SWOSU Safety Awareness Month
Tips for Staying Safe on Campus
September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month, or NCSAM: a time when parents, students, and higher education professionals all across the U.S. work to improve campus safety. NCSAM was created by the non-profit organization the Clery Center, which works with colleges and universities to create safer campuses for their students. The mission is to empower everyone with safety knowledge.
Fear hinders learning and work, so minimizing it benefits everyone. In the spirit of NCSAM, here are some tips and resources for mitigating fears and staying safe on campus all year long.
Hit and Runs
You’re late for your 8:30 a.m. class and in a hurry. You pull into the parking lot, but miscalculate your car’s trajectory and hit another car. Now you’re late and probably scared. What’s worse, the owner of the car you just hit is already sitting in class. Would you know what to do?
Fear might suggest you simply drive away. No one will find out. You can just park somewhere else and no one would be the wiser. It was just a small dent anyway, right? Before you drive off, you should probably be aware you would be committing a hit and run.
According to SWOSU’s Chief of Campus Police, Kendra Brown, hit and runs are some of the most common safety issues on campus. The majority are harmless fender benders. “These typically occur when someone is trying to park and they misjudge the distance between their car and a parked car,” Chief Brown explains.
The obvious advice to avoid the situation is simply slow down, pay attention to your surroundings, and set your alarm earlier. But if you do find yourself in the situation, make sure you follow these guidelines:
- Leave a note on the car’s windshield with your contact information (i.e. name, address, and vehicle registration number)
- Write down the license plate of the car you hit.
- If you need to, report the accident to the campus police.
- Check back periodically with the car to try and catch the owner before they leave campus.
Fender benders happen. It’s not the end of the world. Nothing is so important that you should take chances behind the wheel. If you’ve been hit and can’t move your vehicle safely, try and find someone to help you. These tips and guidelines will help you stay safe on the road and protect you should an accident occur.
Did you know? SWOSU has a Campus Watch Program? Similar to a neighborhood watch, the CWP relies on students to become active participants in their own safety by being aware and reporting suspicious behavior. Find out more.
Property and Identity Theft
Theft of personal items on campuses is another common safety concern. College campuses contain enormous amounts of valuable equipment, from student laptops to big screen televisions. Textbooks are also a favorite target for thieves given their high price and ability to be sold easily. Here are some helpful tips:
- Keep it concealed. Avoid leaving your cell phone out in the open. Don’t leave textbooks or your backpack in your car where thieves can easily see them. Instead, stow items under the seats, put them in the trunk, or take them with you.
- Lock your property up. Theft doesn’t just occur in the parking lot or in class. Dorm rooms are also known to draw thieves. Some students are even robbed by their own roommates. Locking mechanisms like those for laptops and iPads are fairly inexpensive and effective ways to ensure your stuff stays in your room even when you’re not there.
- Register your stuff. Even if something gets stolen, you’re still obligated to identify your property if it’s found. That’s harder than you might think. In around 90% of the cases where electronics like cameras, computers, and mobile phones are recovered, the victim is unable to adequately identify their property. Take time to register your dorm room valuables with campus police.
Students are also not immune to identity theft, and, in some instances, are more susceptible than the general public. According to the Javelin Strategy & Research 2015 identity-fraud report, students are somewhat protected from fraud by their limited financial resources.
Many students don’t qualify for credit cards, which minimizes their fraud exposure significantly. However, identify fraud is still a safety issue for students. The Federal Trade Commission suggests some common sense steps to minimize your fraud exposure.
Did you know? Students are 45% more likely than the general public to be victims of new account fraud.
Every campus has a lot of foot traffic. Crossing busy roads is dangerous. Cell phones are making it more dangerous by distracting drivers and walkers. But checking your Facebook isn’t worth injuring a pedestrian or getting injured by a driver. And, of course, drivers and pedestrians alike should always avoid alcohol consumption. Here are some basic tips for keeping pedestrians and drivers safe, according to AAA.
- Be visible. Make sure you’re visible to drivers at all times. Make every effort to make eye contact with the driver of a stopped or approaching vehicle before entering the roadway. This is especially important at night, in low-light conditions such as dusk or dawn or in inclement weather.
- Stay Alert. Put down your phone. Don’t wear headphones. Your ears will tell you a lot about what is happening around you – be sure to use them.
- Follow the Rules. Know and follow the traffic rules, signs and signals. Never assume a driver will give you the right of way.
- Walk in Safe Places. Use crosswalks when crossing the street. Stay on sidewalks whenever possible. If a sidewalk is not available, be sure to walk on the far side of the road, facing traffic. This will help increase your visibility to drivers.
- Be alert. Look out for pedestrians at all times. When you are operating a vehicle, you have accepted a heightened responsibility for other people on the road.
- Crosswalks. Always yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. When approaching a crosswalk, reduce your speed and be prepared to stop. When stopped, allow enough room between your vehicle and the crosswalk so other drivers can see the pedestrians you have stopped for. Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk.
- Backing out. Be mindful of pedestrians when pulling into and out of driveways, especially if you are backing up. Pedestrians can easily enter your path without your knowledge.
Safety Fact: 32 % of all pedestrian fatalities occur between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.
Sexual assault and misconduct are real safety concerns on campuses nationwide. Much of the concern is around reporting standards for colleges and universities. At SWOSU, we are very serious about preventing and helping victims of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a crime of “power and control” and refers to any “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim,” according to sexual assault watchdog Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN.
At the forefront of sexual assault issues on campuses is the crime of acquaintance rape, more commonly known as “date rape.” In 3 out of 4 cases of sexual violence, the perpetrator knows the victim. SWOSU campus police has some comprehensive guidelines for staying safe and reporting sexual assault crimes.
Everyone has a role in preventing date rape and your intervention could make the difference for your friends and loved ones. Here are some helpful “bystander intervention” tips from RAINN:
Create a distraction
- Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place.
- Cut off the conversation with a diversion like, “Let’s get pizza, I’m starving,” or “This party is lame. Let’s try somewhere else.”
- Bring out fresh food or drinks and offer them to everyone at the party, including the people you are concerned about.
- Start an activity that is draws other people in, like a game, a debate, or a dance party.
- Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble.
- Ask questions like “Who did you come here with?” or “Would you like me to stay with you?”
- Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to refer to a neutral party with the authority to change the situation, like an RA or security guard.
- Talk to a security guard, bartender, or another employee about your concerns. It’s in their best interest to ensure that their patrons are safe, and they will usually be willing to step in.
- Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you are concerned for someone else’s safety.
Refer to an authority
It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you.
- Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers.
- Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them to the bathroom.
- Enlist the friend of the person you’re concerned about. “Your friend looks like they’ve had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?”
Don’t let fear hinder the positive experiences available to you at SWOSU, but always be aware of your surroundings and of potentially dangerous situations. Follow these safety tips and empower yourself to stay safe on campus.