Insight into the industry

28 Sep


I sat down with Stacey Renker, the Assistant Director of Risk and Emergency Management, under the Department of Student Life at The Ohio State University in late September, just days after the dust had settled on a large scale crisis that hit the University community.  Stacey opened up with me and gave me some tremendous insight into the industry- although not directly a consultant of Crisis Communication her role within the University overlaps quiet a bit.

Stacey has been working with OSU for 13 years, and has been in her current position for 4.5 years.  I know her because she is what we refer to as the “fire panel” lady.  Stacey comes to our building to train the RA’s about the state-of-the-art fire panel and emergency management system we have and give us information on safety procedures.  My favorite part about Stacey’s visits?  She always brings candy.  Actually, she always brings chocolate, and not those little fun sized bars that are popping up all over store shelves as we dive into the Halloween season; Stacey brings full sized chocolate candy bars to pass out to those of us who can answer her (sometimes tricky) questions.

Although my 30 minute conversation with Stacey was fantastic, she did give me a few pieces of takeaway information I want to share here.  Stacey talked about the recent event on South Campus, when a water line broke and flooded the basement of a brand new residence hall called Park-Stradley.  Stacey was one of the first on the scene of the incident, and she “was the person who pulled the mother of all pull stations to evacuate the building.”  Since water and electricity don’t mix it was important to get all of the residents of the building out and away from the building.

Stacey detailed the events that happened over the next few hours including flying her supervisor back from a business trip because she was to be the face of the media coverage, conference calls with “too many” important people on them that she needed to thin the heard, so to speak, and much more.  Stacey says she blew through her iPhone battery in just a few hours, but she also explained that it is invaluable part of how the reaction to the crisis went so well: everything she needed was right there.  She could send pictures of the damages, she had every phone number of every person she may need to contact stored away, she could check breaking news stories to make sure coverage was accurate.  We all love our technology, but I have met very few people who are as big of a fan of their iPhone as Stacey is.

Stacey says that her colleagues “all kind of know the hallmarks of good crisis communication: being visible, being composed, being vocal and being resilient.”  This is important because even though there was one person who was the face for the media, many people were involved and talking with external publics.  Stacey says that it was important to cover all groups involved, especially parents and family members.  Stacey isn’t one to mix words, and she put it all out on the table: “if you don’t communicate with the parents, keep parents in the loop you spend all your time dealing with them.”

My lunchtime interview with Stacey was great, and I want to thank her for being so open and honest with me and for taking the time to sit down with me.


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