In a perfect world, college students would be able to focus on their studies without having to worry about whether or not they are safe on their college campus. Lately, though, there have been an increasing number of attacks and other emergencies on college campuses. The good news is that students who take a few simple precautions can minimize their risk of finding themselves in a dangerous college campus situation.
Sign up for text message alerts
Increasingly, campus security services are offering students the opportunity to sign up for free text message alerts. When an armed man attacked a crowd at Ohio State University, students quickly received text messages instructing them on how to stay safe and keeping them informed of any changes to the situation. Schools will also send out updates and essential advice in case of other emergencies, like a fire or natural disaster. With text message alerts being offered for free, there is no reason not to subscribe.
Learn more about your local Houston University’s campus safety:
Most campuses have rules in place for emergencies. For example, many subscribe to the Department of Homeland Security’s “run, hide, fight” theory of responding to an attacker. They recommend students run away from the attacker if there is a safe exit route, or hide if one is not available. If confronted by an attacker, fighting back could save your life. Similarly, if the school is found in an area that is prone to natural disasters, there will likely be specific emergency plans in place for those events. The University of British Columbia has an entire web page devoted to earthquake safety, while Kent State University offers tornado safety tips to its students. All students should inform themselves about potential threats and their school’s recommended response.
Know your exits wherever you are
In late 2015, sixty-four people died in a tragic nightclub fire in Bucharest, Romania. Many of those who passed away were students on what was supposed to be a fun night out. After the fire, investigators determined that the club had insufficient emergency exits.
To avoid finding themselves trapped in a dangerous situation, students should make a point of noting the available exit routes any time they visit a new classroom or building. Also, check the location of the recommended meeting point should you need to evacuate a building during an emergency.
Get the essential phone numbers in case of an emergency
In addition to your parents, your BFF and that cute girl or guy you met at the campus bar last weekend, load up your cell phone with the essential phone numbers in case of emergency. Your first call should always be to the local emergency number (9-1-1 in the United States and Canada), but it’s also good to have the phone number for campus security and student counseling services on your phone too. Some communities and insurance providers also have toll-free phone numbers operated by nurses who can offer medical advice; it can’t hurt to have their number handy too.
Use the free Safe Walk service at your college campus
If your commute involves walking around the campus alone at night, take advantage of the safe walk programs offered by most schools. At UCLA it’s called the Evening Escort Program, while the University of Toronto calls their program WalkSmart. Either way, students can be escorted by campus police officers, school security guards, or even a pair of pre-screened peers. You can request an escort on a regular basis if you have late classes, or just once or twice if you feel like a particular situation is unusually unsafe. Program volunteers love getting called for walks (it makes them feel useful!) so don’t hesitate to access this free service.
Trust your instincts in a dangerous situation
Humans have the innate ability to recognize danger, but all too often they suppress their natural instincts and walk headfirst into dangerous situations.
In The Gift of Fear, author Gavin de Becker describes exactly how valuable our intuition is, and the importance of always trusting your gut feelings. If your gut is telling you that something isn’t right, listen to that inner voice and call campus security or the local police non-emergency phone number.
It could be that you think you’re being followed, or perhaps you saw someone looking through a dormitory window. As long as genuine concern motivates your call, law enforcement will not be angry with you even if it turns out there was no real threat.
Fortunately, most college students won’t have to worry about anything more than a surprise pop quiz or lost homework assignment. Still, the feeling of being unprepared for an emergency situation can distract even the brightest student from their studies and their campus life. Spending fifteen or twenty minutes reviewing and implementing these simple college safety tips will put students’ and parents’ minds at ease.