17 College Safety Tips, Without Giving Up the Fun
College safety is an important issue that crosses gender and background lines. When you get large groups of people together in one place, there is simply a possibility of increased crime, negligence, and accidents.
That’s true whether you’re a man or woman and whether you’re rich or poor. Students especially must be vigilant because they’re dealing with several different things they’ve never had to deal with before.
If living on campus or away from mom and dad for the first time, they have to get familiar with new surroundings. Many times they have to live in environments that less secure. They also have to do all of this while balancing newfound freedoms and responsibilities, which can sometimes feel like a double-edged sword.
To hopefully help you avoid becoming a victim, we offer these 17 college safety tips. Stay safe out there!
1. Go Out in Groups
You should be able to go out in public at any hour of the day and night and do anything you want as long as it doesn’t violate the safety or rights of another person. That’s what you should be able to do. Unfortunately, Reality is a different place.
If you’re serious about being safe in the real world, you have to realize there are certain unsafe things you can do to increase your chances of becoming a victim. That’s not blaming you if something should occur. It’s just a warning that you cannot control what other people may try to do.
So, and this especially is true if you’re going to an environment where there could be an increase in traffic, a greater likelihood of encountering strangers, and the probability there will be judgment-impairing situations (i.e., booze and drugs present), then you need to travel in groups and look out for each other. Predators tend to be cowards and float toward the easiest targets.
If you have a group of trusted friends watching your back, that’s less likely to happen.
2. Keep Your Phone Charged
Our phones have become an extension of us, and they’ve made college safety something far more accessible. Not telling you to do anything illegal here (i.e., recording someone without their permission with the purpose of targeting them for humiliation). But if there is someone with whom you don’t feel safe and you know there will be a situation of vulnerability, then a recording app can allow you to covertly watch your own back in case that person tries to do something against you.
Also, if you’re out on a dark road late at night, you’re far from campus, and you run out of gas — typical horror movie scenario — your phone can instantly summon help and keep you entertained until it arrives.
The only thing your phone needs to be able to do all of that is a battery charge. So, make sure that you’re charged up before you go out, and consider investing in a portable charger that can give your phone a “drink” if it’s getting too low and you still need a little coverage time.
3. Keep Moving
Moving targets are harder to hit than stationary targets. Therefore, keep moving if you have to find your way in a strange place. This also is true of active shooter situations. Not that movement will save your life guaranteed, but it will give you a better chance of being found by the shooter because it allows you to constantly assess and reassess your position and even backtrack if needed.
What you don’t want is to move your way into an enclosed, stationary position. That makes you an easier target and increases the odds of the worst happening. This is the reason law enforcement encourage people in active shooter situations to Run, Hide, and Fight, in that order.
4. Carry Cash in Case of an Emergency
It’s becoming a far less often thing. But there are times when you’ll be in a situation where someone won’t take credit cards or PayPal or ApplePay. You won’t be able to get the repair you need or that new tire. As a result, you’ll be forced to drive home on a wing and a prayer. Not a good idea.
If you’re going to do an overnight or be heading to an unfamiliar location, then you need to be prepared in the event that electronic payment systems fail. Consider your most obvious financial risks. Get estimates online of what it might take to account for those dollars. Then, try to pull cash out of your savings or borrow it from your parents if you don’t have enough.
(Even better if you have the types of parents who just give it to you. But some of us didn’t have that luxury.)
Last case scenario is that you can take an advance draw from your credit card but we wouldn’t recommend doing that unless it was a known life-and-death situation as interest rates on cash advances are, and always will be, ridiculous.
5. Carry Protection
There seems to be an almost perverse discussion in this country that paints you in a negative light if you talk about fighting back against a perpetrator. We’re pretty sure that’s not the intent behind those putting it out there. We’re pretty sure they just want sensible gun reforms. But in the emphasis of that discussion, there seems to be an overall dismissive pallor about people who have the gall to want to fight back.
Fortunately, there are ways you can fight back if you’re placed in a horrible life-or-death self-defense scenario. You can even fight back without having to get a firearm. Pepper sprays and stun guns are nice, portable solutions that require minimal training and can be ready at a moment’s notice. One spray or hit, and your criminal attacker will be experiencing a bad day at the office.
You also can carry more lethal weapons. But before you do that, get the proper training, follow all laws on your campus and in your state, and do not take the responsibility and potential fallout of using said weapon lightly. Police sometimes have a difficult time knowing when deadly force is appropriate, and they’re trained rigorously for it. Keep that in mind before going this route.
6. Consider a Personal Alarm
Your number one priority, of course, shouldn’t be ending your attacker but rather getting to safety. Having that as your prime motivation will increase your odds of surviving an attack unscathed. So, instead of investing in a weapon of some kind that engages the attacker and guarantees you some kind of fight for survival, consider a noise-maker of some kind that will startle your attacker and cause them to flee the scene.
Attackers prey on the easiest targets. Anything you can do to disrupt their plans will cause them to scramble. More importantly, it’ll give you a better chance of holding onto your possessions and living to see another day.
7. And Get One from Home
Don’t just carry one on your keychain. Consider picking up an alarm system for your home. There are tons of portable, Wi-Fi-based products on the market. We haven’t tried many of them so it wouldn’t feel right singling one out as better than the rest. But you can look for systems like SimpliSafe if you want something simple and effective that doesn’t lock you into any exorbitant ongoing costs.
That particular one is good for homes, apartments, dorms — pretty much wherever you’re going to call home during those college years. And you can take it with you if you change places every semester or year.
8. Secure the Doors and Windows When You Leave
Burglars, like attackers, are pretty lazy. They want to focus all their efforts on getting what they want. Naturally, that means removing whatever barriers to entry they can. Because of this mindset, you can prevent most home theft by simply locking doors and windows before you leave.
9. Size Up the Situation
If you find that you’re going to be in a situation that poses a risk, size it up before going into it. This could mean taking stock of who is going to be at a party. It could mean observing the layout of the place and any distance you might have to walk in open or secluded spaces (i.e., back and forth to your car). Think about things like time-of-day, access to helpful resources, dependability of your transportation, etc.
10. Speak Up
If something happens to someone you love, don’t let it go unnoticed. As we’ve learned from the post-Harvey Weinstein incidents of sexual assault reports, delays in reporting a crime can result in criminals escaping justice and being allowed to continue on. If you’ve been victimized, find someone you can confide in so you can get the support that is necessary to come forward.
The climate is right for unmasking predators from all walks of life. While an accusation doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean the accused is automatically found guilty — after all, we are a country of due process — a more vigilant public will make predators think twice about trying to get away with something.
11. Familiarize Yourself with Campus Security and Police
Knowing where your campus security and police are stationed, where the precinct office is, and even who they are personally can give you the confidence needed to move freely on campus and to speak out if you know of a crime that has happened. Study their routines. Try to strike up conversations with them. If they know you, that also can be an advantage in having your voice heard and, more importantly, trusted.
12. Implement Strict Privacy Settings
Social networks are a predator’s paradise. That’s because many of the people using them have no idea all the details of their lives they’re revealing. A sophisticated stalker can learn a lot about you just by studying your posts.
Say you’re active politically, for example. A person who wants to harm you could sign up for the same groups that you’re a part of with the sole purpose of watching your every move, looking for a vulnerability. When that vulnerability comes, they’ll be ready to pounce. And that’s a much-used tactic across the board from people breaking into your home or apartment to violent or sexual assaults.
Lock down your privacy settings as best you can and only accept people onto your networks if you’re 100 percent confident of their motives.
13. Plan Your Route
If walking or driving somewhere, always try to plan your route. Use your phone if you have to. Time it to where you can be around the most people, preferably in daylight or in levels of high visibility. Doing so will keep you safe whether things go according to plan or not.
14. Get Vigilant Around Your Car
One of your most vulnerable moments as a person is when you’re getting into the car. That’s because you often have to stop, direct your attention to finding the keys, fumbling through your keychain for the right one, and then (if you don’t have remote locking) putting the key into the lock and turning. In those fleeting seconds, a person following you can attack or get the drop on you in some way.
So, be extra vigilant around your car. Consider getting your keys ready while you’re still on the walk so the motion of unlocking and getting into the car can go as quickly and smoothly as possible.
15. Understand the Crime Situation
Follow crime in your town and your community. But not just crime in general. Look at the types of crime that concern you the most (or that should concern you). Track the number of murders, burglaries, armed robberies, pick-pockets. The FBI and your local law enforcement keep data on all this.
From there, you can isolate the circumstances as well as the locations the crimes took place in. This will give you an idea of the types of situations to avoid. That said, not all of these crimes are within your control. But much of the time, awareness alone can keep you from becoming an easy target.
16. Take a Self Defense Course
There are many great self-defense courses that you can take, from boxing to MMA to Krav Maga. Any are worth your time and can teach you life-saving skills for those situations that you hope never happen.
17. Know Your Resources
Lastly, if you ever do become a victim of theft or attempted murder or sexual assault — or if your life is touched because someone close to you was/is — be aware of the resources that are out there. Think counseling, support groups, police, etc. While they may not be able to change what happened, they can certainly help you find a path forward.
College Safety Should Be Part of the Curriculum
College safety is one of those subjects you have to master on your own, unfortunately. While it should be a part of the curriculum, it isn’t now. That means you need to take it on yourself to beef up your own education on the matter. What are some college safety tips that you’ve found to be the most helpful? Share yours in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by US Air Forces Central Command]