Risk Reporter for Educational Facilities

Winter 2015 Vol. 2, Issue 3

Higher Education

Students’ safety doesn’t happen by chance

As students come to view your campus as their “home away from home,” they might feel safer than they should.

The Clery report, which captures crime statistics on and around college campuses, shows crime typically is lower on a campus than the surrounding area. That said, safety shouldn’t be taken for granted, said Scott Law, director for campus public safety at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

“You must be proactive and aware,” he said.

There are many things that can be done to help keep students safe on campus.

Limit building access. Require keys or access cards for campus buildings. “Our system records swipes so we know who’s entering the building,” Law said.

Maintain a security presence. “In the residence halls, residence life staff has people at the front desk 24 hours a day,” Law said. “Public safety officers regularly walk the floors.”

Educate students. Urge students to be aware of their surroundings and recognize their role. “If you’re coming into your hall and don’t recognize the person behind you, don’t let them piggyback off your access card,” Law said. “If you see someone wandering on your floor, don’t assume all is well. Ask if they belong there or call the RA (resident advisor) or the front desk.”

Students also should travel in a group — at least three is ideal, Law said. Students should not talk on the phone or listen to music when walking alone, and they should avoid deserted walkways and rooms.

“Tell people where you’re going to be and when you plan to be home,” Law said. “If you’re not back, your roommate will know to check into it.”

Consider adding a mobile app. All Drake students can sign up for Drake Guardian — an app Law describes as “a blue light (alarm system) in your pocket.” Students can use the app as a panic button — one push and they’re connected to security — or as a way to send out a message that all is not well.

A student enters information into the app that indicates the student is walking home and sets a timer for the expected travel time, Law said. If the student doesn’t log in and report his or her arrival in the specified time, an alert goes out. Smartphones are GPS-enabled, and a Drake team can track a student if his or her alarm goes off.

Provide safety resources. Drake still maintains its network of blue-light phones on campus. “We haven’t gotten everyone on the app, and visitors don’t have access to it,” Law said. “Plus, the blue-light boxes are a visible deterrent against crime.”

Safe walk programs — where students, staff or visitors can ask for an escort within a certain distance of campus — and taxi programs also are helpful.

“We offer self-defense classes, but I’d caution that these only have value if you practice what you’ve learned,” Law said.

Urge staff and visitors to be safety-conscious too. Students aren’t the only ones who need to be familiar with safety resources and aware of their surroundings.

Let men know they’re not immune. “Guys assume they’re safe, but anyone can be a victim, especially if they’re alone,” Law said.

Use every resource to get the word out. Law works with Drake’s marketing team to get safety messages out using both traditional and electronic media. “Student government is critical,” Law said. “Students respond much better to messages from their peers.”

Recognize the impact of alcohol and drugs. “Drugs and alcohol affect people’s judgment, period,” Law said. “Stress the importance of going out in a group, never leaving someone behind in a bar or at a party with someone they just met. Get their phone number. They can text (one another) tomorrow.”

Never blame the victim. “The victim’s behavior is not the reason a crime happened,” Law said. “It is always the perpetrator’s fault. Everything your school does in the wake of a crime must reflect that.”


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Editor: Amy M. Kimmes akimmes@churchmutual.com

Risk Control Advisor: Edward A. Steele, CSP, ARM esteele@churchmutual.com

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