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Campus Safety: Easy Tips to Follow
That Day in March
When I went to college, I knew deep down inside that this would be the experience of a lifetime. However, I also knew that everything would not always be about friends and fraternizing. I would have to study, suffer through boring classes, and sometimes stay up late. But one thing I did not think about immediately was staying safe.
I grew up quite a safety conscious person part of if had to do with where I was from and the other part was my anxious fear of the unknown. As far as I was concerned, being prepared was the best way to avoid being a victim. Not only did I witness local violence at the hands of my own classmates, I specifically remember sitting at my eighth grade class when I first heard about 9/11. So there was no shortage of me feeling vulnerable. However, I knew that this vulnerability was just a part of the new post 9/11 reality. But there was nothing that could prepare me from feeling what I did one morning in March 2008 during my sophomore year.
It was March 5th and I was getting ready for class and work when we got a campus alert email saying a young female had been found dead a mile from campus. She was not yet identified when I got up around 6:30am but by 10:30 am the victim was identified as a student. And this was not just any student, it was Student Body President Eve Carson.
As soon as news broke, the campus became frenzied. People were around campus scared, angry, and worried. Campus officials were trying to secure the campus and address national media. And many of us just wanted to make it through the day. When news broke, my mom immediately called and asked if I was alright. Seeing the news scared her and her supervisor as both I and her supervisor's son attended UNC. I told her not to worry but as any kid from 5 to 500 knows telling your mom not to worry is like telling a politician not to kiss a baby.
Somehow, someway we made it through the day and as the days turned to weeks we all knew that some sense of normalcy would be restored. However, as any one has witnessed a tragedy knows normal never means what you think it means. It did teach me an important lesson- which was to not take life for granted but while you have your chance you should do your best to protect the moments you have with those you love.
Being safe is important in any situation but in college where teens suddenly are free from parental control and sanctions. However, it does not mean you should not use what they taught you in addition to common sense to stay safe. So with that in mind, I will give you a very real guide to stay safe on campus as well as off.
Safety Supplies: What's Necessary
Flashlight: If you are out studying on campus or even a little bit off, this will come in handy. Also this will probably help you post-campus life as a single adult. Either way this is necessary. Not only could you be the victim of a campus blackout but you might be driving or going across campus in need of a way to see if something happens. So your best bet is to head to Wal-Mart and purchase a flashlight for your backpack, dorm room or apartment, and car (if you have one).
Mace or Pepper Spray: Now before you invest in this, be sure that your campus, city, municipality or state allows this to be carried as a concealed weapon. Some states have laws against carrying mace or pepper spray and you want to be on the right side of the law. Depending on what you carry- you might want to attach it to your keychain instead of zipping it away in your backpack.
Map: I know there are going to be some of you kids who don't know life without a GPS but we survived without a British woman telling us where to go. You need a map of the campus to get yourself acquainted to the nooks and crannies of campus and that can usually be purchased at the campus bookstore. It is also a good idea to have a map of the city that you attend school at as well to familiarize yourself with the area.
Address Book/Contact Cards: I know many of us have apps for that but in case your Smartphone gives out it would be highly advisable to carry a physical paper copy of these things for your records. That way, in case something happens and your ICE (in case of emergency) needs to be contacted, you need to have something to access their information. You should also have the name of your physician written down as well.
List of Allergies/Sensitivities: As I write this, I slowly realize how much I need to follow some of my own advice. This is especially important for those of us who suffer from food allergies and need assistance should we go into shock. It would also be advisable to contain a how-to guide for your epi-pen if you carry one.
Pocket Knife: While I realize these are mainly products advertised towards guys, I think it is absolutely necessary that you have one in hand for an emergency. I am not saying you have to be your own MacGyver but there comes a time you might have to cut or carve your way out of a jam.
Robber's Gold: What Unnecessary
Pardon the pun in the title but I could not think of another clever heading for this section. But it should be said that people who are targets on campus are usually such because they fail to realize what draws the attention of the dishonest.
iPods,iPads,iAnything: This not only applies to Apple lovers but you get my drift. With the exception of the iPhone, you do not need to take all of your beloved toys with you. And if you do, have good reasoning. I would often study with my iPod but I would put it in an area that a thief could not easily access to go to the library or the union and study with music.
Elegant Jewelry:No offense to those of us who frequent the costume jewelry sections of department stores but unless your thief is blind they will not want your chunky necklace from Claire's. On the contrary, if you are wearing or carrying an heirloom piece from Grandma Bunny, you might reconsider taking that around with you.
Anything with Brand Labels: Again, this should be common sense to most people but just in case you do not know this you need to not carry that Louis Vuitton bag with you to study. And even if stands for Lou Vue, a thief will see the symbols and get excited. So it is in your best interest to keep the name brands behind closed doors.
Anything with Your Name On It: Before you blink twice, I am serious about this one. In middle school, my mom went label happy with my stuff and put my name everywhere. As a result, my lock on my locker was stolen- twice. So if it's yours and you want to keep it that way you might want to make a dot on it with a sharpie if it's something like a notebook and if it is something like your iPod write down the serial number in case of theft or loss.
I have been observant since I was a kid. I always notice details about people and even now it comes in handy. When I meet someone new, it is good to remember something about them. I do that not only to make them feel comfortable but in case things turn sour and they walk in with a gun one day. All in all, you need to be aware of the people you are with and your physical surroundings. So here are some tips.
Height, Weight, and Distinguishing Features: If you are in an area where there is high traffic and money around, chances are something could happen. That's why you need to be aware of who walks in and what they look like in the most basic sense. Like for instance, there is one person I recognize by their hair color because it is quite distinctive and otherwise I would forget the person if I did not keep that in mind. Other things that might help are tattoos, birth marks, and piercings. Just make sure you know who looks like what.
All Possible Exits: Even though you usually get a tutorial during orientation of where the emergency exits are located, it is good to walk by them yourself. That way if you forget or lose your sense of direction during an emergency, you will have trained yourself to know where to go.
Familiar and Unfamiliar Characters:This is something I learned from television. You may not know everyone's name but you recognize some of the background characters and know that they are their for essentially the same reasons as the main characters. The same applies to real life. I think this is important in common areas like the dorm commons room, the laundry room, and the dining hall. But really, anywhere you go you should be able to distinguish who is who.
What You Learned as Kid that Still Matters
The Buddy System: Now before you sigh and say, ah really? Yes I mean it. The best thing you can do when going off campus or to secluded areas on campus is to travel in a group of at least two. That way you can know you have someone to lookout for and someone to lookout for you. Also, at night it is best to always be with someone or walk in the flow of traffic in a group. This is especially true when returning from late classes or study sessions.
Stranger Danger: Call me old-fashioned but unless you know the person or feel like there is a reason to get to know them, do not talk to them. Unfortunately, with social media people can find out about you before they actually meet you so proceed with caution. That means keeping yourself from looking vulnerable by being alert and aware.
Go Straight Home: I am not trying to baby anyone but this is another principle that makes sense. This is especially valid if you are out at night studying or returning from a party. If you do decide to deviate from the plan, let you friend or roommate know so they do not remain concerned and be sure to be in a group of at least two.
Phone a Friend: Okay, so this was learned while I watched "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" but it still counts. You need to tell someone where you are going if no one will be expecting you and/or you live on your own. That way if you turn up in trouble or missing, someone will know where you were supposed to be.
Campus Safety Commandments
This last section is self-explanatory. These are rules you should essentially live by.
- Keep Your Phone Charged and With You at All Times: This is usually something most of us do just for the fact are phones are our lifelines, but you should remember when your phone is down and when to charge it. There's probably an app for that :).
- Carry Food: I say this mainly because alot of campus eateries close after a certain hour and you probably shouldn't venture off-campus for food unless you are comfortable doing so.
- Keep You Activities Consistent: If you are out for the day and then return later, keep it that way. Maintaining a schedule helps you and those you care about know where you are in case of emergency.
- Know Public Transit: I went to a large campus and alot of times I relied on campus/city transit to get around. This is necessary not only for day to day life but in case of emergency and you need to leave quickly.
- Know the Surrounding Area: My campus was pretty much the center of the town it was in, but there were areas of town I would need to get to for other activities. It is good to know the city/town surrounding your campus in case you have to go there for some reason.
- Buy or Bring Your Own Drinks: I was not one for the party scene in school but I have seen enough "Very Special Episodes" of 90s sitcoms to know that you are vulnerable in these settings. Buy your own drinks and keep a close watch on it by drinking and holding it yourself, having a good friend do so, or keeping it in a concealed area.
- Learn Self-Defense: Thankfully I have a cousin who is a black belt and taught self-defense and my aunt was insightful and thoughtful enough to get me lessons before I went to school. You may not become Bruce Lee but you will be able to protect yourself.
College is a once in a lifetime experience that many of us cherish forever. And while safety is important, your focus should be on building relationships and enjoying your studies. Before you know it the four years will be up.