WiscAlerts will now come in multiple languages, The University of Wisconsin Police Department announced today. 

WiscAlert, the campus safety alert system, sends texts and emails to UW students, faculty and staff about emergencies, criminal incidents or safety issues on campus that may impact students. Today, UWPD spokesperson Marc Lovicott announced in a news release this system will now offer alerts in five languages other than English. 

According to the release, those languages are Spanish, Chinese, Tibetan, Nepali and Hmoob/Hmong. Students will receive the English alert on their device, and then a version of the alert translated into the five languages. 

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Lovicott said this is an effort to reach more of the campus community, outside of English speakers, in order to keep everyone safe. Lovicott also said UW is the first university campus in the country, to UWPD’s knowledge, to offer this feature. 

Lovicott said he hopes many campus workers who may not speak fluent English will benefit from this feature.

“It’s really providing another level of communication to try and reach these folks who don’t quite understand what’s happening because English isn’t their first language, and giving them that opportunity to let them know what’s going on and what steps they can take to protect themselves,” Lovicott said.

How it works, Lovicott explained, is after the WiscAlert comes through, the second alert will come through, which users can click on and choose their preferred language. The second alert will have a “template translation” — one of several emergency messages already translated and available for UWPD to send out.

The translation will give basic information, like tell the user to evacuate, or ask for help from a coworker, and then they can use some of the information in the original alert — for example, the name of the affected location — to figure out what to do. See a sample alert at this link.

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Lovicott said this feature has been in the works for around six months. UWPD worked on the translations in collaboriation with UW’s Cultural Linguistic Services department, part of the Human Resources department. He said UWPD also looked at large cities around the country for inspiration.

Lovicott said while this has been the major feature in the development pipeline for a while, UWPD is always looking for new ways to improve safety for people on campus.

“We’re proud of the work that our folks have done to to get this important information to this particular population,” Lovicott said. “We’re always looking for ways to better communicate with our campus community, with our emergency alerts. And we’ll continue to work with not only our vendors, but we will continue to look to see what other people are doing.”

Jan. 31 at 1:00 p.m., UWPD will test the translated alert feature.