Help keep UAB safe: Report threatening behavior

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UAB operates with an eye for safety — from 100-plus accredited police officers and a fleet of patrols to more than 6,400 security cameras throughout buildings, parking decks and outdoor areas.

Yet, one of UAB’s best defenses is the timely observation of a student or employee.

Throughout the nation, campus security is top of mind because we frequently hear about threats to it. Some of these assaults are spontaneous or random acts, but others are preceded by off-kilter behaviors that presaged the danger to come.

In its 2021 analysis of 67 campus-based attacks that were thwarted, the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center concluded that school violence can be prevented when communities identify warning signs and intervene promptly. The reason: “Individuals contemplating violence often exhibit observable behaviors, and when community members report these behaviors, the next tragedy can be averted.”

You can notify BTAM anonymously using an online form or by contacting a BTAM member.

Imminent threats — such as an attempted or actual assault, explicit verbal threats or knowledge that a colleague or student possesses a weapon on UAB property — should be reported by calling 911 or the UAB Police Department at 205-934-3535.

Less-imminent threats lie in aberrant behaviors often observed — but not always noticed or reported — by people in contact with someone in crisis:

  • Radical changes in a person’s behavior, academic or workplace performance, appearance or conduct
  • Aggressive or irrational words or actions
  • Changes in demeanor or emotional control
  • Inability to control anger or confrontational or disturbing words or actions
  • Unusual overreaction to normal circumstances
  • Stalking in any form

Anyone can report these behaviors anonymously to UAB’s Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management team (BTAM), by completing an online form or contacting a BTAM member to request a threat assessment.

James Erwin, director of University Risk Management and BTAM co-chair, says it is better to err on the side of caution and pass along any concerns — even small ones. Reports to BTAM have ranged from comments made in passing to online threats and stalking.

“At such a large workplace like UAB, it can be easy to assume that another colleague or co-worker will report something suspicious or concerning, especially if it’s about someone you don’t know,” Erwin said. “However, reporting something as soon as you notice it can prevent harm or injury to someone that you do know.”

BTAM team members evaluate, analyze and assess the identified behaviors and, as appropriate, develop a case-management strategy and monitor the case. Managers or supervisors will implement its recommendations to help ensure positive outcomes for everyone in the community.