Freakfest: How to Stay Informed and Safe This Weekend

The UW-Madison Police Department (UWPD) is committed to working with our campus partners and the City of Madison Police Department (MPD) to best meet the needs of students living off-campus in the downtown area.  We remain open to feedback and the exchange of ideas as we work with stakeholders, residents, and student organizations in adjacent off-campus areas to ensure consistent, effective, and community-based problem-solving police services.  This includes continued collaboration around specific strategies to address issues, concerns, and data outlined in the Association of American Universities (AAU) Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct Report as well as the UHS The Color of Drinking exploratory study. We will be sharing further information over the next couple of weeks on UWPD efforts underway to bolster our engagement, visibility, enforcement, and collaboration with MPD in high student density areas just off-campus, so stay tuned!

This Saturday, the City of Madison, State Street, and the UW-Madison campus area will welcome thousands of visitors, guests, and Halloween enthusiasts to Freakfest.  We look forward to working with our campus, community, and law enforcement partners to ensure a safe, enjoyable weekend for everyone!

In preparation for this festive event, the UW-Madison Police Department wants to share and remind our campus community of a few tips, programs, and initiatives we utilize to share information and help keep our students and campus community members safe:

  • WiscAlerts: WiscAlerts is the name for UW-Madison’s emergency notification system. The system is designed to provide information about an active emergency situation on campus that requires the community to take immediate action in order to stay safe.  WiscAlerts are sent by text message, email, and phone to campus community members to warn and inform the campus of an active, emergency situation on campus.UW–Madison students, faculty, and staff can sign up to receive text messages in the event of an emergency. Signing up is simple and takes just a few moments. Enroll online for WiscAlerts. You can add up to two cell phone numbers per user. Only those affiliated with UW-Madison (students, faculty, staff, etc.) may sign up for WiscAlerts. However, the WiscAlerts system allows each user (student, faculty, or staff) to have two cell phone numbers in the system.
  • Off-Campus Alerts: These alerts are a supplement to WiscAlerts, which are emergency notifications about dangerous incidents actively happening on the UW-Madison campus. The key difference is that Off-Campus Alerts (OCAs) will alert our community about significant threats in certain areas OFF the UW-Madison campus – in areas where a large number of our students live or frequently visit. Click here to view a map of our Off-Campus Alerts zone. Unlike WiscAlerts, Off-Campus Alerts are opt-in – meaning you must sign-up to receive the alert. UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff can simply log-in to their WiscAlert settings at and select the Off-Campus Alerts checkbox. Significant crimes and/or emergencies that happen within a certain geographical area, just off campus, will initiate an OCA and users will receive an email and text with information. Because OCAs deal with incidents outside of UWPD’s jurisdiction, we can only issue an alert when we become aware of the incident and have verified the information. Therefore, Off-Campus Alerts are activated when the UW-Madison Police Department receives information from the City of Madison Police Department about the active emergency situation.
  • Campus Emergency Phones:  There are approximately 140 emergency phones on the UW-Madison campus, including the blue light phones (in areas like Picnic Point and the Lakeshore Path), phones in parking ramps (including elevators), and in many buildings. These phones dial 911 directly with the push of a button, and the call is connected to the UW-Madison Police Department Communication Center. These phones are to be used for emergencies only. When the button is pressed, the dispatcher will receive the call, along with the location of the phone the call is coming from, and an officer will be sent to check the area whether or not you speak with the dispatcher. If you accidentally push the button, please remain on the phone to inform the dispatcher there is no emergency.  All emergency phones on campus are tested once per month to ensure they are working properly.
  • WiscGuardian App:  This free app turns your smartphone into a personal safety device.  By downloading WiscGuardian on your mobile device, you can invite friends and family to join your network as your “Guardians.” Once you have established who you want to be your Guardians, you can request one or more of them to virtually walk with you on or off-campus. It’s like having a trusted friend with you at all times. Follow this link for more information:
  • SAFEwalk:  A free service available to all UW students, faculty, and campus guests – available to escort you throughout campus if you don’t feel safe walking by yourself at night.  SAFEwalk operates in two-person student teams with four teams available on campus each night. To use SAFEwalk, call (608) 262-5000 and provide your first name and your UW student ID number to a student dispatcher. If you are within the SAFEwalk boundaries, the dispatcher will send a team to your location. If you feel you are in a dangerous situation, you should dial 9-1-1 immediately.

General Safety Tips:

  • Never walk, jog, or bike alone at night. Use SAFEwalk, a taxi, or Madison Metro bus service when you can’t find someone to go with you. If you must walk alone or in a small group, use well-lit, well-known areas.
  • Use common sense and don’t display phones or electronics.
  • Don’t wear headphones, especially at night.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings, and don’t look at your phone while walking.
  • If you’re ever confronted by an individual with a dangerous weapon, give up your property and never resist.
  • Report suspicious behavior/criminal activity to police IMMEDIATELY by calling 911.
  • If you hear something suspicious, call 911.
  • Keep your possessions in sight at all times. Don’t leave books or backpacks unattended anywhere — it only takes a matter of seconds for things to disappear.
  • Lock your doors and windows at all times — even if you’re home.
  • Never leave a wallet or purse on top of your desk — take it with you or lock it in a drawer.
  • Avoid taking wallets, money, and jewelry into athletic facilities and storing them in lockers — these are targets of thieves.
  • Be alert to potential danger. If it doesn’t look or feel right, trust your instinct & leave.
  • Don’t leave objects plainly visible in your car; secure them in the trunk whenever possible.

UWPD is here for you – 24/7 – so don’t hesitate to call if you need us: (608) 264-2677.

Stay safe, stay informed, and On Wisconsin!

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