The Extremist Risk Intervention Scale

The Extremist Risk Intervention Scale (ERIS) is a practical scoring tool useful for those on Behavioral Intervention Teams, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism teams to assess and intervene with extremist and terrorist violence. The tool looks at the interplay between risk and protective elements. Risk Elements are individual experiences, behaviors, attitudes, and environment that increase vulnerability to extremism and risk of violent action.  Protective elements are individual experiences, behaviors, attitudes, and environment that decrease vulnerability to extremism and protect against risk of violent action. Once these are assessed, the ERIS then looks at mobilization factors, which are behaviors, experiences, and attitudes indicating a risk of mobilization toward violent action.

The ERIS is based on research conducted by Dr. Van Brunt and Dr. Murphy following several attacks that appeared to be motivated by an individual feeling justified to take violent action based on their religious, political or social justice ideology. To learn more about the research behind the ERIS, please review An Exploration of the Risk, Protective, and Mobilization Factors Related to Violent Extremism in College Populations. To learn more about the scoring, please review the following information sheet.

Risk Elements

  1. Free Falling: Experience of bleakness
  2. Outsider: Experience of discrimination and societal disengagement
  3. Roadblocks: Obstacles to goals
  4. Hardened Warrior: Development of hardened point of view and justification for violent action
  5. Dangerous Belonging: Seeking reassuring group affiliation with polarizing, extremist ideologies

Protective Elements

  1. Firm Foundation: Experience of environmental/emotional stability
  2. Safe Spaces: Experience of social health and connection
  3. Open Roads: Access to non-violent outlets
  4. Otherness: Development of empathy and inclusivity
  5. Critical Awareness: Seeking positive social or individual action

Mobilization Factors

  1. Direct threat
  2. Reactivity
  3. Escalation to action
  4. Catalyst event(s)
  5. Suicide
  6. Group pressure or rejection
  7. Acquisition of lethal means
  8. Narrowing on target
  9. Leakage
  10. Fantasy rehearsal and preparation for attack

Frequently Asked Questions About the ERIS

Why would a BIT use the ERIS?

  • To understand elements of risk associated with vulnerability for radicalization toward extremism and violence.
  • To enhance a structured interview process with specific information important to understanding ideological-based violence risks.
  • To objectively measure the risks associated with BIT cases including political, religious, or social justice ideological ties.
  • To select interventions related to protective elements that decrease vulnerability to extremism.
  • To recognize indicators of mobilization toward violent extremism. 

Is the ERIS a psychological test that can predict the next terrorist attack?

No. The ERIS is an informal, structured set of items for those who work in higher education to use with individuals who may pose a risk or threat to the community. The ERIS is not designed as a psychological test and it is not designed to assess suicidal students.

The ideal approach to violence risk assessment is found in utilizing an individual trained and experienced in violence risk assessment to interview the subject. Since these individuals are difficult to find, the ERIS serves as a starting place for BIT members to conduct a more standardized, research-based violence risk assessment with individuals determined to be at an increased risk.

While risk and threat assessment cannot be predictive, multiple agencies (FBI, Secret Service, Department of Education, US Post Office, ASIS International, the Society for Human Resource Management, and ASME-ITI) have suggested risk factors to attend to when determining the potential danger an individual may represent. Several prominent experts in campus violence and workplace threat assessment have also recommended key considerations salient when assessing risk and threat (Meloy, 2000; Turner & Gelles, 2003; Deisinger, Randazzo, O’Neill & Savage, 2008; Meloy, Hoffmann, Guldimann, & James, 2011).

Building on this research, the ERIS provides the user a score of based on the interplay between the risk and protective elements; as well as the mobilization factor. The ERIS will help those assessing violence risks to organize their thoughts and perceptions in a standardized manner and bring the current literature to the task of evaluating an at-risk individual.

Who can administer the ERIS?

Those who complete the ERIS training can administer the ERIS (see below for more information). The ERIS is designed to help assessors better understanding the hardened point of view of those with religious, political or social justice ideologies who feel justified acting violently.  It can be used by residential life staff (such as hall directors and executive housing directors), campus police, conduct officers, counselors, and psychologists, student affairs administrators, and anyone connected with the campus student of concern or Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT).

Unlike other psychological tests focused on threat and danger to others, the ERIS is designed with non-clinical language and can be completed accurately by those without psychological or forensic training.

Do I have the individual fill out the ERIS?

No, the ERIS is a template used to better understand written narratives that have concerning or threatening content. Staff to gather information to answer each of the data items, which can be scored with the ERIS process.  As with any assessment of threat, information should be verified by staff (e.g. access to weapons, mental health problems, past criminal history) through additional interviews or record reviews (e.g. by talking to police, residential life staff, parents, and those who know the individual).

The ERIS can be administered without the subject individual present based on case history data. As with any administration of the ERIS, the results are only as accurate as the data entered into the online interface. If the person conducting the interview does not know the answer to the question, this will reduce the accuracy of the results.

How is the ERIS administered?

The ERIS template should be used to assess the individual, it can be supplemented with the SIVRA-35.

Remember, there is no set of risk factors or list of concerning behaviors that can predict a future violent event. ERIS is a useful reference tool when conducting a structured interview during a violence risk assessment. Ideally, the ERIS should take place after the staff has reviewed incident reports, available documents related to conduct in the educational setting and in the immediate community, and any other information that has led to the initial concern. Any violence risk assessment involves static and dynamic risk factors, contextual and environmental elements, and mitigating factors. There is no current tool or computer model that can accurately predict future violent behavior, and no tool is ever a substitute for professional expertise. Therefore, the use of structured professional judgment in combination with documentation and consultation with trusted colleagues is the current best practice.

While the ERIS primarily assists those conducting violence risk assessments through narrative, structured questions, there is a quantitative, numeric scoring key to further assist staff in their decision-making.

How do we receive results?

After answering the template, users build their own scoring system that outlines the individual’s risk (low, moderate, high), and contains relevant research articles to support specific concerns identified by the data.

How do I become trained to use the ERIS?

Administering the ERIS ideally requires the completion of a training course. ERIS training is offered as part of NaBITA’s Certification Courses, as well as during the annual NaBITA conference in November. The training involves a review of the risk elements, protective elements and mobilization factor as well as a discussion of several case studies.

How is the validity and reliability of the ERIS determined?

The ERIS is not intended to be a psychological test and is not created to compete with existing measures that are subject to a more detailed research review such as the Workplace Assessment of Violence Risk (WAVR-21), Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts (FAVT), or the Historical, Clinical, Risk Management (HCR-20). The ERIS is a structured template designed to help BIT staff apply existing research in the area of threat assessment to improve the accuracy of their assessment and subsequent conduct/treatment decisions with at-risk individuals.

The ERIS is based on the latest research in the field of threat assessment to ensure that each of the factors are well supported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Secret Service, Department of Education, U.S. Post Office, Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), Risk Assessment Guideline Elements for Violence (RAGE-V), and the research of leaders in the threat assessment field such as Voss, Meloy, O’Toole, Turner and Gelles. As new cases of violence occur (Parkland, Las Vegas, Southerland), the ERIS items are updated to reflect new research and findings.