Appropriate and Responsible Employee Social Media Communication in an Emergency

While people often feel sharing information is helpful in an emergency situation, UAB employees need to consider ethical, legal, policy and other issues regarding UAB-related social media and other communications. Communication related emergencies need to be handled carefully, accurately, sensitively and through the appropriate channels.

  • The UAB Police Department and University Relations are approved communicators during an emergency affecting UAB. If a public statement is necessary in social or traditional media, they will confirm facts and provide the appropriate statement.
  • Employees can share official communications but should not post/share information that has not been vetted and approved through proper channels.
  • Employees should recognize that their communications (e.g., original statements, shares, reactions, etc.) about UAB carry an implication of official information, and can therefore have unintended consequences.   
    • Many employees act as ambassadors in social media for UAB and are known UAB employees. Even if an employee does not identify themselves as a UAB employee – either on their profile or in posts – he or she may be a known UAB employee to recipients of a message.
  • Communicating during an emergency – whether the information is accurate, inaccurate or couched as speculation – can have serious consequences for the individual and/or the institution. 
    • Accurate and inaccurate information alike can impede a police or institutional investigation and/or violate federal privacy laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
    • The sharing of information and details of an emergency can also be psychologically damaging to those most closely involved, who often request a level of privacy that should be respected. Because employees may not be aware of requests or sensitivities, they are encouraged to follow the institution’s lead in what information is shared or not shared.
  • If you have information regarding an emergency of which you believe officials are unaware, contact your supervisor.
  • If you are asked to share information about an emergency situation, we recommend you state that you are not the appropriate person to address that question/inquiry, and refer the individual to University Relations and/or the UAB Police Department.

Learn about UAB Emergency Management and B-Alert emergency communications