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Emergency Preparedness 101: A College Student's Ultimate Guide

Emergency Preparedness 101: A College Student’s Ultimate Guide

College is the first time many people experience real independence. This can be fantastically freeing. It can also be a little daunting. One of the reasons you might be a little hesitant is that there is the prospect for emergencies to arise that you’ll have to manage and overcome.

This is perfectly natural. An emergency situation can be a lot to deal with. The key is to empower yourself with some knowledge and preparation. The better resources and information you have at your disposal, the more effective and confident you’re likely to be.

Let’s explore some areas of emergency prep that college students should focus on.

Learn First Aid Skills

Perhaps the most common form of emergency you’ll face as a college student is the medical kind. These might not always be life-or-death situations, of course. You may need to simply immobilize a dorm mate’s broken limb until they can get to a hospital or clean and bandage a wound. Having a little solid first-aid knowledge is invaluable here.

Some of the practical first-aid tips that can help you respond positively in an emergency include:

  • Securing a tourniquet: When you or someone else experiences heavy bleeding, it’s vital to stem the flow as soon as possible. This involves applying pressure high on the limb closest to the wound, usually near the armpit or groin. If you don’t have a first aid kit with a tourniquet, a belt or strong piece of fabric can make a good alternative.
  • Cleaning and bandaging a wound: If you or somebody else has a wound during an emergency situation, the bleeding isn’t the only risk. Infection can be a more serious health hazard. You should clean the wound with clean water and apply antiseptic cream before bandaging. If you don’t have antiseptic cream, you can create a saline solution by putting a couple of pinches of salt in a cup of warm water, then flush the wound.

In addition, you should consider getting cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training. Your ability to respond quickly if someone stops breathing or suffers cardiac arrest can be literally life-saving. Attending a course gives you the knowledge, skills, and confidence to act effectively and safely.

Gather Disaster Response Resources

Planning is key to navigating any emergency effectively. The last thing you want is to be scrambling for resources when an issue has already arisen. If you’re moving out of state to go to college, take the time to research the types of natural disaster events or risks that are common in the area. This helps you to make the most relevant plans.

Extreme weather

Extreme weather is common in various areas of the country and can cause serious disruption and health hazards. It’s important to make preparations that help you to keep safe in severe storms. Make sure you stock up on healthy snacks and fresh water. Download a weather app on your smartphone so you can keep informed of when storms are expected to arise and their progress. For tornadoes and hurricanes, make sure you know the locations of all nearby shelters should you need to evacuate the dorm or apartment.


Depending on where in the country your college is, you may be subject to occasional earthquakes. If these are severe, you may find yourself in an emergency scenario. You can best prepare by ensuring you have plenty of non-perishable foods and clean water — at least enough for a few days — in case you cannot leave your home. You should also keep an emergency radio so you can receive updates from local authorities in the event you lose cell or internet service.

Maintain Solid Security

Emergencies don’t just arise due to natural disasters or medical issues. It’s not nice to think about it, but sometimes people with bad intentions are the cause. This could be in the form of intruders in your apartment or dorm room. Shooting incidents are also a difficult reality of university life. You should take the time to put in place solid security measures that help keep you and your belongings safe.

Some elements to consider here include:

  • Keep your door locked: The simplest step is to keep your door locked at all times. This includes when you’re inside your apartment or dorm room. This makes it more difficult for unauthorized people to access you or your space. Even if you’re leaving your room for a moment to ask someone a question, take a moment to lock your door.
  • Invest in an alarm or door camera: Door and window alarms aren’t just a good way to let you know someone has broken into your room. They also let your neighbors know something’s amiss and even deter intruders. If you can afford it, having a doorbell camera lets you see who unexpected visitors are before you answer the door.
  • Get to know evacuation routes: During active shooter incidents or civil unrest, one of the recommendations is to evacuate if it’s safe to do so. You should get to know all the exit points in your building and how to access them. Look for what the shortest routes are from different places in the building where you’re likely to be. This helps you make more informed decisions during these types of emergencies.

If you’re living on campus, campus security will likely have resources and procedures in the event of emergencies. You should take the time to look at their website or speak to a member of staff about any concerns you have.


Responding to an emergency isn’t easy for anyone. Yet, taking some time to prepare for the types of challenges you might be likely to face at college is key to having a solid response. If you find preparing for these types of situations difficult, consider teaming up with a dorm mate or a friend. This can make the process a little less stressful. It also means one of you can spot prep areas the other misses. Empower yourself and each other to thrive, alongside gaining vital life skills you’ll need beyond school.

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