Safety Tips and Self-Defense
Is college new to you? Have you been at PCC for several semesters? Either way, you might have encountered frustrating thefts or frightening “close-calls” with aggressive people or unsafe situations. Since we have years of experience dealing with these situations, we want you to know some common lessons we have learned that might help.
Tips for Staying Safe on Campus
Here are some important (and easy) questions to consider to help make sure you are prepared should an unsafe situation arise.
Are you aware of who is near you and how they’re acting?
You don’t have to look around constantly, but it’s good to assess each new area you enter rather than walking while looking at your phone or listening to music.
Where is the nearest emergency phone on your route to class?
If you dial 911 from these phones, you’ll be directed to us at PCC Campus Police and Safety Services, or you can save our number on your cell phone so you can reach us quickly: (626) 585-7484. We’ll be there as soon as we can.
Is there a police escort service available?
Yes! Just call the number above (for Campus Police and Safety), and we’ll take care of the rest. You never have walk through a dark, empty campus alone.
What about the shuttle you've seen occasionally? When does it run and where does it go?
Our courtesy shuttle (free of charge) runs from 6:30am to 10:45pm Monday through Thursday (and until 5:45pm on Friday). Read more about the shuttle.
Are your belongings in your sight while you're in class or studying at the library or laboratory?
Being friendly with classmates is a great idea, but it’s still risky to leave your backpack, wallet, phone, or other media devices unattended. Sometimes they can be too tempting, so someone who wouldn't have been interested in stealing them might decide that it’s so easy, “why not?”
Do you feel like you can protect yourself if someone attacks you?
This is a harder one to answer, but you can resolve it by taking a self-defense course. These can be both fun and informative — and a good workout!
Here at PCC, we offer a free, women-only course called Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) Training. This safety education program consists of realistic self-defense tactics and techniques that can help reduce your chances of being victimized. We focus on awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, while progressing on to the basics of hands-on defense training. Only certified instructors teach this course, and it’s offered several times throughout the year.
For more information, ask for the R.A.D. Coordinator, Officers Tyler Robins when you call us at (626)585-7484.
Whether or not you take a self-defense course, here are some suggestions for how to respond to an attacker:
- If someone tries to grab your backpack or purse, just let them take it. It’s better to lose these important things than to let the attack escalate further—you could lose more than your belongings.
- Plan ahead: have you thought about what your physical and mental strengths are? Think about these during a calm moment, so you know what you’re willing and able to do to defend yourself. You might be a fast runner, so it’ll be best to try to escape, or you might be confident that you can kick or punch the attacker. If you plan ahead, you’ll be more likely to use potential weapons that you wouldn't have thought about under stress, like your backpack, a shoe, or jewelry. Your immediate response is your choice, so trust your instincts enough to make a choice quickly and follow through with it.
- It’s okay to be impolite or draw attention to yourself if someone is making you uncomfortable—even if it’s someone you know. It’s better to draw attention and have help nearby than it is to try to handle a frightening situation alone.
- While it’s important to make a quick decision in a crisis, it’s equally important to be calm and confident. This will give you a chance to think about options rationally and quickly.
Safety Tips for Day-to-day Life
Do you have a busy day-to-day life? Most college students do, so it’s easy to forget (or not know) about potentially dangerous or risky situations. What follows is a list we've made of these types of situations and environments with some helpful self-protection suggestions.
While using an ATM
- If you feel threatened, push the “cancel” button to eject your card and end the transaction. You can come back later or use a different one. Also, if you’re using the ATM late at night, consider bringing a friend or family member with you for support.
- Always try to use a well-lit, indoor ATM; these are especially safe if there is a security guard on duty.
While at home or in your apartment
- Be sure you have effective locks on your doors and windows, and use your locks even when you’re at home. Also, consider changing your locks/keys periodically—especially when you move to a new place.
- If someone you don’t know comes to your door, ask them for identification. It might seem strange, but it’ll give you more time to decide if you’re comfortable, and it’ll let the person know that you’re serious and careful. If the person asks for a phone—even to call for help—just make the call yourself.
- Try to be alert and stay in well-lit areas when alone near your home or apartment—such as when you’re in the garage or doing laundry.
- When you leave for the night, leave at least one light on so intruders suspect someone is home; otherwise, when you are home, consider closing the blinds or curtains to protect your privacy.
- Have a plan ready in case there’s an emergency. What are your local emergency numbers, and would you be able to find them quickly? What’s the best way to leave your house during a fire or if there’s an intruder? Where should you find shelter during an earthquake? Also, get to know your neighbors if you can, so it’s easier to ask them for help during a disturbing situation.
- Finally, leave a set of home keys with a friend rather than on the front porch or in the mailbox. This way, you can call your friend if you’re locked out rather than leaving your keys in a place where a burglar could find them easily.
While walking in a public place or on the street
- Be confident. Attackers look for the easiest target, so if you show that you are alert and capable, you might reduce your chances of being assaulted. It’s also best to travel with a friend or partner.
- If you notice someone following you or being suspicious—such as if you see the same car or person more than once while you’re walking—change directions or cross the street. If someone tries to speak with you from a vehicle or face-to-face, it’s okay to keep some space between you.
- Be prepared: keep one hand free to defend yourself; wear clothes that allow you easy movement. For example, walking in heels may be attractive, but doing so also makes it difficult to run or protect yourself.
- If you are frightened or distressed, having pepper spray (and knowing how to use it) is a great resource. It’s better to overreact than to underreact when you think you might be at risk.
- While it’s best to vary your regular routes, if you do walk the same path every night, take note of the gas stations and stores that are open late. This way, you’ll know where to go for help in an emergency.
While driving your car
- When approaching your car, keep your keys in your hand—for easy access and for self-defense purposes. Once you’re in the car, check the back seat and floor, then lock the doors. When leaving your car, be sure your valuables are not visible so burglars are less tempted to break in.
- Make sure there’s always at least half a tank of gas and that your car is in good condition, so you don’t get stranded somewhere unsafe.
- Well-lit parking areas are safest, but even then, try to stay alert. For instance, if you can avoid parking next to a van, do so, since you could be pulled in through the sliding door.
- If you are concerned for your safety, stay in your locked vehicle, but raise the hood or flash your emergency lights to notify others that you need help. If another person comes by to help, just open your window a small amount and ask him or her to call the police or the auto club. Otherwise, call 911 on a cell phone as soon as you can. You can also call us at PCC Police and Safety Services if you’re on campus: (626) 585-7484.
While on the phone
- Try to keep your personal information as private as possible by being cautious about phone surveys or anyone who asks detailed questions over the phone.
- If you plan to change your voicemail while you’re on vacation or away from home, keep the message general, so potential aggressors don’t find out where you are or that your home is unprotected. Also, let your friends and family know that they don’t have to answer any personal questions about you. They’ll likely appreciate the same from you.
- For details about how to respond to a phoned threat, click here.
While on an elevator
- As with any situation, check your surroundings before you enter—and if something or someone seems disturbing, just wait for another elevator. If this occurs to you while you’re already riding the elevator, press all the buttons so you can exit quickly. Our elevators here at PCC all have emergency phones, so call us if you’re ever concerned.
While using public transportation
- Plan your schedule ahead of time, so you don’t have to wait alone for a long period. If you do have to wait, find a well-lit place with other people. If anyone makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay to say loudly: “Stop” or “Leave me alone.” If you think someone has followed you to or from the bus, walk toward a populated area rather than going straight home. While you might be frightened after this, it’s still best to call a friend or wait somewhere safe for another bus rather than hitchhike.
- Although you might be exhausted from a long day, stay awake while riding the bus or train—try to get sleep in a safer, private place.
While cycling or jogging
- If possible, consider jogging with a friend, and try exploring different routes vary your routine. There are more bike paths and jogging routes than ever before, so see if you can try several. This will help deter others from anticipating where you’ll be (and from targeting you).
- At night, wear light colored clothing or wear reflective markings. These are very helpful for tired or distracted drivers to recognize you as a jogger or cyclist. It’s also good to keep to the right side of the rode (in a bike path, if possible) because that’s where drivers expect you to be. When you encounter a busy intersection, it’s tempting to ride or run quickly through it, but it’s better to walk so drivers can see you.
- Do you know the hand signals for cyclists? Check these out, so you can indicate to drivers that you’re changing direction.
- Let your friends or roommates know when you leave and when you should be expected to return. This will probably make them feel better, too.
- Before you leave on your bike, do you check the air in your tires and make sure the blinking lights work? This will take less than a minute will help you avoid a much longer delay later.
- If cycling, use a “U” bolt lock, and connect it to a bike rack through one wheel and the frame of the bike. See if you can find a well-lit place—especially if you’ll be returning to your bicycle at night.
- If you see someone standing near the bike rack for a long period, they might be checking for an easy bike to steal. Feel free to call us so we can check on this—(626) 585-7484.
- Any time you’re approached by someone when you’re alone, it’s okay not to talk with them. It’s great to be helpful when you can, but it’s risky to give directions or have a chat with someone while you’re out alone.
- We all listen to music, right?—especially when working out---but whether you’re traveling on a bus, jogging, or riding your bicycle, music can prevent you from hearing a car or an attacker. Being aware of your environment is crucial to any and all self-safety tips, so give it a try!