Simply defined, a “crisis” is a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention.

Crises may arise because of physical damage to life or property, or they may cause symbolic damage by undoing years of reputation-building. Crises can be expensive both financially and operationally: They can cost money to repair; dissuade current and future students, faculty, staff and donors from engaging; permanently tarnish reputations and — in extreme situations — bring down a project or organization.

The best way to mitigate a crisis is to prepare for it and respond strategically.

With numerous programs, facilities, field sites and activities, all units at the College of the Environment should know when to contact the Dean’s Office, so that they can access resources, messaging guidance, logistics and personnel support to help you weather the storm.

When needed, call 911/emergency services first. Then contact the crisis response team in the event of:

Physical damage to people or property:

  • Serious injuries or deaths during College/unit activities on- or off-campus, including fieldwork, lab work, events, etc.
  • Injuries or deaths that occur on College/unit property or as part of unit-affiliated activities, even if the people involved are not affiliated with the University in any way
  • Serious injury or death of individuals who are prominent College leaders or volunteers
  • A natural disaster resulting in loss of life, personal injury and/or damage or destruction of
  • College/unit property or property being used as part of unit-affiliated activities
  • Damage to facilities, property or the natural environment caused by College-affiliated groups or individuals, whether on- or off-campus, including fieldwork, lab work, pilot programs, etc.
  • Threats, acts or attempted acts of vandalism or violence committed by College-affiliated individuals or groups and/or that pose risks to people or property at College sites

Damage to reputation or community:

  • Missing persons/people who become lost during College/unit activities such as fieldwork
  • Hate speech, acts of intimidation, threats to individuals or similar issues
  • Official complaints of serious misconduct, including sexual assault or harassment, racism, bullying, hostile work environment, theft
    • **Any complaints about violence, harassment, sexual misconduct or safety concerns must be directed to SafeCampus immediately**
  • Research misconduct
  • Inappropriate comments in-person or on social media from College-affiliated people
  • Threats of reputational harm from third parties, including, but not limited to activists, NGOs, and elected or appointed officials
  • Media inquiries about the above issues, even when they are unfounded (e.g. news reports about inappropriate use of funds, or reactions to controversial research)
  • An issue arising from a College or unit’s response, or lack of response, to an event

College of the Environment Dean’s Office crisis response tree and contacts

  • If needed, call 911 (in the U.S.) and take steps to protect life and property.
  • When the situation involves a complaint of serious misconduct, put the victim(s) in contact with SafeCampus immediately.
  • Call Maya Tolstoy or Stephanie Harrington to notify them of the crisis. Use their mobile phones in the off-hours.
    1. If you’re in doubt about whether a situation constitutes a “crisis event,” please notify Maya or Stephanie anyway.
    2. Stephanie and Maya will take the lead on contacting any additional central UW resources and also help assess the situation, notify other responsible parties and plan any needed response.
  • Refer all reporter inquiries to the College media contact:
    1. Available 24/7 for media issues: Will Shenton: 860-748-2863 (c) or 206-616-5727 (w)
    2. Backup media contact: John Meyer: 206-715-9250 (c) or 206-685-8213 (w)
  • Remain available by cell at all times until the situation is resolved. Update Maya or Stephanie with any new developments as they happen.
  • Please identify a backup unit contact in the case of extended travel or absence and notify the dean’s office of your delegation of authority in advance.
  • If applicable, report the incident on UW’s Online Accident Reporting System (OARS) within 24 hours.

Reminder: All UW communications involving university business, including emails and calls, are subject to public records requests.

Dean's Office Contact: