Heading off to college can be an exciting and challenging time for young adults. For many, it’s their first time living on their own and making decisions for themselves.
With this new sense of freedom comes great responsibility. There are many challenges to face, especially the importance of dorm room security and safety.
- Electrical outlets, extension cords, and power strips: Do not overload these, as they can be extremely dangerous. Keep combustibles away from electrical products, portable heaters, and lighting such as halogen lamps. They are a source of many dorm fires.
- Smoke alarms: Make sure they are in working order. If you suspect there is a problem, contact your RA. Never remove batteries or disable the alarm. If your room is equipped with a sprinkler head, do not hang any items on it.
- Escape plan: Learn your building’s emergency evacuation plan. If the smoke alarm or fire alarm sounds, get out of the building quickly and stay out until you are told it is safe to return.
- Candles: Tapers, votives, and other kinds of candles are prohibited in most residence halls, but if you choose to use them, make sure they’re in secure holders and extinguished after each use. Keep them away from draperies and linens. During a power outage, use a flashlight.
- Cooking: Be very cautious when preparing food. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, cooking equipment causes 72 percent of dorm fires. Cook only where it is permitted, and make sure you never leave it unattended.
- Smoking: If permitted, make sure cigarettes and ashes are out, and never toss used butts in the trashcan. Use deep, wide ashtrays. Sofas and chairs can ignite quickly so be careful when smoking around one, especially if you have been drinking alcohol or are drowsy.
- Clean and organized room: Boxes, trash, clothing, and any other clutter should be kept out of doorways and hallways so everyone can exit quickly and safely in an emergency. It also reduces the chances of a fire starting, since clothing and debris can ignite quickly from a candle, cigarette butt, or electrical spark.
Dorm Room Security
- Always lock your doors and windows: Even if you are only leaving for a minute, always make sure your room is secure. Never prop any exterior residence hall doors open.
- Never give your key or code to another person: This is never a good idea under any circumstance. If you or your roommate’s key is lost or misplaced, immediately contact your Residential Advisor (RA) so you can get a new one.
- Let someone know about your schedule: Leave a copy of your class schedule with your roommate, close friend, or family member so they know where you are supposed to be. Also, let someone know if you are leaving for any length of time such as for a weekend trip or holiday.
- Be cautious if using the stairs alone: The stairs are a common place for assaults to occur. If you feel uncomfortable about the occupants when entering an elevator, it is probably best to wait for the next one.
- Do not allow strangers into the building: Be careful when entering so that no one sneaks in behind you. If you see someone in the building who looks suspicious, contact your RA, campus security, or the police.
- Be careful with alcohol: Only drink if you are of legal age, and avoid drinking excessively. Alcohol is often a major factor in campus assaults.
- Keep valuables out of sight: Many people may pass through your room or see in from the hallway. Keeping them hidden can reduce the chance of theft. Items with great sentimental or monetary value should probably be left at home.
- Do not post your schedule on your door: Letting the general public know when you are coming and going can be an unwanted invitation for a thief to enter.
- Make a list of all your valuables: Write down the serial numbers of all electronics in case they are stolen.
- Secure your computer: It’s probably one of the most important items you’ll want to keep safe. You can help deter theft by securing it in a locked drawer or cabinet or using a security locking cable to tether it to something solid. Make sure it is password protected so that other people cannot access your private data.
- Use a safe: Some colleges provide them in dorm rooms. If not, you may want to consider getting one for valuables such as jewelry, money, or your passport.
- Insurance: Talk to your insurance agent about your insurance needs. In most cases, your parents’ homeowners policy will provide basic coverage for you, but there may be times when a renters policy is needed. A personal articles policy can provide additional coverage for electronics, musical instruments, sports equipment, and more.
Staying safe at college should be your number one priority. With planning, common sense, and the support of friends and family, you can ease your concerns and get off to a great start.
Axel Jimenez State Farm Agency is located at 1520 E. College Ave, Suite E in Normal. You may reach him at 309-451-FARM (3276) or email: Axel@axelismyagent.com.
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