WiscAlert Policy

wiscalertsUpon confirmation of an emergency or dangerous situation, UWPD will, without delay, and taking into account the safety of the community, determine the content of the notification and initiate the notification system, unless issuing a notification will, in the professional judgment of UWPD, compromise efforts to assist a victim or to contain, respond to or otherwise mitigate the emergency. Complete notification of 100-percent of the campus population is not possible; however, attempts will be made to notify the largest percentage feasible in the fastest way available. The notification system at UW-Madison is known as WiscAlerts.

UWPD management typically confirms significant emergencies or dangerous situations involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees on campus with UWPD personnel and in conjunction with key administrative units, such as Facilities, Planning & Management, Division of Information Technology, building managers, and/or the local first-responder agencies, and public health agencies.

All UWPD managers are authorized to use the WiscAlert system. During situations in which there is a time-critical threat to campus, a WiscAlert message and messages sent via the other systems listed below are sent immediately on authority of the UWPD Manager on Call (MOC) or other UWPD personnel if the MOC is unavailable. The MOC or the MOC’s designee is responsible for drafting the content, which is developed based on the type of emergency, determining the appropriate segment of the community to receive the message based on the affected community, and sending the message to the community using any or all systems listed below except the emergency telephone notification system, which is initiated by the Dane County. If time permits, UW Communications may review media distributions prior to UWPD sending them.

Situations for sending a WiscAlert include, but are not limited to:

  • Active shooter
  • Significant and serious hazardous materials spill
  • Closing a section of campus
  • Significant disruptions to campus infrastructure
  • Multiple building closings,
  • Mass casualty disaster

All students and staff have a wisc.edu email address, and WiscAlerts are sent via email in an effort to notify the largest percentage of students and staff in the fastest way possible. Typically, WiscAlerts are also sent via text message to those registered with the text system. In addition to, or in the event of an email or text system failure, UW-Madison may also use some or all of the following systems to communicate an immediate threat to the community: voice calls, other warning mechanisms such as the UWPD website, UW-Madison alerts website, UWPD Twitter feed, UWPD Facebook page, UW-Madison Facebook page, UW-Madison Twitter feed, Dane County’s emergency telephone notification system (in coordination with Dane County), and media distribution.

In the event of an outbreak of a serious illness or other public health emergency, the Executive Director of University Health Services or designee will typically collaborate with UWPD’s MOC or designee to confirm the emergency, draft the language of the warning and distribute the warning to the affected campus community.

Situations requiring a WiscAlert will almost always require ongoing communications support. UWPD will determine what level emergency is present and use the University Response Plan (URP). Once the URP is activated, the process of posting information on UW-Madison’s homepage and preparing a crisis communications response will begin. Depending on the type of emergency, UWPD, the Information Management Group, and/ or University Communications may work together to craft a consistent set of messages that can be efficiently distributed to update the UW-Madison and larger community, including through additional WiscAlerts or through the UW-Madison website, the Parent Program website, and/or the My UW Portal.

The URP Information Management Group and/or University Communications on-call staff will also provide assistance in responding to media inquiries.

In certain emergency situations, a campus affiliate group, such as UW Hospital may also propose sending a text message via WiscAlerts. Such requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the UWPD MOC, using the criteria listed above.

Parents and the larger community can receive information pertaining to an emergency situation at the university through some or all the following systems: the UW-Madison website, UWPD website, UW-Madison alerts website, UWPD Twitter feed, UWPD Facebook page, UW-Madison Facebook page, UW-Madison Twitter feed, and media distribution. In addition, the Parent Program has the ability to communicate with parents who are part of the program.