Student’s Guide to Staying Safe
Accommodation – Staying Safe in Halls
When you leave your room lock the door and shut the window, even if you are only planning to be away for a few minutes. Never let anyone into your block by holding a door open unless you know them or have checked their ID. Following someone in through a door is a thief’s favourite way of gaining access, as they will not have to force entry/draw attention to themselves.
Report anything suspicious to the person on duty – it may seem insignificant, but let them decide. If you are on the ground floor, keep any valuables, eg. laptops, out of sight of anyone looking through the windows.
Looking for Flatmates
If you are advertising for a flatmate, only list the area you live in, plus your phone number (preferably your mobile number). Do not put your name, address and if you are presently living alone, avoid mentioning this. When they call, chat on the phone for a while and trust your instincts. If you don’t like the sound of them say you will need to phone them back with a suggested time and then call to say the flat is no longer available. When you set up a time for someone to visit, make sure that you are not in the house alone, ask another flat mate or friend to stay in with you. If you agree to take someone on, ask them for a reference from another landlord or from one of their tutors, so you can phone and check they are legitimate.
Looking for a flat/flatshare.
It is very important not to let your instincts be clouded by your social behaviour – do not give out unnecessary personal details to anyone whom you may have contact with when arranging to view a property. If possible arrange for someone to accompany you or to come and collect you from the property at a pre-arranged time.
Never accept a lift after viewing a property – no matter how tempting the offer. Ask whoever will be showing you the property if there will be someone else there when you view it. If you are unable to take a friend make sure you leave details of where you will be going (address and tel.), what time you are meeting, who you will be meeting with a friend.
Do not be ashamed to say that you are aware of your own personal safety and need to know as many details as possible so that you can inform a friend of your whereabouts. Whoever will be showing you around the house will then be aware that they have been “logged in” in very much the same way that clients will be logged in by Estate Agents before they show a property.
Try to arrange to view the place in daylight. Make sure you know how you will be getting home after your appointment – check bus and train times. You could always order a cab to come to the property at a certain time.
Most importantly, trust your instincts. If you have a funny feeling about something, leave straight away.
Out and About
Students are often loaded down with books and folders. Try to keep one hand free, walk confidently and be aware of your surroundings.
Avoid wearing an mp3 player or chatting on your mobile when walking down the street. This will distract you from your surroundings and prevent you from hearing danger approaching. If you’re walking alone at night, try to avoid danger spots such as poorly lit areas and walk facing oncoming traffic to avoid kerb crawlers.
Think about getting a personal safety alarm, which can be used to shock and disorientate an attacker. Keep it in an easily accessible place and carry it in your hand if you feel at risk.
If you are using public transport, make sure you check departure times, especially of last trains, tubes and buses. Try and have your ticket, pass or change ready in your hand so your purse or wallet stays out of sight. Always wait for a bus, train or taxi in a well-lit place, near other people if possible.
If a bus is empty or it is after dark, stay on the lower deck and sit near the driver or conductor. On the underground or on trains 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 or get off at the next stop if you know the area.
Carry the telephone number of a trusted, registered taxi or minicab company with you. If possible, book a taxi or minicab in advance. Ask for the driver’s name, as well as the make and colour of the car. Confirm the driver’s details when they arrive – is it the taxi or minicab you ordered? Try to share a taxi or minicab with a friend and sit in the back of the car. If you chat to the driver, be careful not to give out any personal details.
Going Out at Night
If you are going to drink then know what your limit is and remember alcohol dulls your instincts and can lead to you making dangerous decisions. When you are going out make sure someone knows where you are going, whom you are meeting and when you expect to return. Always plan how you are going to get home. If you are going out with a group of people then watch out for each other and make sure everyone stays safe.
Watch your drinks and food to ensure that nothing is added to them. Be especially careful never to leave your drink unattended, even if you are going onto a dance floor or to the toilet. If something tastes or looks odd, do not eat/drink any more of it. Be aware though that some date rape drugs are colourless and tasteless.
If you feel ill or light-headed tell a trusted friend or a member of staff straight away and ask for a taxi to take you home. Seek medical advice as soon as possible. If someone you do not know or trust offers to buy you a drink, either decline politely or accompany them to the bar and watch that nothing is added to your drink.
Remember, the most common date rape drug is alcohol. Victims are often unaware that extra shots of alcohol have been added to their drinks making them far stronger.
Get an Alarm
We all want to feel as safe, confident and secure as possible and one thing that can really help with this is a personal safety alarm. The most common misconception is that a personal alarm is used to attract the attention of passers by. Unfortunately, you cannot rely on a personal alarm to do that for you. Firstly, there may not actually be anyone within earshot.
Secondly, and most importantly, hearing an alarm does not necessarily encourage people to help. Often personal safety alarms pulsate, sounding like a car alarm. How often do we ignore it thinking it’s a false alarm and annoying rather than a cause for concern? The purpose of a personal alarm is to shock and disorientate an attacker, giving you vital seconds to get away.
The best way to ensure your personal safety is to plan ahead. Your alarm is no use to you in a bag; have your alarm in your hand when you feel vulnerable or threatened. Then – If your exit is blocked or you feel attack is imminent, hold the alarm close to the attackers head (if you can).
An ear-piercing shriek will be emitted. This should temporarily put the assailant off balance – mentally and physically. Use the shriek to spur yourself into action, putting you back in control and giving you vital seconds to get away. Do not waste time checking it has had the desired effect on the attacker – just go.
What else can you do if you feel attack is imminent?
Use your voice to make lots of noise. Shouting an instruction like “Call the Police!” makes it very clear to anyone within earshot that you are in danger and need assistance.
Try diversion techniques. Doing something unexpected can confuse an attacker and give you a chance to get away. Some of the suggestions we have heard that have worked are: pretending to vomit or pretending to see someone and calling out to them for help. Thinking about it in advance will help you to think more clearly in an emergency situation.
For more information on personal safety and about personal safety alarms, visit: www.suzylamplugh.org
Provided by The Suzy Lamplugh Trust – the UK’s leading authority on personal safety.