Campus Life 101: Safety

Darrell Darnell, senior associate vice president for safety and security, offers advice on how to stay safe around campus and in the D.C. area.

GW Police
August 26, 2018

Campus Life 101 is a new series from GW Today that offers tips on the basics of navigating life at college, from staying safe to adjusting to college academics and managing stress.


By Kristen Mitchell

As new George Washington University students arrive on campus, Darrell Darnell, senior associate vice president for safety and security, has several tips on how to stay safe while living on campus and navigating the city.

GW students should think of their residence halls as home for the time they are on campus, Mr. Darnell said. They should not give out their GWorld cards to people who don’t live in the building, and they should not let strangers follow in the doors behind them. If you wouldn’t let a stranger follow you into your house, don’t let someone into your residence hall, Mr. Darnell said.

Students also are encouraged to download the GW PAL app, free on iOS and Android devices. The app gives GW students, faculty and staff a direct connection to emergency services. Through the app, users create a profile and can contact emergency services for assistance, call for a safe ride, submit tips to GW Police and receive recent GW Alerts.

When it comes to pedestrian safety, Mr. Darnell asks that students use designated crosswalks when they are crossing the streets on the Foggy Bottom campus, particularly on H Street near Gelman Library. Students should put away their phones while crossing the street and avoid distractions.

“I get it that sometimes you are trying to take the shortcut across the street, but there are three crosswalks on H Street, and we would encourage people not to shoot between the food trucks, but to use the crosswalks,” he said.

The GW community is also encouraged to familiarize themselves with the GW Emergency Response Handbook. The handbook provides action steps on what to do in a variety of situations including fires, severe weather and how to report a suspicious person.

Here are some additional safety tips:

  • Keep the door to your residence hall room locked to deter and prevent theft.
  • Plan your route ahead of time and research the best ways of keeping your valuables safe on Metro if you are traveling to a different part of the city
  • Be aware of your surroundings and report anything unusual or out of place.
  • Use the buddy system and share your location with friends and family when exploring the city.
  • Program emergency contact numbers into your phone.
  • Verify the driver’s identity before you enter a ridesharing vehicle.
  • Avoid isolated areas like underground garages, alleys, parking lots and offices after business hours. Walk with a group and in well-lit areas.
  • If you feel like you are being followed, move as fast as possible toward the nearest lighted and populated building. You can also cross the street in the middle of the road or flag down a passing car for assistance.
  • Avoid using smartphones or other electronic devices on public transportation, especially when seated near the doors.
  • Always lock your bike in a way that secures the frame and both tires.
  • Maintain a safe distance if approached by a stranger, even if they just ask for directions.
  • Walk with a confident attitude, even if you are lost.

Students are encouraged to follow GW Police on Facebook and Twitter to get safety tips and other important public safety information.

Student Life