Student Safety

Student safety.

So, I’d like to think you know most of what I’m about to tell you, but I know that a lot of people are not even aware of the basics of Student Safety. When you first move to uni, whether you are from a small village moving into a big city or just in a strange place you know nothing about, you are still likely to be out of your comfort zone. For many it’s the first time away from home and the little things that you might never have even realised existed are now your responsibility. There are a lot of aspects to staying safe and I’m going to cover a few and then give some really good links to other websites that you should definitely look at.

Fire safety.

Yes, I know you’ve probably heard about fire safety a million times before. I had it drilled into me every year in my Soc Ed classes. But I’m going to repeat it now because while you may have heard it before it’s a different matter entirely when it’s down to you to deal with, not your parents.

Every year, around 350 18-24 year olds are injured in accidental house fires started by cigarettes, smoking materials and candles.

Over half of accidental house fires are caused by cooking.

Most student accommodations will have a strict no smoking policy and probably won’t let you light candles or incense. I’m not sure if they are obliged to do so or not but I know most accommodations will have fire alarms in every room as well as communal areas. I know, however, that too many people are stupid enough to disable these or cover it so that they do not detect the smoke. I’m not going to go into a rant about how immature, idiotic and lazy it is to do this, putting your life and the life of others in your accommodation at risk just so you don’t have to go outside to have a cigarette. Just don’t do it.  There are some pretty obvious rules to follow to limit the chances of causing a fire. I’m sure most uni accommodation make sure you follow these anyway, but just in case:

  • Test your smoke alarm every week. I know it can be a pain but it really does save lives.
  • NEVER smoke in bed. Or while drunk.
  • Make sure all cigarette ends are cold before you put them in the bin.
  • Do not leave any open flame unsupervised.
  • Be aware of where the fire alarms are and where fire safety equipment is located.
  • Know your escape route in case of a fire and NEVER block it with bikes or rubbish etc.
  • Keep a torch somewhere accessible in case you’re caught in smoke.
  • If you smell gas or burning leave your flat immediately and contact someone in charge or phone the emergency services.
  • Avoid cooking when drunk.

Personal Safety

Okay, again I know most of this is pretty obvious but it’s important to remember. Especially as, being a first year and new to where ever you are, you are not only likely to get yourself into dangerous situations, you are also more likely to be targeted because criminals will know you’re not as ‘street savvy’ as others.

  • Try not to stick out like a sore thumb. If you look completely lost or make it obvious that you’re not from here, people will know you’re an easy target. Things to avoid are pulling out maps in risky areas, starting a conversation on the phone with ‘help me, I’m lost’ and importantly wearing leavers hoodies with the year you left on. It’s a sure fire way to alert everyone that you’ve just left school and as you’re most likely going to be hanging around known student areas you’re making it really easy for a criminal to identify you as fresh meat.
  • Do your research and find out where the ‘rougher’ places are. Avoid them like the plague, at least until you know what you’re doing, where you are and how to get home.
  • Stay in groups as much as you can.
  • Don’t take short cuts by yourself.
  • Don’t walk about a night by yourself.
  • Keep to well lit, busy roads and try to look confident, even if you don’t feel it.
  • If you think you are being followed, cross the road and keep walking. If it continues head for a busy area or lighted house to ask for help.
  • Consider getting a personal alarm. If nothing else they’ll make you feel a bit more secure.
  • Keep your house keys in an easily accessible place. It’s a pretty horrible piece of advice but if I’m walking alone at night, which is stupidly often, I hold them in my hand with the keys between my fingers that way if I’m ever attacked or something I have something to defend myself with that’s not just my pathetic attempt to throw a punch.
  • Keep your bag close with the fastening towards your body. If you’re attacked do NOT fight for it. It can be replaced, you can’t.
  • Don’t hold long conversations on mobiles in the middle of busy areas. It’s a sure fire way to broadcast that you have expensive technology on you.
  • Get anything valuable you’re going to be carrying around with you marked.
  • Avoid passing stationary cars with their engines running and people sitting in them. I did this once and was absolutely terrified when they started hounding me. It’s best to cross the street.
  • Try to keep both hands free and don’t walk with your hands in your pockets.
  • Whenever possible, walk facing oncoming traffic to avoid kerb crawlers.
  • If you do have to walk in the same direction as the traffic and a vehicle pulls up suddenly alongside you, turn and walk or run in the other direction – you can turn much faster than a car.
  • Be extra careful when using cashpoint machines. Make sure nobody is hovering nearby and do not count your money in the middle of the street.

Travelling Saftey

I don’t own a car so I can’t give you much advice. I do, however, use public transport a lot!

  • When travelling in taxis, sit in the back seat.
  • Check they’re licenced! Don’t get into a taxi if you can’t see the licence!
  • Keep your bag shut while on public transport.
  • Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and don’t doze off.
  • If you are planning to use public transport, always check the times of the last train, tube or buses.
  • If a bus is empty or it is after dark, it may be safer to stay on the lower deck and sit near the driver or conductor. On trains or on the underground, try to sit with other people and avoid empty carriages.
  • If you feel uneasy, don’t be afraid to move to another seat or carriage.
  • Know where you are going and which stop you need. Check departure times, especially of last buses.
  • Try and have your ticket, pass or change ready in your hand so your purse or wallet is out of sight.
  • Wait for a bus or train in a well-lit place near other people whenever possible.
  • Carry extra money in case you get stranded and need to take another bus, train or cab.

Drinking Safety

It’s always important that no matter who you’re with and how much you’re drinking, you make sure you drink safely!

  • Never accept a drink from someone you don’t know.
  • Never leave your drink unattended.
  • Plan your night out ahead. Make sure you know how you’re getting home.
  • Either appoint a drink watcher if you go off for a dance or to the toilet or make sure you finish it before. Even with friends you can never be sure it’s safe. It just takes a second to turn their back on a drink.
  • Remember soft drinks are spiked too!
  • If you think your drink has been tampered with, don’t take a chance, get another one.
  • Remember men get their drinks spiked as well as women.

Home Safety

For possibly the first time ever you’re now responsible for keeping your home safe from crime.

  • Keep your doors and windows locked when you go out. Even if you’re just leaving the room it’s a good idea to lock your window, especially if you’re on a lower floor.
  • Mark your property with the university name and your student number.
  • Don’t leave cash or valuables on display.
  • Leave the light or radio on when you go out to give the impression someone’s in.
  • Hide all keys, including car keys, out of sight.
  • If you live in a building that has a shared entrance, be careful about ‘buzzing’ people in or holding the door open for strangers.
  • ‘Distraction burglars’, known as bogus callers, will distract your attention in order to get into your home to steal your money or belongings. If anyone you don’t know turns up at your door, you should always ask to see their identification before letting them in. Only let someone into your home when you are absolutely sure they are genuine. Or better yet, just don’t let strangers into your flat. 
  • Make sure your mobile is with you all the time, but don’t have it on display.
  • Never let anyone into your block by holding a door open unless you know them or have checked their ID.

There is a lot more advice on keeping safe at

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/UniversityAndHigherEducation/LifeAtUniversityOrCollege/DG_180817

http://www.suzylamplugh.org/personal-safety/personal-safety-tips/student-safety/

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