UWPD Launches one-button alert, reserved for only rare situations

The one-button alert would be used only in extreme situations when seconds make a difference in order to save lives.

WiscAlert logoThe UW-Madison Police Department has launched a new tool in an effort to speed up critical emergency notifications during a deadly, active threat situation. Starting this fall, UWPD has the ability to quickly press a physical “panic button” that would automatically trigger a WiscAlert emergency notification to all UW students and staff.

“This is technology that we’ve researched and explored for quite some time,” UWPD Interim Chief of Police Brent Plisch said. “When we first explored a one-button solution, the technology was brand new. Now that it has proven success elsewhere, we’re comfortable adding it to our wide range of tools to keep the UW-Madison campus safe.”

Our campus emergency notification system, called WiscAlerts, requires a manual approach – meaning, a human must log in, craft a message, and press send. The one-button solution seamlessly integrates with our current system – and when pressed, will automatically trigger a generic pre-written message indicating an active, deadly threat on campus. Immediately following the press of the button, UWPD staff will follow-up to craft additional messages with more details, including the location of the incident, suspect descriptions, specific instructions, etc.

Because the button only triggers a generic pre-written message, the button will be used very rarely – if ever. It’s reserved only for situations in which there’s an active killer incident currently happening, threatening lives.

UWPD implemented the one-button solution in January and has been testing it internally ever since. We’re now officially ready to add it to our emergency alert system.

“We hope this is a tool we never have to use,” Chief Plisch said. “But as we look at the senseless active killer incidents that have plagued our country in recent years, this is a necessary tool that could save lives.”