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UWRF launching CityWatch program

September 25, 2008

UW-River Falls is implementing a new campus security program called CityWatch that will be used to quickly notify students and faculty in the case of an immediate danger on campus.

Blake Fry, special ssistant to the chancellor,  sent e-mails to all students Aug. 28 with information on how to sign up for CityWatch. The message instructed students to log onto eSIS, click on the “Self Service” link and then the “Phone Numbers” link. There they can add the most appropriate phone number, mark it as an emergency notification number and save it to eSIS to be used in the CityWatch program.

“CityWatch enables UWRF to send out emergency notifications to the campus community via voice messages, text messages and e-mail,” Fry said in an e-mail. “This emergency notification system will only be effective if a majority of the campus population provides an emergency notification number.”

Fry gave further details on the program in a telephone interview.

“CityWatch was not only more affordable than some other systems, it provides greater capabilities,” Fry said. “UW-La Crosse has their own partnership with the City of La Crosse, and they also chose CityWatch.”

The recent school shootings at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois and Delaware prompted other colleges across the nation to reconsider their safety and emergency plans. In 2007, UW System President Kevin Reilly assembled a security task force to investigate the safety and risk management of Wisconsin’s universities.

New amendments were also added to the Clery Act on college security in August. Colleges are now required to immediately alert the campus and surrounding community of any immediate threat to their students’ safety.

UWRF was already working on the CityWatch initiative before the UW task force or the Clery Act amendments, Fry said.

“I think they’re still in the process of implementing it,” Risk Management Officer Connie Smith said. “It’s a joint effort between the city, county and the University. A method of communication is really what it’s all about.”

Smith also heads UWRF’s Continuity of Operations program, which is designed to manage recovery efforts, repairs and insurance reimbursement in case a disaster happens.

Senior psychology major Julie Markfort said she generally felt safe at the University, day or night.

“Most of the time the buildings are pretty well lit and there’s people walking around…and there’s always Public Safety going somewhere or another.” Markfort said.

Freshman communicative disorders major Linnea Osterberg also said she was not concerned about safety at UWRF.

“I’ve never been worried about it. I’ve been with other people every time I walked somewhere.” Osterberg said. She added that she would be “a little nervous” walking around campus at night.

According to Public Safety’s Web site, the department focuses on preventing crimes from occurring rather than reacting to them after they happen. In those cases, UWRF usually turns to the River Falls Police Department. Public Safety’s site also points out other precautions such as UWRF’s 20 outdoor emergency phones, and an escort option for students who do not want to walk through campus alone in the evening.