In 2010, more than 235,000 students in the United Kingdom will head to university. Unfortunately, with so many students and high priced valuables such as smartphones and laptops, even the UK's safest university towns experience some forms of crime, including burglaries, thefts, or assaults.
While safety is a priority for most universities, there are several additional ways you can improve your own safety and keep your belongings secure. Before heading off to university, review these safety tips.
1. Familiarise yourself with your University Safety office.
Every university has a security office, and part of your tuition funds it. Make the most of this resource by utilising its services. Your universities website likely provides information like office hours and phone number, but you can also visit in person when you arrive on campus.
Next Step: Call or visit the security office and request information about their programs. Find out if your campus has the following services and how you can take advantage of them:
Blue light emergency phone stations
Campus escort services
Safety maps with suggested secure routes
Support for a safety app such as Lookout Mobile Security
2. Take extra precaution at night.
On average, sexual assaults and other crimes are more likely to occur at night. And while you shouldn’t scare yourself into assuming danger is around every corner, you also shouldn’t take unnecessary risks, such as walking alone at night. Instead, use the buddy system or if your university provide the service, call campus security for a ride.
Next Step: Can’t avoid walking alone or heading to an unfamiliar location? Download a personal safety app, such as Lookout Mobile Security, which was developed for students. When you walk alone, launch the app and hold your thumb down on the safe button. Once you’re safe, release your thumb and enter your pin. If you need help or are in danger, releasing the button without entering your pin will trusted family or friends of your location.
3. Always lock up.
Just as you wouldn’t leave your house without locking the front door, don’t leave your room or apartment without locking up — even if you’re planning on only being gone a few minutes. If you live on the first floor, close your windows and either shut the blinds or hide your valuables in drawers any time you leave.
Next Step: Purchase a small safe or dedicate a drawer for storing your laptop, iPad, and other valuables when you’re away from your room. If you use a safe, keep it hidden in a wardrobe. If you live on the first floor of a building, make sure your windows lock. If they don’t, you can purchase a sliding window lock or security bar. Also be wary about who you let into your building, especially if you live in halls, most halls have separate doors into your room corridor, always challenge if someone tags on behind you, or asks you to let them in to the secure corridor.
4. Maintain privacy on social media.
Social media is a great platform for connecting with friends and family worldwide or sharing updates about your life. However, with everything you post, stay aware of who else could be viewing your profile. Avoid geotagging your photos, as it reveals your location to strangers, and don’t publicly announce when you’re home alone or are leaving your home unattended.
Next Step: Review the settings on each of your social media profiles. Disable location services, make your accounts private, and think twice before sharing anything. Remember: once something gets posted on the Internet, it’s tough to remove it entirely.
5. Keep aware when out partying.
Most people, especially in their first year will be out partying in between lectures and sleeping. Ensure that you make your night memorable for all the right reasons, follow these simple tips when out on the town;
Avoid drinks that you have not seen being poured, and never leave a drink unattended.
If you suddenly feel unusually drunk, ask a trusted friend to take you home and seek medical help.
Never leave bags and phones unattended, and keep an eye on your belongings at all times.
Be sensible when drinking alcohol. Don’t let it affect your ability to take care of yourself. Drink water between each alcoholic beverage – this will help you to avoid that dreaded hangover, too!
Keep to well-lit areas when walking between pubs and clubs.
Use a reputable taxi firm to get home, and travel with friends. Your Students’ Union can provide you with the names and numbers of trusted local firms. If you walk home, do so in a group and not on your own.
Don’t go home with complete strangers. Stay with your friends when you’re out, and make sure you all go home together.
If someone has drunk too much there are things you can do that will help a lot, including possibly putting them in the recovery position.
6. Know where you’re going.
Whenever you set out to town or class, make sure you know where you’re heading and how to get there. Walk with confidence and avoid looking confused, even when you’re trying to navigate a new location. If you’re in an unfamiliar area, don’t use headphones or let your phone distract you, and focus on finding your destination.
Next Step: Download your university map onto your phone and use your GPS to find popular, highly trafficked routes to get to your destination. Always try to avoid walking along deserted paths, and when in doubt, stick to the routes with which you’re most familiar — even if they take a little longer.
7. Understand your campus’s and city’s crime.
The more you know about the crime in your local area, the better you can prevent similar incidents from happening to you. Most universities provide on-campus crime statistics, and several websites offer a thorough overview of a city’s crime rates, including the type of offence and specific locations where the crime occurred.
Next Step: Research crime in your local area using a site like www.police.uk to learn more about the crime within a particular city or local area a postcode search will show you a the number of crimes and list them by type.
8. Learn how to defend yourself.
There’s nothing more empowering than knowing how to protect yourself physically. You’ll feel safer and more confident, especially if you live or travel alone. You don’t need a black belt in karate to master self-defense; all you need are a few classes and tips from a professional instructor. There are several types and styles of classes from which to choose, depending on your interests.
Next Step: Sign up for a self-defence class in your area.. These classes are often available at colleges and gyms. If you’re feeling shy or nervous, ask a few friends to take the class with you.
9. Have safety and security supplies readily accessible.
Keeping a few safety supplies on hand can help you feel more protected. Mobile panic alarms and FARB gels are available to purchase on the internet. Many universities also provide new students with whistles, which you can use to alert those nearby when you require assistance or are in danger.
Next Step: Pack your chosen safety supplies into a small kit, and fasten the kit on a key ring, lanyard, or backpack. These items should be easy to grab at any time, as they won’t do you much good if they’re buried at the bottom of your bag.
University is an incredible and rewarding experience. But as busy as you’ll be with adjusting to independence, new classes, partying and new friends, don’t forget to stay safe and maintain awareness. Following these nine simple steps can significantly increase your chances of having a safe and successful school year.