UWPD texts students, staff during emergency situations

WiscAlerts notify campus community of downtown robbery, shooting incident

Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:50:59 AM CST   Updated On: Sep 19 2013 08:55:58 PM CDT

Things on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus have returned to normal after some very tense moments Wednesday night.

"I got home and my roommate told me there was a shooter on campus," said UW student Jackie Janisko.

UW junior Nick Brice said he also heard about the situation that unfolded.

"It was kind of scary. I have a lot of friends who live over there so it's weird to think that's going on right here on our campus,” said Brice.

Police said two 17-year-olds took a backpack from a 19-year-old at gunpoint. A shot was also fired. Detectives said the armed robbery was not random.

UW police were able to send information about the robbers’ description and the search directly to those on campus. They said relaying information to the community is critical in an emergency and the department plans to expand those efforts.

"It was very beneficial. Then I just stayed in my apartment. I didn't go to the library last night," said UW junior Elliott Domask.

Between the initial call, which came in around 6:30 p.m., and the arrests, including one on Observatory Drive, UW police sent five alerts.

UW Police spokesman Marc Lovicott said a WiscAlert is reserved for an active emergency on campus.

"When people get a WiscAlert, that means it's serious. That means we want them to pay attention. A WiscAlert is the highest level of communication we have safety-wise,” said Lovicott.

"I saw a Twitter post. I didn’t have WiscAlerts at the time, but now I do," said Brice.

WiscAlerts are only sent to students and staff, but are visible on the police department's social media pages.

About 97,000 people in the campus community already subscribe to WiscAlerts, the UW police emergency notification system. Now police want to get more eyes on those messages by encouraging students to give them their cellphone numbers.

Right now, students have to sign up for the cellphone text alerts online, but UWPD hopes to sign all students up automatically next year.

"We felt this was a successful implementation of the WiscAlert system. We want to get people information. We got it out there. We wish more people would sign up for the text alerts and that's why we're moving to an opt-out system next year," said Lovicott.

UWPD has used the WiscAlert system since 2008 and this is only the third time the department has used it this year.