Every Penn State student has received the “Timely Warning” emails informing us of a forcible sex offenses or other dangerous acts. Unfortunately, some of us may have actually been a part of those messages, or had an experience that made us feel uncomfortable or unsafe while out at night. Staying safe on campus can be done in multiple ways, and it’s important to know what resources are available to you if you’re ever in need of help. Valley has a list of ways to stay safe here at Penn State.
The Blue Light System
You may have seen the blue lights while on a tour here, and unfortunately that’s the last time that most of students ever think about them. It’s easy to walk to class and not fully notice how many of them you pass, or what exactly their function is.
The Blue Light System is comprised of various blue lights spread out all across campus. Each post is equipped with an emergency button that, when pressed, will alert the Penn State police, allowing them to know the general vicinity in which help is needed. The lights also contain cameras at the top of the post that allow police to visualize the area, which comes in handy when identifying an attacker.
If you’re in danger while on campus, pressing the button on these lights can be helpful in calling for help. When running from an attacker, you can push each light as you go, and police will be aware that you are on the move and will send for help.
Check out this map that provides a visual of recommended well-lit streets to take at night, a list of all of the emergency phones on campus as well as the names of buildings that have staff inside 24/7.
As per school policy, weapons are not allowed on campus, including firearms and tasers. However, some may not be aware that carrying things like pepper spray are in fact allowed, and can be of great help if you ever find yourself in danger.
Always make sure to test your pepper spray outside to make sure it works, and be familiar with how to use it. Most importantly, know where it is and make sure it’s easily accessible, especially when you’re walking at night.
Even if you don’t own pepper spray, there are many other things you can do to keep yourself safe. Holding your keys at your side when walking to and from your car, having your phone ready to dial for help or simply being aware of your surroundings and nearby buildings are all helpful ways to protect yourself.
It’s common for students to walk around distracted by their phones or music, making these students an easy target. Text or call a family member when walking, and give them your location so that they know where you are if you were to lose contact. Always keep apartment and car doors locked to prevent others from breaking in, and be weary of others who offer persistent help in carrying your groceries or bags to your apartment as this can be an easy way for them to get inside.
Using the Safe Walk service on campus can be a great way to have a qualified, background-checked student walk you home from the library or study area late at night. Most importantly, when you can, have a buddy system and don’t go out at night alone. For some, this is impossible to avoid, so being cautious of your surroundings can make a big difference.
Here are some safety resources here on campus: