Living Off-Campus: 5 Apartment Safety and Security Tips
By Julie Bawden-Davis
For college students, the opportunity to reside off campus is a liberating experience. Living in your own apartment adds an exciting dimension to your educational life, but renting is not without responsibilities, one of which is making sure the apartment is safe and secure.
In the whirlwind of moving into your new home for the school year, ensure that you keep in mind the following apartment safety and security tips.
- Exterior lock and door security. Ensure that the exterior locks were changed after the former occupants moved out and that they are in working order. It is also important that they are deadbolt locks, which are the most secure. Not all deadbolts are created equal. A high-quality deadbolt is made of heavy gauge metal and features a well-anchored, solid steel strike plate, which is the piece that secures the lock into the door. Look for deadbolts that have received a Grade 1 from the American National Standards Institute.
- Window security. Check that there are no cracks in the windows. If the glass is broken or weak, ask your landlord to replace with tempered glass, which is harder to break. Ensure that the window locks work properly too; if they don't appear to work correctly, ask your landlord to install add-on locks to the windows.
- Working smoke and CO detectors and fire extinguishers. See that the apartment has functioning smoke and CO detectors in every room. If a detector appears to not be working properly after changing the batteries, ask your landlord to replace the units. For maximum protection when it comes to smoke alarms, it's important that you have ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual sensor models that feature both technologies.
- Unobstructed fire escape route. If a fire does occur, it's imperative that you have a quick and easy escape route. This means windows and doors that are unobstructed and can be readily opened so you can exit safely. The National Fire Protection Association suggests having at least two means of escape from every room. Outside there should be a clear, well lit exit free of landscaping and debris, so you can quickly and easily get clear of the building, so think twice about storing items in your hallway or on your fire escape.
- Safe electricity. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (EFSI), every year 43,900 home fires are caused by electrical problems, resulting in 438 deaths, and nearly 400 people are electrocuted annually. Telltale signs there are electricity problems in your apartment include overloaded outlets, the use of excessive extension cords, broken outlet or switch plate covers and noise when you flip light switches. Notify your landlord immediately if you suspect a problem with the electricity.
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