Tips for safer daily living
You can do a lot to improve your safety while living in off-campus housing! For starters, recognize that you are now living on your own, and it is your personal responsibility to look out for your security. To help you do this, here are some tips for safer daily living.
- Keep doors and windows locked at all times (even when you are home). Insist your landlord repair any broken locks, windows, and doors immediately!
- Always close window-coverings at night and when you are not at home. Hint: Hang blinds/curtains over every window, and if your front or back door contains a large window be sure to cover it with a curtain as well.
- Never reveal to someone — either on the phone, or standing outside your door — that you are alone. When a visitor is outside your door, call out, “I’ll get it!” to create the appearance that other people are inside with you.
When someone is at your door
- Always look through a peephole or window to see who it is before you unlock the door.
- If you do not recognize the visitor, ask them questions through the door so they can identify themselves.
- Demand all service/repair personnel show official identification, and confirm with your landlord or roommates that someone actually placed a service order.
- If someone knocks on your door and asks to come in to simply use your phone, you may offer to make the call for them, but never let them inside… When in doubt, never let a stranger into your home!
- Check smoke detectors monthly to make sure they work. (If you don’t have smoke detectors, ask your landlord to install one, or check if you’re allowed to install one yourself… Every residence needs a smoke detector!)
- Know where the nearest fire extinguisher is located in your apartment complex. If your residence is not equipped with a fire extinguisher, ask your landlord to provide one, or purchase one yourself.
- Make sure ovens and stovetops are turned off after every use. (Double check if you have to… Simple mistakes like this are the most common cause of fire!)
- At night, have your keys ready before you reach the door.
- Never leave your keys outside under a doormat, in a hide-a-key, or any place accessible to a stranger.
- If you lose your keys, have your landlord change your locks immediately.
- Make sure parking lots, garages, laundry rooms, stairwells, and hallways are well-lit. If you notice a light out in a public area such as these, notify your landlord.
- Avoid entering elevators with strangers. Hint: When in an elevator with a stranger, stand by the control panel. If confronted in a threatening way, push the emergency alarm and all the floor buttons. Don’t press the stop button!
- Remove your address from local telephone directories and UT Directory Services, and only list your phone number with a first initial and last name. Label buzz-in call boxes and mail boxes at your residence with only your first initial and last name as well.
- Never leave a note on your door or message on your answering machine implying you are not home. Hint: Record a generic answering machine greeting — nothing that indicates your schedule, or states that you are away. (A digitized message saying no one is available to take the call is your best bet.)
- Make it appear as though someone is always home. Leave a low-wattage light and a noisemaker/radio turned on inside your residence at all times, to discourage burglars looking to vandalize an empty home.
- Inscribe your valuables with your state-issued driver’s license/identification number. (Marking your property in this way makes it less valuable to potential burglars, and — in the event it is stolen — provides law enforcement with proof of your ownership.)
- To prevent identity theft, destroy credit card applications, credit-advance checks, and all other papers with your personal information on them before you throw them in the garbage.
- Post the local police and fire departments’ numbers by every phone, or program them into your cell phone. Also, post/program emergency contact numbers; label these numbers ICE (In Case of Emergency), and, in the event of an emergency, officials will know whom to contact for important personal or medical information.
- Get to know your neighbors. This is an excellent way to build a sense of community, as well as an extra security system. (Although your safety is primarily your responsibility, when you bond with your neighbors you gain allies who will be on the lookout for the safety of you and your property.)
- Be a good citizen. You represent The University of Texas at Austin even when you are not on campus, so you are responsible for being a good ambassador for UT through all of your work and social activities in the greater Austin community. In essence, by upholding safer living habits, like always having a designated driver, and reporting criminal activity to the authorities, you make Austin a safer place for you and everyone who lives there.
Going on vacation?
- Temporarily stop delivery services, or have a friend collect your mail, etc., until you return. Also, if you have a front yard, mow the lawn before you leave. (A pile of mail outside your home and an unkempt lawn are telltale signs you are not there.)
- Hook-up a radio and several lights to a utility timer, which will automatically turn these devices on and off while you are gone. (UTPD will loan you timers for free, or you can purchase them from supermarkets and home supply stores.)
- Store valuables out of sight, and/or locked away. Hint: When you go home for the holidays, take your valuables (i.e., laptop, portable music players, and jewelry) with you.
- Keep your bicycle indoors, and remove all items from inside your car to discourage theft.
- Let a neighbor know when you will be gone. Ask them to watch for anything suspicious around your property, and give them a phone number where they can contact you in an emergency.
- Call your local police and request they perform a “Vacation Check” or “Close Patrol Check” while you are away.