Campus Life 101: Safety

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

August 26, 2019


Campus Life 101 is a 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 George Washington University students return to campus, Scott Burnotes, the new associate vice president for safety and security, has tips on how to stay safe while living on campus and navigating D.C.

Mr. Burnotes started his career in emergency management and higher education as a graduate student at GW 15 years ago. He is excited to return to his alma mater and welcome students for a new academic year, he said. 

 "Many things have changed on campus since I was a student, but the university's commitment to safety remains the same," he said. "Please review our safety tips and familiarize yourself with university emergency procedures."

Students are encouraged to make sure their information is accurate in GW Alert and download the GW Rider app, free on iOS and Android devices. The app gives GW students, faculty and staff a direct connection to transportation services. Users can call for a safe ride, track that ride and also track fixed-route transportation options such as the Vern Express and Virginia Science and Technology Campus shuttles through the app.

Personal Safety Tips

  • Keep the door to your residence hall room locked to deter and prevent theft.
  • Keep your ID and keycard with you at all times. If lost, report immediately to GW Police.
  • Program emergency contact numbers into your phone. GW Police on the Foggy Bottom campus can be reached at 202-994-6111. To call GW Police on the Mount Vernon campus, dial 202-242-6111. 

Safety in Public

  • Put your cell phone away and stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Report anything unusual or out of place.
  • 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.
  • 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, flag down a passing car for assistance or use a blue light phone on campus to call GW Police.

Travel Safety

  • Before you enter a ridesharing vehicle, verify the driver’s identity.
  • Follow provider rules and safety recommendations when using alternate transportation such as scooters and wear a helmet.
  • Plan your route ahead of time and research the best way to keep your valuables safe on Metro.
  • Avoid isolated areas like underground garages, alleys, parking lots and offices after business hours.
  • Walk with a group and in well-lit areas.
  • Use the buddy system and share your location with friends and family when exploring the city.
  • Always lock your bike in a way that secures the frame and both tires.

Students are encouraged to follow @GWPolice on Twitter to get safety tips and other important public safety information and to review the GW Emergency Response Handbook. The handbook provides action steps to take in situations including fires, severe weather and how to report a suspicious person.