It’s that time of year. The time when young adults take their first steps toward autonomy and head off to college. This can be a scary time for parents and students, whether they move around the world, across the country, or just a few miles away. Saying goodbye is hard.Letting go is even harder.
We think that one of the best ways for new adults to prepare for life on their own is to start off with a solid foundation.
Sure, parents might not be able to hold their student’s hands and walk them to data-class on their first day.
But that doesn’t mean those freshman shouldn’t be well-prepared.
When worry kicks in and hundreds of miles separate parent and college student, you can both rest easy knowing that those students are prepared for anything they may encounter.
Here’s what we’re telling the college students in our lives about campus safety, emergency preparedness and the number one cause of dorm fires.
Campus Safety For College Students
A college campus can feel like a home-away-from-home. Students find their favorite nook in the library, the best spot to eat lunch on the lawn, and the fastest way to get to their chem lab that happens to be all the way across campus. That level of comfort can help ease students into their first years out of the nest… but it can also lead to dangerous situations.
Stay alert. Feeling safe somewhere doesn’t make the space safe. There is always a chance that someone might see an overly-comfortable college freshman and take advantage of that student’s distraction. Stay alert, aware of your surroundings, and the likelihood of an attack or mugging goes way down.
Tell someone where you’re going— and when you’ll be back. If you plan on going out, tell someone you trust. This advice applies whether you’re headed out for a run, off to study, or down to a party. Let your person know where you’re going and when they should expect you home. If plans change or you’re running late, text that person and let them know! That way someone always knows where you are.
Lock your door. If you’re from a small town, like the writer of this article, habitually locking your door can take some getting used to! But it’s an important step to take to keep yourself, and your things, safe.
Keep emergency supplies handy. What’s the point of an earthquake bag if you can’t get to it when you need it? Keep an emergency kit next to your bed so you can grab it if the need arises.
College Emergency Preparedness
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of leaving home and attending college is the potential for emergencies. Will students know how to respond or how to keep their space safe from potential threats?
You have questions, we have answers. Learn how to keep your campus housing safe in emergencies.
Every college student can take these three steps to be more prepared:
- Sign up for weather alerts.
Sign up for the National Weather Service SMS Alert to receive text messages.
- Make or buy an emergency bag. You can learn more about the 5 essentials you need in your bag right here.
- Whether you live in campus dorms, Greek housing, or off-campus in an apartment, you should familiarize yourself with the evacuation plan. Just ask your RA or building manager.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters respond to an average of 3,810 fires at campus housing each year!
Of those fires, more than 80% are caused by students cooking in dorms! Other causes include candles, overloaded power strips, and space heaters.
Follow these safety tips to avoid accidental fires:
- Don’t leave food unattended on hot plates
- Follow manufacturer instructions for microwaves
- Don’t burn candles near items that can catch fire and never leave your candles unattended
- Never place space heaters near flammable objects or leave them unattended
- Don’t overload extension cords, power strips or outlets
- Don’t connect multiple extension cords together
- Don’t place cords under doors or carpets, and do not pinch them with furniture
- Irons, hair dryers, curling irons and straighteners should never be left unattended, and should be unplugged when not in use
Be sure to keep a fire extinguisher handy for any potential fires. If a fire occurs that you can’t extinguish, leave your room immediately, pull the fire alarm, and alert authorities and your resident advisor. Do not go back in the room to grab valuables.
Fire Science Online has a comprehensive fire safety guide for college students with tips and advice on how to prevent fires.
Different parts of the country have different weather-related threats. Take some time to learn about the area your university is located. Hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, flash flooding, snow storms and wildfires are all potential dangers with very different preparations and reactions.
The best place to start is your university’s website. Most college websites have an emergency plan accessible, like this one from the University of Florida.
Earthquakes can be a major concern for students on the West Coast.
It is important to examine your living space for any potential warning signs such as cracked foundations, weak roofs or unreinforced brick. Read more about these and other potential problem dangers here.
Most college students spend their time in small, often cluttered dorm rooms and apartments.
Because of the limited space, students come up with creative ways to store their stuff— not all of which are safe.
To keep your space safe, make sure that you don’t store any heavy items on shelves above your bed. You secure lighter items with safety putty. Keep your bed away from windows, if possible.
If an earthquake does occur you should drop, cover, and hold until it is over. Then, follow your building’s evacuation procedures if necessary.
Most importantly, have your earthquake bag easily accessible in the event of an emergency.
Safety for Off-Campus Living
There are a few extra precautions off-campus dwellers can take to ensure their safety and the safety of their home.
- Download an emergency app, or set up an SOS alert on your phone. If you live off-campus but still walk to data-class, this is a particularly good idea. Most iPhones and Android phones come with this built-in safety feature that will immediately alert a trusted contact in case of an emergency. Some phones even include a GPS location, audio clip, and photo. If your phone doesn’t have this feature, this article highlights several apps that are free to download.
- Take extra precautions when securing your home. Campus housing usually comes with security while most off-campus homes do not. That puts the burden of safety on the renter. Lock your doors and windows when you leave the house, avoid using laundry rooms or parking garages alone at night. Bring someone with you or wait until a busier time of day.
- Consider getting renters insurance. Allstate put together this great article about renters insurance for college students. Renters insurance may cover some or all of your belongings if your dorm or apartment is robbed.
- Establish a local safety contact. Check in regularly with family or friends, especially if you live alone.
College is an exciting time for parents and students, and neither should spend their time worrying about safety. You can avoid that anxiety by being proactive and preparing before students move into their campus housing.
Buy a bag, form good safety habits like locking doors behind you, and familiarize yourself with campus safety tips.
Congratulations! Parents and students are now ready for four years of fun and success.