It’s that time of year. Students arrive on campuses ready to dive into new academic and living adventures.
It’s also a time to remind ourselves how important it is to stay safe on and off campus.
Whether you’re living in a college residence or you're a commuter, walking long distances to class locations and social happenings is a fact of life for most students. As fall turns into winter, more and more of those footsteps happen during the night.
Here is a simple, easy to remember way to help you or loved ones stay safe when walking on or near campus.
The SAFE Walking Method
Think of the word, SAFE. Each letter in SAFE represents an aspect of the SAFE Walking Method.
S - Scan the environment: Keep your attention on your surroundings and NOT on your cellphone. Have your cellphone turned on and easily accessible, but avoid looking at the phone’s screen. Avoid also listening to music or other audio that draws attention away from awareness of your surroundings. Nothing is more important than staying present as you notice the people, topography, and area activity as you’re walking.
A - Avoid danger zones: Avoid dark, poorly lit areas during evening and nighttime hours. Avoid shortcuts taking you in back of buildings, near wooded or overgrown areas, or away from main roads and walkways.
If you’re in a parking lot, avoid walking between parked cars. Walk in the travel lanes if designated walkways aren’t available, being careful to watch for moving cars from the front, back, and sides. Pay attention to cars pulling out of parking spots. Drivers may not see you, so be attentive and stay safe.
F - Friends: Get a little help from your friends! If possible, walk in a group. If there are others walking in the area try to stay close to people walking in the same direction.
E - Erect and Confident: Stand tall with head up as you walk erect and briskly in a confident posture. Criminals are drawn to people who appear timid, inattentive, or fearful. Know how to activate 911 or other emergency number on your cellphone. Have keys, access cards, and your cellphone easily accessible. You don’t want to fumble through your purse or book bag looking for these items as you approach your destination.
Other Safety Actions
There are other actions that can help keep you safe. These include wearing a personal loud, shrill alarm easily activated if you sense danger, having a loud police type whistle, and having pepper spray easily available.
While these personal security products may be helpful in a threatening situation, it’s vital to practice using them before they’re needed in an emergency. This is particularly true for pepper spray.
One More Vital Item: Trust Your Gut
One really, really important additional item: Trust your gut. If you sense a threat, act on that internal “something’s not right” signal!
These SAFE walking actions suggested in this post require only your awareness and attention. If you feel threatened, act immediately by calling for help or taking other steps to eliminate the threat and ensure your safety.
Recapping Your SAFE Walking Actions
To recap, your SAFE walking actions are:
Scan the environment.
Avoid danger zones.
Friends and Others Walking: Walk with friends and other people in a group if possible.
Erect and Confident: Assume an erect and confident posture as you walk briskly to your destination.
Practicing SAFE walking on campus and in other locations will help you reduce risk and enhance personal safety.
More Safety Tips
For more tips on staying safe when on campus and public places, walking, or using parking lots and garages, see these other FREA posts,
“Are You Practicing Safe Parking in Lots and Garages?”, at https://www.frea.support/single-post/2019/03/18/Are-You-Practicing-Safe-Parking-in-Lots-and-Garages,
“Are You as Safe as Possible When Walking in the World?”, at https://www.frea.support/single-post/2019/03/05/Are-You-as-Safe-as-Possible-When-Walking-in-the-World
“Sexual Assault on Campus - Don’t be a Victim!, at https://www.frea.support/single-post/2018/08/21/Sex-Assaults-on-Campus---Don%E2%80%99t-be-a-Victim
P.S. The audio podcast companion episode for this blogpost is linked immediately below. Click the player to listen to the episode.
Stephen Carter is a former Chief of Police, Corporate Security Director and safely leader for one of the world's largest financial services companies. He is now the CEO of Stress Solutions, LLC, a company dedicated to helping people enhance physical and emotional wellbeing through stress mastery using mind-body methods. He is the host of the, "Safe Living Today" and "Mind Over Stress" podcasts.