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 Marketing and Communication 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.


Information Sharing Regarding Death on Campus

In the event of a death on campus, communication is important and should be handled carefully, accurately and sensitively.

In official UAB communications, top priorities are to respect the dignity and privacy of the deceased and the family while safeguarding the security and wellbeing of our campus community. If a public statement is necessary in social or traditional media, Marketing and Communications will confirm facts and provide the appropriate statement.

If the family of the deceased has not been notified, UAB will not confirm details publicly unless extenuating circumstances make such disclosures absolutely necessary. If the family of the deceased asks that we do not disclose details (e.g., name or cause of death), we will honor the family’s wishes.

A statement may read, simply: “UAB Police confirm a student has died. No foul play is suspected. We are working with police and the student’s family to provide support. No further information is available at this time.” However, if it is believed that details would benefit the campus community, and the family approves of such disclosures, additional information may be shared.

UAB offers counseling services to students, faculty and staff. Anyone struggling with a death is encouraged to take advantage of those resources.

  1. UAB Student Counseling Services: 205-934-5816
  2. UAB Employee Assistance and Counseling Center: 205-934-2281

Threats to campus and instructions will be communicated via the B-Alert emergency notification system. Update your B-Alert profile at

We encourage the UAB community to demonstrate sensitivity in what information you may share about a death on campus by:

  1. Following the institution’s lead in the extent of information shared in social media
  2. Minimizing speculation or the spread of inaccurate information
  3. Encouraging classmates and colleagues to take advantage of counseling and support services

Learn about UAB Emergency Management and B-Alert emergency communications