Halloween is not canceled in the City of Sun Prairie — but city officials want you to know the risks associated with trick-of-treating this year because of COVID-19 — according to discussion during the Sept. 30 Public Safety Committee (PSC) meeting.
Police Chief Mike Steffes said the city will be conducing its usual Halloween safety patrols during trick-or-treating hours, which are 5-7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.
However, city residents unwilling to participate in trick-or-treating should not leave outside lights on.
Those who do participate in distributing candy to do it with safety precautions in mind. For example, leave individual grab bags (or paper cups) filled with goodies outside your door for children to take. If you can, watch and wave to trick-or-treaters through a window. Or, leave Halloween treats outside the door where friends and loved ones live for a contact-free way of celebrating.
The City of Sun Prairie has those and other holiday hints in a downloadable PDF on the front page of the city’s website at cityofsunprairie.com.
Among the suggestions made during the Public Safety Committee meeting was to use a chute from a second story landing or balcony to minimize contact with trick-or-treaters. District 1 Alder and PSC member Terry McIlroy said she has a second story landing that she might consider using for that purpose. She said North Street traditionally gets a lot of trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
“I already know where I’m stopping – I’ll wear a police costume,” Steffes told the committee.
McIlroy said she would “prepare accordingly” for his arrival.
PSC Chair and District 3 Alder Maureen Crombie said she was aware that some entities in the community are doing non-traditional Halloween activities. For example, she said, the Northeast YMCA in Sun Prairie is conducting a Halloween Parade around the Smith’s Crossing neighborhood. She also said the downloadable PDF assembled by the City of Sun Prairie contains the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) public health recommendations for holidays, including Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Other Halloween recommendations contained in the PDF from PHMDC include:
Trick-or-treaters should stay in their own neighborhoods, wear a COVID-safe mask (even if they’re wearing a mask as part of their costumes) and socially distance themselves from other groups.
People concerned about the risk associated with touching candy wrappers, should allow collected candy to sit for 72 hours before eating any.
Acting on a referral from District 1 Alder Steve Stocker, the PSC passed a motion not to pursue Smart 911 because many of the amenities available in the cell phone app are available through Dane County’s Dispatch Center.
A report from all three Sun Prairie public safety chiefs — Steffes, EMS Chief Brian Goff and Fire Chief Chris Garrison — looked at Smart 911, a mobile phone application (or app) that allows members of the public to store their personal information on their mobile phone, which is immediately transferred electronically to participating emergency dispatch centers when 911 is called from that mobile phone. The app is available for free download in the Apple App Store and on Google Play.
The report pointed out the ability to expediently communicate and share information between caller, dispatcher, and first responders is important to the effective response and resolution of an emergency event, but that same ability is already in existence in various ways:
Create a Safety Profile — iPhones contain the Health app, which is native to the device and includes a Medical ID feature. Dane County Public Safety Communications (Dane Comm) is capable of receiving that information electronically from those iPhone users who store it in their phones.
Receive Alerts and Notifications — Cell phone users receive wireless emergency alerts, amber alerts, weather alerts and more via state and national emergency communications programs. Dane Comm uses the RAVE Alert system for emergency alerting. The City of Sun Prairie uses the Nixle system. Citizens can register for notifications via either (or both) of the Dane County and City of Sun Prairie systems.
Sign up for Vulnerable Needs Registry — Citizens with special needs such as a dependency on utility service can register with Sun Prairie Utilities directly.
However, Dane County used a vulnerable needs registry for a period of time in the recent past and found that a lack of public participation and compliance was a hindrance that resulted in old or unreliable data, and the system has since been abandoned in favor of emergency alerting.
In addition to the above services, Dane County Emergency Communications also uses systems that allow a cell phone caller to be geolocated.
The Rapid SOS system augments the existing cellular service providers’ native geo-locating services, which allows 911 dispatchers to find the GPS location of a 911 caller with even greater accuracy.
As a final disincentive, Smart 911 requires that the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) purchase an additional software suite in order to make the connection between the app and the 911 system.
In areas in which the PSAP lacks the requisite software, the Smart 911 subscriber’s information is not transmitted to the 911 center, and the inverse is true for all PSAPs nationwide that have the software.
In Dane County, all 911 calls are answered at the County’s PSAP. The City’s Police dispatch center does not have, but could acquire, the requisite software, although doing so would be ineffective for City residents unless it also received 911 calls.
In their report to the PSC, all three chiefs supported the effort to expediently communicate key information to first responders and did not oppose use of the app.
Additionally, the functionality of the app requires cooperation, participation, and financial investment from the PSAP that receives the 911 call, which in the Sun Prairie area is Dane County.
“If Dane County desires to pursue integrating the app into their system, the Sun Prairie Public Safety Chiefs would be in support of their endeavor. We encourage citizens who are interested in using the app to do so, as there are other areas in Wisconsin and around the country whose PSAPs can receive the Smart 911 information. Thus, as the services offered by Smart 911 already exist in Dane County, it is our recommendation to continue to leverage the existing systems and processes to maximum effect,” the report reads.
Members of the PSC agreed, voting to maintain the current system and not explore Smart 911.