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Back to Archives | Back to March 2008 Contents 

Community Safety Measures at the University of Washington

By Vicky M. Stormo, Chief of Police, University of Washington Police Department, Seattle, Washington

University of washington
Quick Facts

  Campus Community: The University of Washington has about 40,000 students and 27,000 employees, making for a campus community service population of 67,000.

  Institutional Setting: The university is located in the Seattle metropolitan area and serves as a commuter and residence campus. About 6,000 students are housed on campus.

  Police Department: The university employs 55 commissioned, full-time police officers, approximately 16 full-time and up to 10 part-time security guards, and 15 civilian employees (not including security guards) in the police department.

he University of Washington (UW) has established the following programs and technologies for a safer community for faculty, staff, students, and visitors.


Husky NightWalk Program: Uniformed security guards walk students, faculty, staff, or visitors to their vehicles, between buildings, or within a reasonable distance within the university community. They can also provide battery jumps for vehicles that will not start.

Violence Prevention and Response Program: A central office was created to provide “one-stop shopping” for resource, referral, and coordination efforts for a Safe Campus program. The office can review issues of risk and call together an assessment team, which evaluates cases based on the level of risk. The assessment team consists of the UW Police Department (UWPD), Human Resources, a professional counsel, the state attorney general’s office, and any other department connected with or having information on the case (for example, Student Life if a student is involved). Recommendations can then be made to reduce the risk or to give advice on the best next steps. An after-hours crisis line has also been established.

Free Counseling Sessions: UW has always provided a free counseling service to faculty, staff, and academic student employees. The number of counseling sessions was increased from three sessions per incident to five sessions per incident.

Additional Services: In addition to the programs already mentioned, the university has taken the following measures to promote safety:

  • Workplace-violence and domestic-violence policies were combined.

  • Protection order protocols were streamlined and follow-up improved. Each order is reviewed for risks and steps taken to recommend additional safety measures and possible assessment review through the Violence Prevention and Response Program.

  • Campuswide training was established on violence prevention and response, with an emphasis on early intervention and university protocols, including lunchtime learning sessions.

  • Notebooks were created for supervisors on resources, violence prevention, and so on.

  • A victim advocate position was created.

  • UW developed a public information campaign that promotes violence prevention and available resources. This includes a Web site, posters, brochures, articles in university newspapers, wallet cards, and easily remembered phone numbers such as 685-SAFE.

  • A new SafeCampus Web site ( was set up, with tips, resources, and links.
  • UW created a Crisis Communications Plan, which includes a crisis communications team (with the UWPD serving as one member), a spokesperson, fact sheets, media alerts, notification of key constituents, testing and validation, and after-action reviews.


UW Community Alert System: The UW Community Alert System is a flexible, robust, and personalized tool to send alerts to the mobile population through Short Message Service, Instant Messaging, e-mail, fax, and voice communication to cellular and other telephones. This is a voluntary program.

Outdoor Public Address System: The blue phones on campus allow for an additional loudspeaker capability to provide audible coverage in key open areas on campus.

Web Alerts: A current capability, special Web alerts keep the community informed of a noteworthy event.

UW Information Hotline: A published phone number provides recorded information about UW scheduling changes due to emergencies and inclement weather. It also allows for the same information that is posted on the Web alerts. The hotline can also be configured to provide live call center interaction should conditions warrant.

E-mail Distribution to Mailing Lists: There are several e-mail distribution lists available for sending e-mail quickly to targeted groups, such as deans, directors, department chairs, building coordinators, and so forth. Student Life also has ad hoc student lists based on building occupancy, residence halls, and other information.

Verizon Notification Service: A Web-based multimodal communications service, the Verizon Notification Service allows delivery of urgent messages via telephone, text, e-mail, and fax. The initial system accommodates team notifications and mobilization for crisis events, including UW emergency operations center staff and UW technology response teams.

Other University Tools: UW also has conference bridges, emergency communications system “red” phones, an I’m Okay Registry, family information hotlines, media relationships, pagers, and two-way radios separate from the UWPD. UW participates in such federal programs as the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service, Telecommunications Service Priority, and Wireless Priority Service to ensure that its first responders have priority use of the public telecommunications network during crises.

UWPD Tools: The UWPD has an enhanced 9-1-1 Public Service Answering Point center, 9-1-1 mapping, and 800-MHz trunking radio. The department is part of the Seattle talk group, with the ability to patch into other emergency responder agencies within the King County region. In addition, the UWPD has the Seattle Police Department North Precinct radio frequency for instant communication. The local Seattle Fire Department station carries a UWPD radio for instant communication in responding to emergencies and hazmat incidents. ■



From The Police Chief, vol. 75, no. 3, March 2008. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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