Renter Safety Issues Solved

Renting a home is one thing, but being a renter with a few of the issues listed below is just plain dangerous. Hopefully, if any of these things happen to you it will be nothing more than a mere headache, but just in case things get a little heavier than anticipated, here are a few ways to get yourselves out of the following situations:

1.) Unwanted guests. Far and away one of the worst parts about renting: the random people you have to deal with. If you have a roommate, that means at some point their brother, good friend from high school, old sorority sister or even “this really, totally awesome guy I just met at the bar last night” all have a free pass to your home. And if you don’t have roommates, you’re still going to have to deal with the occasional surprise home inspection (read your lease, it’s in there) or even an additional roommate if your landlord decides he needs an extra room for his uncle that was just released from rehab. I’m making it worse than it sounds, but you get the point.

So how do you protect yourself? Well first of all, make sure the important things are kept somewhere secure. That means anything you’d rather not be messed with (like your collection of old vinyl records) needs to be kept in your bedroom. Then keep it locked up. Door locks, safes, and padlocks can work wonders when dealing with random house guests.

2.) Sketchy appliances. Of course the first thing you should do whenever any appliance breaks is to notify your landlord. Most states have a “duty of repair” which requires them to keep certain appliances (like those used for heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing and sanitary, just to name a few). Keep a record that you reported the problem in writing, and make sure it’s dated as well. You don’t want to be stuck with the bill if you need to move out three months later and the refrigerator still hasn’t been fixed.

The main issue though, is to get the item fixed as soon as possible. A broken stove could result in a more dangerous situation, such as a gas leak. After a reasonable time frame (usually two weeks), you can take your complaint to local housing officials if your landlord hasn’t attempted to make any progress. You can also contact your landlord to tell them you will be hiring a professional to fix the damaged item and you will be keeping the receipt for reimbursement.

3.) A negligent landlord. Or, the problem is your landlord him – (or her) – self. Maybe they aren’t keeping up on any of their required duties, such as putting a new lock on your door, fixing the broken step on the front stoop or replacing the missing handrail on the fire escape. If this is the case, move! These things all directly affect your individual safety, and you deserve better!

And don’t forget; for dorm safety items (like pepper spraysafes and personal alarms), check out our store at www.secureoncampus.com, and for dorm decorations (like dorm lightingfun drinking games, and wall decals) check out our store at www.thegoodlifeoncampus.com!

Safety Tips in a New Town

Moving, while stressful, can actually be pretty excited. It’s almost like a clean slate, in a way. But while moving may be quite exciting (all the new restaurants to try and activities to do), it can also be a bit dangerous if you don’t know your way around. Maybe there is a certain part of town that you just shouldn’t be wandering around at night, or maybe this city is actually serious when they say an evacuation is in order. Either way, here are a few tips to keeping yourself safe in a new, unfamiliar city:

1.) Do your research. Even if you just do a simple Google search, something is bound to come up. Better yet though, contact the local police department before your arrival. They will be able to tell you where to look to find local crime statistics and even possibly spots to avoid (such as their highest areas of theft or assault). If you are going to a city with a gang problem, it might also be necessary to be aware of the colors you wear in certain neighborhoods.

2.) Be smart with your exploring. Love to explore? I completely understand. Exploring needs to be done in a smart manner, though; if you want to visit the local parks, do so during the day when there are plenty of people around. Central Park, for example, is a fantastic place to get to know, but you should definitely be visiting it during the day.

3.) Don’t make it obvious that you’re new in town. Snatchers tend to prey on those that are clearly unfamiliar with their surroundings. So keep your guidebooks and camera a little out of sight. You don’t want to be standing in the middle of nowhere looking completely lost and vulnerable.

4.) Leave the valuables at home. There is no reason for you to be walking around with your passport or social security card, so leave those things at home. Carry only absolute essentials, like your debit card and ID. If you need cash you can use an ATM, and if these things get stolen they are fairly easy to replace.

5.) Explore with a friend. Getting lost in a new city can be fun, for a while, but it can quickly turn scary if you end up in a poor location or can’t find your way back. If possible, explore with a buddy before you head out on your own. This will allow you to get your bearings straight before you try it for the first time.

6.) Use common sense. If you get an uneasy feeling about a particular location, leave. If the guy sitting across from you on the bus is freaking you out, change seats. There is nothing wrong with trusting your guy, especially in an unfamiliar location.

And don’t forget; for dorm safety items (like pepper spraysafes and personal alarms), check out our store at www.secureoncampus.com, and for dorm decorations (like dorm lightingfun drinking games, and wall decals) check out our store at www.thegoodlifeoncampus.com!

Questions Parents Should Ask Campus Police

When a student is trying to choose a university or college for the next four years, the efficiency of the campus security is probably the last thing on their mind. Other factors, like the academic and athletic program, price and distance from family and friends will probably be closer to the front of their mind. So here’s where the parents can come in. Wait until your son or daughter has narrowed down their top choice in schools to two or three and then ask each school these 5 questions:

1.) What qualifications to your campus security officers have? Many campus security officers have to go through similar training to that of an actual policeman, but other schools simply make them go through an 8-hour course, hand them a Taser and call it a day. You’ll want to make sure the people responding to possible threats actually know what they’re doing, compared to just a scared kid on a work-study program.

2.) Are background checks performed before security members are hired? You would think, in this day and age, that everyone would undergo a background check before they were hired, but it’s not the case. Background checks do cost money (not a lot of money) and do require some time, so a financially strapped college that needs to fill a job ASAP might skimp on something like this. Plus, the hiring process for campus security could be very different than the hiring process of the school’s professors and other staff. Don’t assume that just because one staff member has undergone a background check that all staff members have undergone a background check.

3.) How is the campus security funded and is it adequate? The national norm for the amount of an institutional budget that is spent on campus security is about 2.5-3 percent. How does this school use their funds? They can brag and brag and brag and brag about the level of personnel they have working for them, but if it’s only people because that’s all they can afford, it really doesn’t matter how outstanding they are. There is only so much so few people can handle. A financially strapped institution probably won’t be able to offer campus security escorts during sticky situations, for example.

4.) Where can I see the crime statistics for this school? One great way to know the effectiveness of campus security is checking to see how many crimes are actually reported. A safe campus doesn’t necessarily mean nothing is reported, it means that of the crimes that are reported, a healthy percentage of them are pursued and solved. Schools with little to no crime reports often mean that students aren’t reporting crimes because nothing ever happens to the perpetrators anyway.

5.) How often does the school conduct a comprehensive risk and threat analysis? The old, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantra doesn’t work here. Every few years a whole new slew of problems arise, and if the campus security hasn’t been doing its research they won’t be able to do anything about them before it’s too late. Think about it; Facebook stalking has only been around fairly recently. Your school better have a plan set in place for dealing with something like that.

And don’t forget; for dorm safety items (like pepper spraysafes and personal alarms), check out our store at www.secureoncampus.com, and for dorm decorations (like dorm lightingfun drinking games, and wall decals) check out our store at www.thegoodlifeoncampus.com!

A Stranger is in My Dorm, What Do I Do?

This is technically called a home invasion, but let’s be honest, no one ever calls it that in college. I can actually remember quite a few stories from friends of mine where they were awakened in the middle of the night to find a stranger in their dorm. And to tell you the truth, it really is an honest mistake most of the time. Think about it; you pull 4 all-nighters in a row, arrive at your dorm, walk up to the 3rd floor and find your dorm room is already open so no need to use the key. You walk in and fall asleep on your bed. Except in a few minutes someone wakes you up to tell you you’re in the wrong room. You’re not on the 3rd floor you’re on the 4th floor…see how easy that is?

And let’s not forget the countless times a group of friends drops their drunk buddy off at the main floor. Hey, as long as he’s in the building he’s not their problem anymore (or so they say). A drunk college kid trying to find the accurate dorm room in a sea of hundreds is going to yield some misses.

So I’m going to say something that may seem a bit strange: you need to almost expect a few interesting visitors throughout your semester, and the steps for scoping one out are a bit different than if you live off-campus.

1.) Don’t investigate. I’ll admit, in my home off campus if I heard something go bump in the night there’s no way I’d take it lightly, but in my dorm room I’ll investigate close to any random sound. I always figure it’s a roommate in the kitchen making a midnight snack or something. But if you have it on good authority that there’s a stranger in your dorm (your roommates are all gone for the weekend), don’t go wandering out to confront anyone.

2.) Get out. If you have a clear shot at the door, get the hell out. If you can alert your roomies then great, but you don’t have to go through your whole place right now. Step 3 is coming up.

3.) Call the front desk. Not campus security and not 9-1-1…not yet, anyway. The front desk guy only has to walk up a couple flights of stairs to get to your room, so the effect is immediate. Plus, if you do have someone that is in the wrong room by accident, the front desk clerk can take care of everything right away. If things are iffy, they will decide to call campus police. Of course if you call the front desk and no one answers, call campus police. If it’s a serious emergency, like you know the intruders have a gun, call 9-1-1.

4.) Use your wits. If you don’t have a personal alarm near you (which you really should in college), use your keychain. Most car alarms can reach a lot farther than you think, and pressing the panic button on your keychain will signal your car alarm. Besides just scaring the intruders away, someone is going to investigate who’s car it is and someone will be knocking on your door shortly to tell you to turn it the hell off.

And don’t forget; for dorm safety items (like pepper spraysafes and personal alarms), check out our store at www.secureoncampus.com, and for dorm decorations (like dorm lightingfun drinking games, and wall decals) check out our store at www.thegoodlifeoncampus.com!

Keeping Important Documents Safe During a Mishap

When you think of winter you probably think of snow angels, hot chocolate and Christmas break. However, winter is also well-known for other things, like icy roads, freezing temperatures and burst pipes. Plus, the holiday season makes it notoriously difficult to get ahold of people that need to fix your burst pipes or broken windows during the winter.

Now here’s the tough part: how do you make sure your important documents are safe no matter what? Sure, you’d like to think that nothing is going to happen, but if a pipe bursts in your dorm bathroom while you’re home visiting your parents how do you know everything is safe when water starts to fill the room? And how do you know everything is safe when workers come in to repair everything?

Well first of all, you need to identify all your important paperwork. There are a lot of things you may not think of as important, but if someone else got their hands on them they could sure do a lot of damage. Here is a quick list of things you should gather up:

            – Bank account information

– Student account information (pin numbers, id cards, etc.)

– Credit card information

– Medical and immunization records

– Insurance policies and information (including student health and car insurance)

– Any tax/investment information (including financial aid items)

– Birth/Marriage certificates

– Auto registration

– Citizenship papers and passports

– Social security card

– Contact information for important people

Now granted you are probably not going to have some of things anyway (who the hell has a copy of their immunization records?), but if you do have these papers gather them up in the same group.

Step 2 is to make sure all your important documents are gathered and kept in a secure location. Many of our dorm safes, for example, are waterproof, fireproof, and even come with double steel walls and cables capable of handling up to 650 pounds of pressure. That means they are incredibly difficult to steel or break into, and in case of a natural disaster they’ll stay sealed, keeping everything inside protected.

Of course your best bet would be to have two locations with copies of the information, in case something happens in one location that makes it impossible to access this paperwork. One safe could be in your dorm, another could be at your parents’ house. That would sure make things easier when they are filling out school related forms.

In addition, it might also be a good idea to keep computer files in your dorm safe too. Think of that 40 page senior thesis you’ve been working on…would you have a backup if your computer got stolen? What if a fire ripped through your dorm room, destroying your computer and your backup you had on your USB? Copy your report on a USB and put it in your safe. That way, even if you emailed it to yourself (trust me, I’ve been there when it won’t download correctly) you’re still in good hands.

For more dorm safety equipment don’t forget to check out our website at www.secureoncampus.com!

Stupid Dorm Rules You Really Do Need to Follow

I know, I’ve been there; it’s 8:00 at night and your RA comes knocking on the door because whatever video game battle you’ve got going on with your roommate has gotten a bit heated and God forbid anyone on your floor has ever heard the word “crap” shouted at an above average level. Yes, this is a stupid rule, and I have no qualms with you arguing with your RA about it. Just keep in mind that they probably don’t have a problem with it, they’ve just got some jackass knocking on their door every 20 minutes to complain about it so now they have to do something.

However, there are some rules that no matter how stupid, silly or completely ridiculous they are you really, really do need to follow, for your own safety and the safety of everyone else in your dorm.

1.) No candles. Ugh, I know! How tough is it to blow out a candle, right? Well actually…think about the collective unit of possibly high, drunk or hungover and definitely sleep-deprived college students that make up the dorms. Someone’s bound to miss a candle once in a while, and then combine that with the fact that many students completely ignore fire-drills (maybe if they didn’t run them constantly and always at 2:00 in the morning more people would participate in them), and you’ve got yourself a dangerous situation. Plus, there are now a million other things you could bring that don’t have an open flame (here’s one example), so stop complaining and just follow the no candle rule.

2.) No propping doors open. Personally, this was one of my biggest vices. The act of swiping my student ID badge to get into my dorm every single freakin’ time I left the building was beyond annoying, especially when those ID badges start to wear out halfway through the semester and begin failing to let you in. But you can’t prop the door open, folks. All those creepy people your parents warned you about? Screw the dimly lit campus paths at 3:00 in the morning, if they can get into a dorm of sleeping students they’ll have the time of their life. Not to mention all the potential for stuff getting stolen.

3.) No heavy duty speakers or amps. First of all, why the hell do you need something that can be heard from three miles away? The fact is you don’t, because as soon as it’s loud enough for that guy across the hall to hear (which is not difficult with the seemingly paper thin walls of dormitories) it’s too loud. Everyone wants to escape to some good tunes every now and then but c’mon, wear some headphones. Don’t be a jackass.

And second of all, equipment like that uses up some serious electricity, and these rooms aren’t meant to withstand that kind of demand. You could end up short circuiting something, which if it doesn’t cause a fire or a blackout, it will at least waste up some of the school’s budget having to fix everything. Think you won’t see a bump in your tuition prices next year? You’re wrong. Invest in a pair of good quality headphones instead.

Don’t forget to check out our stores for more dorm safety essentials (www.secureoncampus.com) and dorm room decorations (www.thegoodlifeoncampus.com)!

Safety Questions Renters Always Forget to Ask

If you’re looking for a home to rent, chances are you know the general questions. You need to know how much they’re asking for rent, if it’s close to public transportation (but not actually living on top of a subway station), and you’re probably going to inquire about leasing guidelines. However, even after you’ve looked at the place (seen the size of the rooms, etc.), there are a few things you still might overlook. Here are some important questions you’d be sorry not to ask beforehand:

1.) How’s the cell phone signal? Nothing is quite as annoying as trying to carry on a conversation with someone while constantly moving around the house trying to chase a seemingly non-existent signal, even when your cellphone provider boasts supposedly “exceptional” signal strength. You’re going to want to know you can call 9-1-1 from anywhere in your home, including under the kitchen sink…just in case.

2.) How’s that elevator? Don’t be surprised if an apartment eight stories up brags about an elevator and then after you move in you find out it’s only for moving heavy freight. Or maybe it has an elevator, but it’s been out of service for three years. Or maybe it has a working elevator perfectly acceptable for people to use; it just moves at a snail’s pace. You might not think this even qualifies as a safety issue, but the first time you come home on crutches and try to navigate up eight flights of stairs, you’ll think differently about the value of that elevator.

3.) Who handles the maintenance? This includes both interior and exterior maintenance. If you live in a house instead of an apartment, you could be expected to do all of the exterior upkeep (like mowing the lawn and shoveling snow). If you live in an apartment, there may be a few different people that you need to call depending on the circumstances. A doorman may handle your mail, a super may handle basic maintenance issues or emergency issues (you smell gas in your apartment) and your landlord may handles more serious issues with your rental. Make sure you have a list of all the appropriate people you need to call should a problem arise, and don’t forget, if something comes up and you need help now, don’t bother calling your landlord, dial 9-1-1 and explain it later. 

4.) What’s the parking situation? Many places offer a free parking space out front or even in a driveway, but if you’re looking to rent in New York the issues of parking is a whole other ballgame altogether. Parking is not only incredibly expensive, but having a set parking space will save you hours of time trying to find one when you arrive home every night. Plus, having to park half a mile away from your front door puts you at risk! If you can get a place that has a garage or a private parking, do it. It means you can walk from your car to your front door in a safe environment.

And don’t forget to check out our online store (www.secureoncampus.com)  for any necessary safety equipment you may need, like pepper spray, personal alarms or the iWitness Smartphone Service.

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