How safe are you and your valuables?
Are you anxious as you count down the days until the fall semester starts? Or perhaps you’re all fired up and can’t wait because you miss your friends (or crush…go get ‘em tiger!) and that fun campus life so much?
Whichever you may be, one thing is for certain⸺ going back to college this semester will be different than it’s ever been given the pandemic, political conflict, and chaos today.
So, to help you ensure a safe return to school, we’ll go over practical survival and safety tips that will (not may) save your life, time, and money (college costs are already outrageously high as they are, don’t you think?).
And as a bonus, in light of the current situation, you’ll also learn how to stay healthy at school amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sounds good? Let the life-saving class begin!
Campus and dorm safety… why bother?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics; 28,900 criminal incidents against persons and property in postsecondary campuses were reported in 2017. Among them were 11,100 burglaries and 1,000 robberies with the sum constituting 42% of all the criminal incidents.
If that doesn’t sound alarming enough, how about the fact that 437 people were shot in 190 college campus shooting incidents from 2001 to 2016? Not to mention other offenses like bullying (as social injustice rises, sadly) and sexual assaults.
Are you starting to see the picture?
And surely, you don’t want your beloved gizmos to magically disappear, do you? (Unless your campus is the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry)
Now you might be asking, “How can I stay safe in school while following the footsteps of Beethoven or Elon Musk, not Santa Claus who gives stuff away for free?
Smart question, that is. Let’s find out…
Know your dorm building and campus well
Your school is your second home. And just like a home, you should know the ins and outs and the community around it.
If you’re new to the place, do your research beforehand. Know the crime trends in the area and the possible challenges (cultural differences, strict state laws, weather, etc.). Doing so will help you plan and deal with such problems before they even unfold.
And if you grew up in the neighborhood, don’t be complacent⸺ what you know then (before the pandemic) could be different from what’s being implemented now. Rules do change, and buildings get renovated. So, get to know the changes and adapt accordingly.
Other than that, here are some of the important things you should be aware of:
1. School emergency plans and alarm codes
Always know where the fire extinguishers and exits are in case of emergency. And if your campus uses alarms or codes to indicate certain threats, make sure you can recognize them instantly. When things go south, every second counts!
2. Location and contact information of the security/police office and the nearest hospital
When things get ugly, you should be able to call for help without delay.
3. If you have a car/bike, know where the best parking spot is
It should be somewhere well-lit and easily accessible⸺ not a maze with dozens of turns to enter and exit (good luck with that during fire or earthquake).
Don’t be the helpless prey
Get this… safety starts with you.
All the security features of your school and all those fully armed guards will do you no good if you can’t even take care of yourself. When bullies corner you or when security personnel are all busy dealing with a threat, you better know how to survive on your own.
That being said, here’s how you can avoid being the weakling.
1. Walk tall and maintain situational awareness
Most people are stuck on a screen and their ears are drowned in sounds. As a result, they fail to recognize the threats around them until it’s too late.
Whenever you’re out and about, keep your senses undistracted and walk with confidence. Look (not stare) people in the eyes. Listen (not spy) to what’s going on around you. Do these and you’ll never get caught off-guard and fall into the devil’s hands unknowingly.
2. Learn how to defend yourself
Having the ability to fight for your life should be a no-brainer. And this is where learning martial arts, or effective self-defense tactics comes into play. Learn how to properly punch or kick, where the weak points of the human body are (eyes, throat, groin, knees), and how to free yourself from common holds.
3. Anything is a weapon… if you’re ingenious
Guns and knives aside, there’s a wide range of other self-defense tools you can utilize. That could be a bright flashlight to dazzle an attacker, a loud whistle to attract attention, or a tactical pen to impale the bad guys.
And didn’t I say “anything”?
A rolled-up magazine/newspaper can serve as a bat. That pointed pair of scissors can become a deadly weapon. Make a fist with your key in between your fingers and your punch will hurt 387.26% more.
Not to condone violence but if it’s what it takes to save your life, I’m all in.
Secure your valuables and belongings
Now that you know how to protect yourself, it’s time we talk about how you can also protect your valuables. Let’s face it, criminal minds are everywhere (even inside the church, for goodness’ sake… what more inside the dorm and campus?).
Besides, you’re attending school to learn how to increase your wealth, not the other way around.
Am I right or am I correct? (Don’t overthink it)
So, incorporate these best practices both in your dorm and around the school campus to make your stay a gain, not a loss.
1. Secrecy is the key
Avoid showing off so you don’t create the temptation, to begin with. I know just how much you love to impress your friends (and of course… your crush) with your James Bond’s 1964 Aston Martin car, but you better think twice. Stay low-key otherwise, prepare to kiss your wheels goodbye.
Remember, loose lips sink ships. So, hush, and no one will know what to steal.
2. Be vigilant in the dark and inform someone you trust
As I always say, darkness attracts dark-minded people. Have a companion whenever you go out at night. If you’re alone or under the influence, ask the campus security services to escort you.
Before you head out, have a mental map of the safest route with the alternatives. Tell someone you trust where you’re going and when they should expect you to be back. Moreover, always carry your self-defense tools especially your bright flashlight (not your phone’s light please… it’s too friendly).
3. Lock your devices
Whenever you leave your laptop in your room or in a public place to get coffee or whatnot, make it a habit to always close the lid⸺ spies are everywhere and prevent unwanted snapshots of your screen.
Consider using a locking station or cable lock to ensure your laptop isn’t going anywhere. And to avoid unauthorized access, use a strong passcode (fingerprint biometric won’t suffice) to unlock your laptop and phone.
4. Make sure your trash is a trash
The FBI’s Internet Crime Report says that 16,053 fell victim to identity theft in 2019. And many are wondering how it happened. Well, let me tell you. Careless internet usage aside, the answer lies somewhere we discard without thought⸺ trash. That includes financial documents, expired cards, résumé, and wherever your personal information can be retrieved.
So, in order to not create an evil twin, shred before you shed (plus the 3rd tip). For efficient and effective shredding, take advantage of the Honeywell 6 Sheet Strip Cut Shredder’s ability to render both sheets and cards useless.
5. Opt for a secured bag
Whenever you step out of the door, your bag goes with you. And in it are valuables you probably can’t live without. I’m talking about your laptop and notebook containing your life’s work (thesis, quantum mechanics report, or 867-page novel that even William Shakespeare would envy), Sennheiser headphones, and first aid kit (the most important of the bunch).
Therefore, it only makes sense to carry them in a reliable, water-resistant bag. Wanna make it even more secure? For full waterproof protection put your items in a Ziplock bag before you add them to your backpack and use combination locks on the zippers so thieves can cross you off their target list.
And what’s better than a bag that can stop water? A bag that can help resist bullets!
Lest you forget, active shooting and school-targeted terrorism are no longer a question of “if” but “when”. And a bag you can rely on to protect both you and your valuables is a godsend. Wondering where to get such an amazing bag? Check out the Leatherback Sport One Bulletproof Backpack from Safe and Vault Store.
6. Keep your dorm on lockdown
With countless students living together in college dorms and everyone in a rush, rooms are often left unlocked.
Whether you’re taking a short nap or going out to grab a snack, lock your door and windows⸺ because intruders are faster than The Flash. To top it off, install a door stopper and alarms to prevent uninvited guests.
Short on a budget? Then fake them out. Post fake signages like, “Smile, you’re on camera!” to hopefully scare them off (better than nothing).
7. Invest in a safe as the last line of defense
Once you decide to stay in a college dorm, solitude goes out of the window. Your friends, their friends, and their friends’ friends will inevitably crowd your room. And when that happens, your valuables are at anyone’s fingertips.
Unless, of course, they’re securely stored inside a safe.
And for that reason, not to mention protection against identity theft and burglary, having a personal safe is imperative. For this, you can either try your luck on a cheap Walmart safe or… go for expertly certified safes that won’t fail you like the SentrySafe PL048E Electronic Laptop Safe.
8. Ask yourself… can you study without it?
“The more you know, the less you need.” ―Yvon Chouinard
Assess what you truly need at school and what should be left at home. Chances are, you’ll be going home for the holidays, anyway. Let’s be real… you don’t need your grandma’s golden necklace nor that antique jade vase in your dorm, do you?
The point is⸺if you can study without it, then no need to bring and risk losing it.
For more options tailored to your personal needs and budget, watch safe expert Ricardo as he breaks down the Top 5 Safes for Your Dorm Room.
Dorm health and safety amidst the pandemic
1. Get updated with your college’s plan for resuming classes
Acquaint yourself with student expectations, personal protective requirements, vaccination process, and other COVID-19 protocols.
2. Be transparent with your roommates and set proper expectations
Make sure to set boundaries that everyone agrees with. Talk to each other prior about partying, bringing in other people, and other health safety concerns.3. Bring extra masks
Even if you’re fully vaccinated, some states (visit their official website for updates) still require face coverings thanks to the new COVID-19 variants.4. Prioritize your toiletry
Personal hygiene is not something you wanna neglect⸺ you wanna look your best in front of your crush, right? Seriously though, regular handwashing is a must (like always) so don’t forget your toiletry and disinfectants (alcohol, bleach, etc.).5. Prepare for some online class
Since face-to-face interactions are still moderated, synchronous online learning is being implemented even in dorms. So, test your technology (camera, mic, Wi-Fi), learn the video platform (Zoom, Panopto, etc.), and set up a nice background if virtual background is not available nor allowed.
May the safety and knowledge be with you
Whether you’re a first-timer being thrown right into the wild jungle that is college dorm life, or a senior ready to conquer the final semester before graduation… it pays to be safe.
College can be exciting but it’s not without challenges. And if you’re not careful, putting on that graduation gown and cap could fade into a mere fantasy⸺ I bet that’s not how you foresee things as you start this fall semester, is it?
No need to fear!
Since you’ve read this far, I have high hopes for you. As long as you incorporate the best practices aforementioned and observe the art of adaptation, acing this semester and beyond will be a child’s play. Godspeed and safe schooling!
College campus and dorm safety survival resources
1. U.S. Department of Education Campus Security Resources
Everything you need to know to prepare for safety and security issues at school and the resources needed in case an unfortunate safety incident occurs.
Campus security and safety is an important feature of post-secondary education. The Department of Education is committed to assisting schools in providing students nationwide a safe environment in which to learn and to keep students, parents and employees well informed about campus security. These goals were advanced by the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990. The Department is committed to ensuring that post-secondary institutions are in full compliance with that Act, and enforcement of the Act is a priority of the Department.
2. The Tools you Need for Campus Safety and Security Analysis
This is a great tool to find safety and security information specific to your school!
The Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool is brought to you by the Office of Post-secondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education. This analysis cutting tool was designed to provide rapid customized reports for public inquiries relating to campus crime and fire data.
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