In an Emergency

Media attention during an emergency can be extremely intrusive. But remember that the public will know virtually nothing but what they are told by the press, so it is imperative that the media be dealt with efficiently and effectively.

During an emergency, such as a fire or toxic spill, public information officers are called in to help staff the emergency services command post. Their job is to collect, coordinate and disseminate verified information to the news media.

It's a fact of life, however, that reporters don't just station themselves at the command post to await official information. They'll interview bystanders, seek out other administrators for comment or call faculty and students who may be involved in or affected by the emergency.

A few things to remember during an emergency:

  • Refer reporters to public information officers who are working with emergency personnel. They can contact campus police or another emergency services agencies, such as the city of Irvine Police Department, if necessary for information on contacting a command post.
  • Concern for people will come first to emergency personnel and should come first to all those who comment on a particular incident.
  • Don't deny the obvious by trying to minimize what is a serious disaster or tragedy.
  • Do not speculate or place blame. A reporter might tell you, "I heard the fire was caused by an explosion in your laboratory." Don't speculate on what chemicals could have started the fire; remind the reporter that they will have to get this kind of information from the command post.
  • Don't forget that privacy regulations applyduring disasters and other incidents. For example, a student's arrest doesn't give you freedom to discuss disciplinary actions you may have initiated against the student in the past.