5 Essential college dorm safety tips

Attending college is an exciting time, not only for the student but for the entire family. It signals a new phase of personal independence and a changing dynamic in a parent-child relationship. You can also watch proudly as your young adult assumes more responsibility and hones practical life skills that will have lifelong benefits.

Just because you no longer see your child daily doesn't mean that you won’t continue to be concerned about their safety and the security of their belongings. Dorm accidents, theft and other unwanted events are unfortunately a part of college life. Aside from teaching money-management skills, teaching teens important safety tips below is another way to help them avoid serious incidents and ensure that they have an enjoyable college career. It will also help reduce your worries.

1. College fire safety

When you drop your child off at the beginning of the school year, check the placement, and to whatever extent possible, the condition of the smoke detectors. A forgotten candle or wiring mishap can lead to a fire. Remind your child to check that fire alarms are working and to contact the appropriate school official if they don't seem in working shape.

Dorm rooms and common areas usually have fire escape plans. They reveal the fastest exits from various points in a building in case of fire or other emergencies. Review these plans with your child. You may also want to conduct a walk-through to help them become more familiar with escape routes and reinforce the importance of fire safety.

2. Keep doors locked to promote college safety

Your teen may forge strong bonds with other students in a dorm’s casual environment, and they may feel as if they can trust the people around them. For example, they may not always want to carry their keys with them and instead choose to leave their room doors unlocked. Remind them that theft is always a possibility, and it's more likely when valuables aren’t secured. A reminder or two about the importance of keeping doors locked and valuables, including computers and other electronics, out of sight will limit the opportunities for theft.

3. Create a second line of defense

Unfortunately, even a locked dorm room isn’t a perfect guarantee against stealing. It's best to have a second line of defense. Purchase a lock box or a safe that requires a combination or key lock, and encourage your child to make use of it, particularly if they plan to be away for a long time. Make sure you or someone they trust has the combination or a back-up key, though. If your child has a bike, ensure they have a strong bike lock that can't easily be cut or compromised.

4. Watch your laundry and belongings in public spaces.

If your child has a favorite pair of jeans or other clothing, remind them to keep track of it in public places, including laundry rooms where clothing frequently disappears. Remind them that they can bring books or entertainment to laundry areas so their clothing isn't left unattended. Laundry is usually a 90-minute to two-hour commitment. Similarly, it's best to keep book bags and other belongings in sight in public places.

5. Remain vigilant with college safety

It's easy to feel comfortable on a campus, particularly at a small school where many of the faces are familiar. But it's still important to be aware of the surroundings and the people around. That includes individuals who may not seem as if they belong to the daily landscape. Remind your child to remain vigilant about people they don't recognize, such as someone who wants access to a dorm but doesn’t have the entry code or a key.

College dorms offer friendly, supportive environments. Safety tips can help ensure that your student has a positive college experience. Speak with a Nationwide agent to learn about products that can protect students.

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