New laptop? Got it.
Personal Safety Kit? Oops……
No Safety Kit? Well, then, back up the truck! Campus accidents and crime have been on the rise in the past decade. The most commonly reported crimes at colleges and universities are those involving personal property. But a recent study found that women between the ages of 16 and 24 were the victims of rape at four times higher the rate of the overall population of women; obviously high school and college aged women are the most vulnerable. One estimate is that some 25% of college women have been victimized by rape or attempted rape – a sobering statistic.
However, with a little common sense and a lot of precaution, your college years can be safe and secure. So here it is – your Personal Safety Kit:
- As you move in to your new residence hall or apartment, take some time to study your environment. Check out the routes to and from your classes. Prior to attending any social gathering or activity, survey the surroundings. Are the areas well lit? Is there an emergency phone nearby? Become aware of dark nooks and crannies and areas where an attacker might hide.
- Use the “Buddy System.” Whenever possible, travel with a friend or a group instead of alone. When you’re going to be out and about tell a friend where you’re going and when you think you’ll be back. If your plans change, let your friend know. Some campus security offices provide escort services for the safety of students who are on foot alone at night.
- Walk or jog in well-lit and well-populated areas. Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention and walk with confidence. Do not walk or jog with earphones or earbuds. If you think there’s a chance you’re being followed, cross the street or run to a store or place of business.
- Get in the habit of locking your doors – to your dorm or apartment as well as your car. Anytime you leave your room or apartment, even for just a few minutes, lock your door and windows and bring your key. Check the back seat of your car before you get in and lock the doors immediately once inside. Keep your windows rolled up. When approaching your car or apartment, have your keys in hand and ready.
- Be prepared to defend yourself if necessary. Take a self-defense workshop if one is offered on campus. Purchase and learn to use mace or pepper spray, or carry a personal alarm or whistle.
- Consume alcohol with caution. Not only is it fattening, it dulls your senses and inhibitions and makes you vulnerable to attack. Know where your drinks come from – never accept a beverage from someone you don’t know and trust and if you’ve lost sight of your drink, even momentarily, stop drinking from that glass or container. Be alert to the possibility that your drink could be spiked with a date rape drug.
- Be sure your dorm room or apartment is equipped with both a carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm. Develop at least two evacuation routes in case of fire. Avoid overloading electrical outlets and use small appliances and electrical gadgets with automatic shut-off features.
- Guard your belongings and identity. Avoid keeping valuables in your car – and if you must store valuables in your car, lock them in your trunk. Never leave your backpack, purse, wallet, laptop or cell phone unattended. Don’t loan your keys out to anyone. Consider registering your expensive belongings, like your computer and bike, with the police – have them engraved or tagged. Identity theft is on the rise on college campuses and avoidable by exercising the following precautions:
- Password-protect your phone and computer. Protect your PIN.
- Lock personal and financial documents in a drawer, file cabinet or safe.
- Guard your mail. Opt for a post office box rather than having mail sent to your dorm. Residence Hall mail is not always secure. Post outgoing mail in a USPS mail box. Shred credit card applications.
- Take precautions in where and how you share your Social Security Number. If your student ID number is your Social Security Number, request a change.
- Keep close tabs on your credit cards, driver’s license and check book.
- Be very careful what you reveal – in writing or images – on Facebook and Twitter. Location-aware features are becoming commonplace – from geolocation tags on Twitter to GPS on your smartphone – and as cool as they are, they can also easily put you at risk of attack or personal theft. Take precautions in posting your status and avoid revealing your whereabouts. Also, use privacy and security settings with your social networking sites, and change your passwords frequently.
- Trust your instincts! If your gut tells you something doesn’t seem right, get out of that situation quickly.
Being on your own while in college can be fun and exciting, but it’s important to be prepared and aware. Pack your Personal Safety Kit – for your college years and for life.