H1N1 and crisis communications preparedness

If there’s one silver lining in the H1N1 influenza hype cloud, it could be this: All of the attention is giving campus crisis communications teams an opportunity to review their planning measures.

For the most part, campus crisis communications is a reactive sort of exercise. Something bad happens, and we react to it. We put out the fires as they pop up.

But the H1N1 situation hasn’t been like that for most of us.

For most campuses, H1N1 is a gathering storm on the horizon. We’re getting the opportunity to watch it form, and in the process we’re getting a chance to review our crisis communications plans in order to be best prepared if (or when) the virus hits our communities.

That’s what we’re doing, right? Reviewing our plans, meeting with other team members, coordinating with the campus health services and emergency response staff, keeping the campus community informed of preventative measures and, if we’re fortunate enough to have a pandemic response plan for our campus, reviewing that document as well.

Like Dennis Miller, I have mixed feelings about all the media coverage of this strain of influenza. After all, some 30,000 people in the U.S. die from the flu every year. But we’re not going to take any chances. Plus, maybe the heightened awareness will lead people to do what they should always do to reduce the risk of catching a flu bug.

So, yes, we’re using this time of gathering storm clouds to get our act together to effectively communicate as much as necessary.

Here are a couple of new resources to help us out:

  • When to call a flu day, from Inside Higher Ed, discusses how campuses are and should respond to the threat. Quotes one expert who thinks campuses may be overreacting, but adds that these responses are “a natural reaction for colleges to want ‘to appear to be doing something, to appease fears. Universities have a lot to take into account, not just spread of disease, but also making sure that parents know that their children are being taken care of. And college students are in fact seen by their parents as children.'”
  • The official CDC social media toolkit for H1N1 communications, via Mashable. The CDC has fully embraced social media during this situation. Let’s hope we do, too.

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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