UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For many Penn State students, the start of the fall semester doesn’t just mark the start of classes. It’s also the first time that many are living on their own, and with that independence comes the need for personal responsibility for one’s safety and security.
“The safety of our students is of critical importance and we are committed to providing the safest possible on-campus environment. Students and other community members also have an important role to play in campus safety,” said Sgt. Monica Himes, the community education officer with University Police at University Park. “It’s important that we, both as a community and as individuals, take our personal safety and responsibilities seriously.”
As new and returning students adjust to life on campus, Himes shared basic safety tips. First and foremost, Himes said, is to try to maintain a level of situational awareness: Whether you’re walking between classes or out at night with friends, being aware of what’s going on around you is the first line of defense. Situational awareness can be as simple as looking both ways before crossing the street, or keeping track of where your phone and wallet are, but simple steps such as these can contribute to your safety and the safety of those around you. Other simple, practical tips from University Police include:
Know how to contact police should the need arise.
It’s better to know how to contact police and never need to, than the other way around. For immediate emergencies, students can always call 911. University Park students should program the number for University Police (814-863-1111) into their phones. Every Commonwealth Campus also has its own police and public safety office, and Commonwealth Campus students should check this list to find the number for their campus.
Additionally, there are emergency phones in many on-campus elevators and every campus has emergency phones in the form of poles with blue lights located around campus; make note of their location should you ever need to use one.
Always lock your door.
Theft on campus, Himes said, often stems from an unlocked and unattended residence hall. Himes reminded the community that security features, such as restricted access to residence halls, are in place, and encouraged students not to bypass those systems.
“Do not let strangers or unescorted guests into your residence hall or apartment building,” said Himes, “and if you see someone gain access who shouldn’t, never hesitate to make a report to police.”
Similarly, she said, always being sure your bicycle is properly locked and your personal items, like your phone, laptop and wallet, are not left unattended or unaccounted for are easy steps to reduce the likelihood of theft.
Guard your personal information.
Phishing scams and phone scams unfortunately are common, so be sure not to give out your personal information, including your Penn State ID number and your passwords. If you receive a strange email or phone call trying to get you to share personal information, Himes has a simple guideline: “If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.” She also noted that official law enforcement agencies will never contact you demanding money under the threat of arrest; this is a common scam that can take many different forms. If you’re unsure if something is legitimate, reach out to a trusted source or report the incident to University Police. You can report suspicious emails at email@example.com, and can learn more about information security and what you can do to protect yourself online at https://security.psu.edu/phishing/.
Understand Run, Hide, Fight.