Safety is arguably the most important topic Drexel University students need to consider each quarter. With the bump in Philadelphia crime, including increased car thefts, violent robberies and even homicides, it is critical for students to take steps to ensure their own safety. I spoke with Dallas Drake, founder of the Center for Homicide Research, to discuss safety topics relevant to students at Drexel University. Drake is my former boss and an expert on homicide prevention as well as fire safety.
Active shooters were the first topic we discussed. The Department of Homeland Security recommends a simple three-step approach to surviving an active shooter encounter – run, hide, fight. If you can run from the shooter that is the first thing you should do. The further away you are from them the more difficult it is for them to shoot you. Drake mentioned, “number one you should try to get away if there’s an active shooter. A lot of people want to see what’s happening when they hear a loud sound, don’t do that. Get the heck out of there!” If you are unable to run, you should hide until law enforcement arrives. For more information on how to act when law enforcement arrives you can read the official Department of Homeland Security handbook on how to respond to active shooters.
Finally, if neither of those options are available you should fight for your life. Active shooters often carry more than one weapon, so getting a firearm away from them does not necessarily mean you are safe. Drake mentioned success in past incidents where an active shooter was rushed by a group of people.
Many people enter and exit through the same door every time they enter a building, which creates potential crowding around one door during a fire. There have been cases of people dying in fires simply because they didn’t know there was an exit behind them and were stuck trying to push their way through a crowd of people exiting through a single door. Drake mentioned an excellent point about smoke from fires stating, “In a fire, the exit signs are usually way up near the ceiling. The smoke rises and can cover the signs. It’s good to just know where the exits are instead of looking for the signs when an emergency is taking place.” Try to find out where all the exits are in a building and then go through them so you know where they will take you once outside. Drake went on to mention that people will follow their herd instinct and follow others in an emergency, even if it is the wrong way to go.
Alcohol is involved in many crimes in one form or another. According to Drake, about 90% of all homicides involve alcohol use either by the victim, the offender, or both. Drake mentioned that alcohol reduces the ability of a victim to defend themselves or assess a dangerous situation.
Drake commented on alcohol use and crime saying, “In most countries, the goal of alcohol use is more social than to become drunk. You don’t necessarily need to drink something with alcohol in it when you go out, but either way you don’t want to drink to the point that you lose control over yourself.”
Don’t assume that offenders won’t be out in groups. Drake said of offenders traveling in groups, “Every time you have robbers or assaulters they seem to come in groups, often of at least three.” Drake had personal footage from his security system showing groups of three stealing from cars in his area. They have the upper hand in groups, but so can you. Drexel offers walking escorts 24/7, and there’s no shame in using an escort. Regardless of your size and strength, you likely won’t be able to take on a group of three attackers by yourself. To use a walking escort, simply call 215.895.2222 or use any of the blue-light emergency phones across campus.
The final topic Drake and I discussed was home safety. For starters, always lock your doors. This goes for your car door, house door and room door if you live in an apartment with roommates. Even if you have trustworthy roommates, you never know who they are bringing home with them. Locking your room door at night while you sleep is an added layer of security that will ensure intruders do not have easy access to you while you are asleep. Drake suggested using two locks on your front door, “It’s good to have two locks on the door in case someone breaks through a door window to unlock the door. Find ways to give yourself the upper hand. If you lived outdoors, you’d need to watch out for bears, elk, and wolves. There’s no expectation of safety anywhere, so the fact you need to be a little concerned in your house shouldn’t bother you.”
Safety is a complex subject and there are many topics Drake and I didn’t get the chance to discuss. Crime is preventable, but you need to take steps to ensure your own safety. There are several great videos on YouTube talking about various safety topics. We strongly encourage you to look up topics related to safety in your free time.