The launch of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Rave Guardian safety app and continued emergency notification upgrades — two of many recommendations outlined in the action plan of the UAB Safety Task Force finalized during the spring 2015 semester following input and feedback from students, faculty, staff and outside experts — highlight the latest actions taken as a result of the thorough campus safety review.
“Our highest priority is the safety of our students, faculty, staff, patients and guests,” said Chief Anthony Purcell of the UAB Police Department. “Our accredited police department trains regularly and works closely with the UAB and Birmingham communities to stay at the forefront of law enforcement excellence in a diverse environment of higher education, health care, and arts and entertainment.”
In late summer of 2014, UAB President Ray L. Watts initiated a review of the institution’s on-campus threat preparedness that would enlist outside consultants. An October assault and robbery in an on-campus parking deck accelerated that initiative; following immediate actions including campus-wide communications, increased UAB Police Department patrols, and extended hours for campus escorts and shuttles, the administration assembled a Safety Task Force.
That group of UAB and external constituents conducted a comprehensive survey of facility features, existing safety support services and education programs, as well as institutional practices and procedures intended to create and sustain a safe environment. Faculty and student leaders participated in the process, and the entire student body was encouraged to read the task force’s draft report and provide suggestions and questions.
“Broad input was imperative in these efforts, and I thank everyone who contributed to what became a robust assessment and action plan,” said Vice President Allen Bolton, who chaired the task force. “Students and parents, faculty and staff, and community partners, thank you. We continue to implement and build on the actions outlined in the report and will continue to invest in these and other safety initiatives as we strive for a crime-free campus.”
In conducting its assessment and developing its action plan, the task force studied best practices and considered strategies used by peer universities. The group also reviewed UAB crime statistics and took into account a safety study conducted by the Assessment Unit of the School of Public Health, which demonstrated that the perception of crime on campus considerably outweighs actual crime. Safety on the UAB campus compares favorably to other universities, particularly regional institutions in or near urban settings, including peer universities like Tulane, Houston, Emory, Vanderbilt and Memphis.
The full Safety Task Force report and action plan is posted on the UAB Emergency Management website. It addresses communication and education, facilities, safety services, specific student concerns, and other safety topics like pedestrian safety. Key recommendations in different phases of implementation — in place, in process, in planning stages or under feasibility review — include:
- Permanently increase UABPD patrols by plain-clothed and uniformed officers
- Update B-Alert emergency messaging protocol and tools to increase speed and accuracy
- Improve parking structures to enhance safety
- Launch a free, university-sponsored smartphone application, Rave Guardian
- Increase transportation options through Blazer Express and Safety Escort Service
- Improve communication protocols and expectations with external agencies like Crimestoppers
- Expand communication and safety education for students and employees, and train additional UABPD officers to conduct safety education like Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) Programs
- Review campus facilities for potential expanded lockdown of UAB buildings
- Work with community partners to improve campus lighting
- Build a more robust on-campus surveillance camera network — now with more than 2,800 cameras on campus
- Partner with appropriate stakeholders on neighborhood revitalization efforts
- Revise communication protocols for incident management
Specifics of many safety initiatives implemented — details of UABPD patrols, locations and operations of cameras — cannot be shared publicly for security reasons; but initiatives that can be shared will be included in communications to the UAB community.
UAB Executive Director of UAB Emergency Management Randy Pewitt says this process does not end with this report and action plan, or with the initiatives implemented to date, and he hopes students, faculty and staff will be active in learning about what UAB and UABPD are doing, as well as what they themselves can do.
“Awareness is vital to maintaining a safe campus, and we encourage the UAB community to share our responsibility for safety by taking full advantage of available resources,” Pewitt said. “Read the task force report, download the free RAVE Guardian safety app, call for on-campus safety escorts and use Blazer Express, take advantage of UABPD education and safety programs, and update your B-Alert emergency notification profile. If students, faculty and staff read their campus communications like the eReporter and Greenmail electronic newsletters, they can stay aware of important updates and resources.”