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General Safety

Safety should be an important issue to think about when looking for off-campus housing. Go to the property during both daytime and evening hours to view the lighting and safety practices. Consider the following things when viewing a prospective apartment or house:

  1. Lighting for security: Is the housing well lit? Are all entry/exit points fully illuminated? Is emergency lighting provided in the apartment community?
  2. Landscaping: Are trees and shrubs trimmed for natural surveillance? Are areas clear of landscape debris? Do plantings block the visibility of and from windows and doors?
  3. Common areas: Are the common areas adequately lit, including entry and exit points? Are these areas well maintained? Is there police, fire or EMS access?
  4. Door systems: Are all exterior doors made of solid wood core or metal construction? Are door frames in good condition? Is there a deadbolt? Are there peepholes on the doors?
  5. Windows: Are screens and windows free of damage? Are there working locks on the windows?
  6. Garages/Storage Areas: Are garage and storage areas equipped with doors that lock or are padlocked?
  7. Fire extinguishers and smoke detectors: Are fire extinguishers provided by the landlord? If so, where are these located? Are there smoke detectors located on the premises and in good working condition?
  8. Maintenance/Appearance: Does the space appear to be cared for? Are stairways, railings, balconies secure/free of debris? Does the roof appear to be well maintained?
  9. Paint: Is the paint peeling? In older housing, there is a risk that the paint is lead based. This may cause safety issues with any children in the house.

Home Safety

  1. Report all crime and any suspicious activity to the Columbia Police Department (911).
  2. Keep your doors and windows locked at all times, especially when you are alone, sleeping, or when the apartment is unoccupied (even if only for a few moments).
  3. Determine who is on the other side of the door before opening it. Have repair or service personnel show official identification and confirm their presence with the person requesting the service. Delivery persons should remain outside to await the person requesting the delivery.
  4. Be sure you have blinds or curtains on your windows to discourage window peepers. Always keep your windows covered at night.
  5. Be sure all outdoor lighting fixtures are in working condition.
  6. Place items of value out of sight and in locked areas. Do not leave valuables unattended in such common areas as laundry rooms and lounges.
  7. Make sure your car is always locked and that any valuables left in the vehicle are locked in the trunk or placed out of view.
  8. Make a list of your valuables- DVD players, stereos, computers, jewelry. Take photos of the items, list their serial numbers and descriptions.
  9. Check with law enforcement about engraving your valuables through Operation Identification.
  10. For a free home security survey for a residence within the city limits contact the Columbia Police Department Crime Free Housing Programs Coordinator at 874-7426.
  11. Avoid walking alone at night, but if you must, stay in well-lit, open areas.

Secure Your Place

Whether you are going home during an extended university break, or are just leaving town for a couple of days, the following tips are ways to increase the security of your Columbia residence:

  1. Be sure there is good lighting around all doors, especially those doors not visible from the street.
  2. Lock sliding doors, and place a wooden or metal bar in the track of the doors.
  3. Do not hide spare keys in places outside.
  4. Arrange for a neighbor whom you trust to watch over your house or store your valuables with while you are away.
  5. Take anything of value home with you. Don't leave any valuable items near windows. Take pictures of any valuables in case they are stolen.
  6. Make sure all windows are secure and close your curtains and blinds.
  7. Stop mail and paper delivery.
  8. Contact the Columbia Police Department and request a WIP (watch in passing). Provide them with the following information: your name, address, when you will be leaving, when you will return, a contact number, whether or not there will be cars in the driveway and what types, and if there will be lights on in the house. Please let them know if someone will be stopping by to feed any pets, water the plants, and/or collect mail.


  1. If you return home and something looks questionable such as a slit screen, a broken window or an open door, do not go in. Call the police from a neighbor's house or a public phone.
  2. At night, if you think you hear someone breaking in, leave safely if you can, then call police. If you can't leave, lock yourself in a room with a phone and call police. If an intruder is in your room, pretend you are asleep.

Vehicle Safety

Take these steps to protect any vehicle:

  1. Lock your car.
  2. Never hide a spare key on the vehicle.
  3. Roll up windows completely.
  4. Remove keys from ignition.
  5. Park as close as possible to an open business.
  6. Do not leave valuables in open sight. Place valuables in trunk if possible.
  7. Always park with the wheels turned toward the curb.
  8. If you have a garage, use it and lock the garage door.
  9. When going out of town, if possible, remove the distributor cap or coil wire.
  10. Never leave your car running while it is unattended.
  11. Do not leave your registration inside your vehicle, but carry it with you. Important identification papers or credit cards should never be left in a glove compartment.
  12. If your car is stolen, before it can be listed as stolen, you must have your license plate number and/or vehicle identification number.

Prevent Fire

  1. Be sure smoke detectors are in proper working condition. Install new batteries at the beginning of each semester.
  2. Do not overload electrical outlets. If you need to plug multiple appliances into an outlet, use a fused power strip.
  3. Put out candles and incense when unattended.
  4. Extinguish all smoking materials thoroughly.
  5. Clean up immediately after parties and take all trash outside.
  6. Do not leave food unattended on the stove or in the microwave.
  7. Plan your escape routes in case fire does strike.
  8. Make sure all exit doors are unlocked and not obstructed.
  9. Know two ways out of your apartment/house.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless and odorless gas. Proper installation, operation, and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances in the home are the most important factor in reducing the risk of CO poisoning. Purchase a CO detector in order to protect yourself from poisoning. Detectors can be found in stores that have home improvement departments.

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:
  1. Headache
  2. Fatigue
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Nausea
  5. Dizziness
If you suspect that you are experiencing CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Leave the home and call for assistance from a neighbor's home. You could lose consciousness and die from CO poisoning if you stay in the home. For more information contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.