ICS).

1.2. All media inquiries shall be directed to the Communications Director. The SDSTA Executive Director/SURF Laboratory Director and Communications Director will serve as spokespersons for SDSTA. All written or verbal information must be approved by the Laboratory Director before being released to the public, media or other stakeholders.

2.0 Scope

This standard is applicable to all crises or emergencies that may occur at Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF).

3.0 Definitions

All Clear: The term used to communicate that an emergency has been terminated.  It does not represent a Release to Normal Operations.

Command Staff: The staff who report directly to the Incident Commander, including the Public Information Officer, Safety Officer, Liaison Officer, and other positions as required.  They may have an assistant or assistants, as needed.

Crisis: An event that occurs unexpectedly, may not be in SURF’s control and, if left unaddressed, could damage the lab’s reputation or viability. A failure to act could have significant consequences, including financial damage and damage to reputation.

Drill/Exercise: A type of operations-based practice that is a coordinated, supervised activity usually employed to test a single specific operation or function in a single agency. They are commonly used to provide training on new equipment, develop or test new policies or procedures, or practice and maintain current skills.

Drill/Exercise Debrief: A facilitated discussion held immediately following a drill/exercise among participants from each functional area that is designed to capture feedback about any issues, concerns, or proposed improvements participants may have about the drill/exercise.  The debrief is an opportunity for all affected personnel to voice their opinions on the drill/exercise and their own performance. 

Duty Officer: An SDSTA individual who is knowledgeable in the facility operations and is assigned to serve as the initial point of contact in managing facility emergencies.

Emergency: A serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly, poses an immediate risk to life, health, property, or environment, and demands immediate action from either internal staff or outside assistance (fire, police, or ambulance).

Emergency Operations Center (EOC): A physical location from which coordination and support of incident management activities are directed.

Evacuation: The organized, phased, and supervised withdrawal, dispersal or removal of personnel from dangerous or potentially dangerous areas.

Incident Commander (IC): The person responsible for all aspects of an emergency response; including quickly developing incident objectives, managing all incident operations, application of resources as well as responsibility for all persons involved.

Incident Command System (ICS): A standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response providing a common hierarchy within which responders from multiple agencies can be effective.

Incident Command Post (ICP): Is located at or in the immediate vicinity of the incident site and is the focus for the conduct of direct, on-scene control of tactical operations.

Public Information Officer (PIO): A member of the Command Staff who serves as the conduit for information to internal and external stakeholders, including the media or other organizations seeking information directly from the incident or event.

Release to Normal Operations: Provides defined work activities that may resume post emergency. 

Recovery phase: Returns affected areas back to normal operations. The recovery phase is managed by the IC/Duty Officer with assistance from the ESH Department.

Stakeholder: Anyone who may be affected personally or professionally by a crisis or emergency.

4.0 Responsibilities

4.1.   SDSTA Executive Director/SDSTA Executive Director/SURF Laboratory Director

4.1.1. Ensures all direct reports are familiar with the contents of this Standard.

4.1.2. Serves as primary spokesperson during an emergency or crisis; designates additional spokespersons.

4.1.3. Approves internal and external communications regarding the emergency.

4.1.4. Approves termination of the crisis/emergency.

4.2.   Environment, Safety and Health Director

4.2.1. Communicates drill/exercise plans to the executive leadership at least two weeks in advance of the drill/exercise.

4.2.2. Provides input to ERT Supervisor for plans related to drills/exercises.

4.2.3 Works with Communications Director to approve communications-related activities in specific areas.

4.3.   Communications Director

4.3.1. Serves as the PIO during a crisis or emergency.

4.3.2. Serves as a spokesperson during any crisis or emergency.

4.3.3. Provides advice and assistance to the SDSTA Executive Director/SURF Laboratory Director, the Duty Officer or the Incident Commander regarding release of information to media during emergencies. That assistance could include:

  • Writes and distributes internal and external messages as approved by the Incident Commander. Distribution channels may include emails, press releases, social media posts and website updates.
  • Arranges interviews or press conferences.
  • Manage media staging area.
  • Provides photographs, video, graphics or other multimedia products.

4.3.4. Develops and maintains key talking points and messages for use in crisis or emergency situations.

4.3.5. Maintains an accurate, accessible, up-to-date contact list, including e-mail addresses and phone numbers for members of the media and local city governments.

4.3.6. Maintains accessible electronic and hard-copy files of background information and fact sheets about SURF and/or the SDSTA that can be distributed to media in the event of an emergency.

4.3.7. Communicates information to SDSTA staff, internal/external stakeholders, contractors, science collaborations, local communities or other stakeholders, as directed by the SDSTA Executive Director/SURF Laboratory Director.

4.3.8. Identifies subject-matter experts, depending on the emergency.

4.3.9. Ensures Command Staff role is understood and fulfilled by designee in the absence of the Communications Director.

4.3.10. Works with the Duty Officer/IC to develop “Release to Normal Operations” and “All Clear” messages to be sent to employees, contractors and other stakeholders.

4.3.11. Establishes roles and responsibilities for Communication Support Staff.

4.4. Communications Department

4.4.1. Supports the SDSTA Executive Director/SURF Laboratory Director and the Communications Director in collecting, developing and disseminating accurate and timely crisis-related information.

4.4.2 Monitors and tracks social media, news media and general public inquiries and responses to the Crisis/Emergency.

5.0 Instructions

The identification and understanding of potential risks to the SDSTA and SURF are critical to successful crisis response and management. The identification and categorization of incidents helps the crisis communication team determine which stakeholders would be most likely affected and which methods of communication would be most effective.

  • The Communications Director, under the direction of the SDSTA Executive Director/SURF Laboratory Director, will activate this Standard.
  • The Communications Director will assemble communications support staff.
  • Identify any third-party Public Information Officers who will be involved in the emergency.
  • The Communications Director will develop and release communications as directed by the Laboratory Director.

5.1.   Organizational Structure for Crisis Communications During an Emergency

5.1.1. The Communications Director serves as the Public Information Officer and is a member of the Command Staff, as outlined in ESH-(6000-S)-185207 Emergency Management Standard.

5.1.2. The SDSTA Executive Director/SURF Laboratory Director, or designee, serves as the primary spokesperson during an emergency.

5.1.3. All information must be factual and timely and must be approved by the IC before it is released to staff, the public or the media. Information may be shared through press releases, social media channels, the SURF website, email and word of mouth. A crisis may not require activation of the Incident Command Center.

5.1.4. Types of information that may be released to the media:

  • Confirmation that a crisis or an emergency exists.
  • A description of the event.
  • How the event happened.
  • Where the event occurred.
  • Injuries or property damages.
  • Agencies notified.
  • Actions taken to mitigate the emergency.

5.1.5. Types of information that shall not be released to the media:

  • Identity of personnel involved in a crisis/emergency.
  • Pending litigation.
  • Details related to site security.
  • Confidential information.

5.1.6. Notification to relatives

  • In the event an employee is injured, the SDSTA Executive Director (or Incident Commander) will notify the immediate family before any information is released to other employees, the public or the media.

5.1.7. Notification to employees

  • In consultation with the Incident Commander, the Public Information Officer will notify employees not directly affected by the incident through email, or telephone.

5.1.8. Notification to the media and surrounding communities

  • Release of information to the media and surrounding communities is managed by the Public Information Officer at the discretion of the Incident Commander. Further information about media relations is provided in the Public Information Policy and Procedure.

5.2.   Emergency Instructions

SDSTA has identified three categories of emergencies: Localized emergencies, site-wide emergencies and regional emergencies as outlined in the ESH-(6000-S)-185207 Emergency Management Standard.

5.2.1. Localized emergencies are minor emergencies that can be quickly resolved with existing resources or limited outside help. They may be coordinated by the Duty Officer. Such emergencies have little or no impact to personnel or normal operations outside of the affected area. Localized emergencies typically do not require activation of the EOC. The PIO. Examples may include:

  • Small chemical spills
  • Natural gas odor
  • Smoke
  • Localized power failure
  • Plumbing or water leak
  • Fire, ambulance or police calls
  • High carbon monoxide (CO) or oxygen deficiency (ODH) alarms underground
  • Precautionary evacuations due to severe weather events

5.2.2. Site-wide emergencies include a major crisis or potential threat that impacts a sizable portion of the facility, or the entire facility. They may require activation of the EOC. The Duty Officer will determine if transition to the ICS structure is required. Examples of site-wide emergencies may include:

  • Large-scale fire on the surface or underground
  • Substantial damage to infrastructure
  • Extensive or power utility outage
  • Active shooter
  • Significant hazardous material release
  • Fatalities
  • External emergency that may impact SURF
  • Cyber attacks

5.2.3. Regional emergencies involve a major disaster or imminent threat that causes the SDSTA or SURF to reduce or suspend operations. The effects of such emergencies are wide-ranging and complex. A timely resolution requires broad cooperation and extensive coordination with external agencies and jurisdictions. The PIO may be asked to work with multiple agency PIOs to coordinate media relations. Examples of a regional emergency by include:

  • Multi-structure fire
  • Major explosion
  • Major hazardous material release
  • Terrorism activities

5.3.   Non-emergency Instructions

5.3.1. In some cases, the SDSTA could face legal or moral culpability, and stakeholders, the media and the public could negatively judge the lab’s response to the crisis. A failure to act could have significant consequences, including financial damage and damage to reputation.

5.3.2. Non-emergency categories may include:   

  • Activities that negatively impact the community.
    • Project activity that creates environmental concerns.
    • Neighbor concerns and complaints.
  • Negative comments about SDSTA and/or SURF based on rumors.
    • Lack of transparency by projects affiliated with SURF.
  • Negative perception by the press.
  • SDSTA or SURF not responding in a timely manner to inquiries.
  • The behavior of SDSTA Board members or SDSTA employees.
    • Derogatory statements made on personal social media pages or in public settings.
    • Inappropriate or perceived inappropriate personal behavior by stakeholders.
    • Financial malfeasance, robbery/theft, assault.

5.3.3. Responding to the Crisis.

  • The Communications Director will work with SDSTA management to develop responses to and messaging for a crisis. All messages should communicate technical details clearly, avoid jargon and acronyms and have visuals available if possible.
    • Ensure timely flow of accurate, transparent information to stakeholders including executive management, Board Members and staff.
    • Mitigate potential damage to SDSTA and/or SURF.
    • Lessen or eliminate SDSTA’s or SURF’s loss of reputation.
    • Respond promptly and accurately to stakeholder/media inquiries.

5.3.4. Final Report and Record Preservation

  • A final report shall be generated for all crises/emergencies. The report shall be generated by the Duty Officer/IC, ERT Lead and ESH Director. Where applicable, the Communications Director shall work with the SDSTA Executive Director/SURF Laboratory Director to ensure all communications with news media and the public are logged and reported.
  • Following an emergency, the Communications Director shall assess the situation and compile information about the crisis/emergency to determine what will be released to stakeholders. Things to consider:
    • Facts should be released as soon as the information is confirmed. Updates should be frequent.
    • Anticipate stakeholder information needs.
  • Explain to stakeholders what the organization is doing to control the situation and restore order. Be transparent about the process and what can be expected.

5.4.   Procedures Following a Crisis/Non-emergency

5.4.1. Do an assessment of communications during the incident.

5.4.2. Follow up on all media coverage and feedback; respond where needed.

5.4.3. Maintain records.

5.5.   Emergency drills/exercises

The SDSTA employs drills and exercises to prepare and train for emergency situations. Emergency drills and exercises require the participation of the Communications Department.

5.5.1. The Communications Department participates in drills/exercises to better understand and prepare for potential emergencies.

5.5.2. The Communications Department practices media relations skills and responses based on the drill/exercise and formulates appropriate messaging.

5.5.3. The Communications Department participates in in the assessment process and updates responses based upon findings and observations.

5.6.   Crisis Communications Training

5.6.1. All employees, contractors, science users, and visitors of SURF will receive basic emergency response training during orientation. 

5.6.2. All SDSTA employees are required to complete the ICS-100 course.

5.6.3. Personnel assigned to the EOC will receive training appropriate to the level of their expected involvement. At a minimum, these personnel will receive training in accordance with the ESH-(6000-S)- 185207 Emergency Management Standard.

6.0  Documented Information/Related Document

6.1. ESH-(6000-S)- 185207 Emergency Management Standard

6.2. Public Information Policy and Procedure

6.3. Social Media Policy and Procedures.