Safety Tips

Telephone Safety

  • Never list your address in the phone book.
  • Use your first initial and last name in the phone book.
  • When not at home, use an answering machine. Have it message state that you cannot come to the phone, not that you are not at home. Turn the ringer down so it cannot be heard from the outside.
  • In cases of emergency, know what number to dial 256-782-5050 or 911 and what to say when calling.
  • Don't give any personal information out if called about surveys, contests, subscription drives, purchases or deliveries until the source of the call has been verified. Ask for a number where you may call them back to confirm legitimacy.
  • Never give your name, address, or phone number to someone you don't know.
  • Never give any information to "wrong number" callers; ask for the number they are calling.
  • Always give the impression you are not alone.
  • If they ask for someone who is not there, say they can't come to the phone and ask for a name and number.
  • When you first realize the caller is obscene or harassing, hang up immediately. Do not listen to them or show any type of emotional response. Report continuing incidents to the telephone company and police.
  • A blast from a whistle should not be used to discourage obscene or harassing phone calls.
  • If all else fails, change your phone number and have it unlisted.
Being scammed is just a phone call away, a phone call to area code 809. This popular scam could cost you more than $100 for a few minutes of your time.

The scam plays something like this: You receive an e-mail message, a message on your answering machine/voice mail, or on your pager urging you to immediately call an 809 area code. The message may tell you to call to avoid the cancellation of your e-mail account, to get information on a relative in danger, or to claim a prize. If you call from the United States, you may be charged as much as $25 per minute.

What lies on the other end of the receiver varies from a person speaking broken English to a long recorded message, both aimed at keeping you on the phone as long as possible. The 809 area code is located in the Bahamas and can be used as a "pay-per-call" number similar to a 900 number. But unlike 900 numbers in the United States, 809 area codes do not have to conform to laws set up to avoid scams like this one.

U.S. regulations require that you be warned of charges and rates involved, and that the company provide a time period during which you may hang up without being charged. In addition, many U.S. phones have 900-number blocking, but this is not available for the 809 area code.

The chances of getting the charges dropped are slim, according to the Internet Scambusters. In a message sent out over the Internet, Scambusters warns that both your local phone company and your long distance carrier may say they were simply providing the billing for the foreign company. The foreign company can argue it has done nothing wrong and you may still be stuck with the bill because you made the call. The easiest way to avoid this hassle is not to return any calls with the 809 area code until you have investigated further.

Rape and Alcohol

Sexual Assault remains a significant problem on college campuses. Today, it is not only the stranger lurking behind the bushes who may be a concern. It is a well-documented fact that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance, most often in a dating situation.

Up to 90% of all sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol, the most commonly used drug on college campuses. Tests show that alcohol has a negative effect on individuals before they think they are drunk. Beginning with the first drink, alcohol progressively changes behavior and judgment and is thought to often play a role in sexual assault because:
  • Alcohol makes talking and listening more difficult. It is common for individuals under the influence to lose their ability to communicate clearly and effectively. A person under the influence may have a hard time understanding and accurately interpreting someone else's behavior and actions. Research has found when men are under the influence of alcohol, they are likely to interpret a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues as evidence that a woman is interested in having sex with him. These assumptions can be dangerous. Additionally, it's hard to be assertive when you are drunk.
  • Alcohol impairs judgment and inhibits clear thinking. This makes it harder to assess risk. Often alcohol causes people to misread situations or emotions. Also, when drinking, people may forget their common sense and values.
  • Alcohol can increase aggression. There is a clear tie between alcohol and violence. Between 75% and 90% of all violence on campus is alcohol related. Alcohol itself doesn't cause violence, but some people who drink it are more likely to act out their violent feelings. Some people mistakenly think alcohol makes them powerful or aggressive. Also, rapists often target a female who is drinking, frequently planning to provide her with alcohol.

Abstaining or reducing your intake of alcohol may be one of the most effective means of lessening your chances of sexual assault. For information about alcohol and other drugs, call Counseling Services at 256-782-5475.

Walking Tips

  • There are red emergency phones across campus. If you need police assistance, push the red button. It establishes an immediate phone connection to UPD. The police will know which phone you are calling from, so they will know where you are.
  • If your purse or backpack is snatched, don't fight it. There is nothing in it that can't be replaced. It is not worth possible injury.
  • Avoid walking alone whenever possible. Having other people nearby is a great defense.
  • Be alert when you're alone. Be aware of who is around you.
  • Walk confidently, directly, and at a steady pace. Attackers look for someone who appears vulnerable.
  • Walk near the curb; avoid shrubbery or other places of concealment.
  • Avoid isolated or poorly-lit and unpopulated areas like alleys, vacant lots, or buildings.
  • Do not hitchhike.
  • Be careful when people in a car stop and ask you for directions. Always reply from a distance; never get too close to the car.

Elevator Safety

  • Always stand near the control panel.
  • If you suspect trouble or are attacked, push the alarm button and as many floor buttons as possible so that the elevator will halt quickly, probably at the next floor.
  • Respond to instinct, intuition, or gut reactions. Don't get on an elevator with someone who makes you feel uneasy.
  • If other passengers get off, leaving you with a person(s) who make you feel uneasy, get off with other passengers and wait for the next elevator.
  • Allow other passengers to push the buttons for their floors first.

Strangers and Children

  • Teach your children what a stranger is, not necessarily what a person looks like or the clothes they wear. If a child does not personally know the individual or has not been introduced to that individual by their parents, they are to be considered a stranger!
  • Have a "code word" shared with your child. If a stranger asks the child to come with them, all the child has to do is ask for the "code word." If Mom or Dad did not tell the person the code word, the child does not go with them.
  • If the child is grabbed by a stranger, tell them not to scream or cry. Rather, yell "He's not my Daddy" or "She's not my Mommy."
  • If your child is ever unsure about someone's intentions, teach them to trust their feelings and run away.
  • Know the safest route to and from school, and instruct your children to follow that route.
  • Know the length of time it takes your child to walk to and from school.
  • Immediately check any delay in their arrival at home.
  • Know your children's playmates and where they congregate.
  • Instruct your children to report to you suspicious persons or attempts by unknown adults to approach them or become friendly with them.
  • Instruct you children not to accept rides or gifts from anyone without your approval.
  • Tell your children to check with you before going anywhere with anyone.

Mail Bombs

It is important to be alert for suspicious parcels, but keep in mind that a mail bomb is an extremely rare occurrence. To illustrate just how rare, Postal Inspectors have investigated an average of 16 mail bombs over the last few years. By contrast, each year the Postal Service processes over 170 billion pieces of mail. That means during the last few years, the chances that a piece of mail actually contains a bomb average far less than one in 10 billion!

Still, those who are familiar with the characteristics of suspect parcels can help to avert a tragedy. This actually occurred in 1991, when a Dumfries, VA, letter carrier identified a suspect parcel in a collection box. The parcel contained a bomb intended for the sender's estranged husband. By acting quickly, the carrier may have saved the man's life.

Although the appearance of mail bombs may vary greatly, here are some characteristics that have repeatedly shown up:

  • Mail bombs may have excessive postage. Normally a bomber does not want to mail a parcel over the counter and have to deal face-to-face with a window clerk.
  • The return address may be fictitious or non-existent.
  • The postmark may show a different location than the return address.
  • Mail bombs may bear restricted endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Confidential." This is particularly important when the addressee does not usually receive personal mail at the office.
  • Mail bombs may display distorted handwriting, or the name and address may be prepared with homemade labels or cut-and-paste lettering.
  • Parcel bombs may be unprofessionally wrapped with several combinations of tape used to secure the package, and may be endorsed "Fragile--Handle With Care" or "Rush--Do Not Delay."
  • Letter bombs may feel rigid, or appear uneven or lopsided.
  • Package bombs may have an irregular shape, soft spots, or bulges.
  • Mail bombs may have protruding wires, aluminum foil, or oil stains, and may emit a peculiar odor.
While the overwhelming volume of mail does not permit the Postal Service to screen every piece, Postal Inspectors are able to respond quickly if a suspect article is discovered. Every Inspection Service field division has trained and equipped bomb specialists available to provide professional assistance. If you become suspicious of a mailing and are unable to verify the contents, observe the following safety precautions:
  • Do not open the article.
  • Isolate the suspect parcel and evacuate the immediate area.
  • Don't put it in water or a confined space, such as a desk drawer or cabinet.
  • If possible, open windows in the immediate area to assist in venting potentially explosive gases.
  • Don't worry about possible embarrassment if the item turns out to be innocent. Instead, contact the Postal Inspection Service and your local police department.


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