Tag Archives: Ben Boltinghouse

Fire Alarms and Evacuations

Parkland College never performs fire drills, so any and all fire alarms that go off in our facilities are to be treated seriously. If an alarm goes off, safely and quickly find the nearest exit and proceed a safe distance from the building. Exterior speakers will advise when it’s safe to return inside.

Parkland has volunteer faculty and staff Floor Coordinators spread throughout our buildings and wings, who can be identified by their safety vests and flashlights. These individuals can assist you in locating the closest exit, as well as pass on information to emergency personnel if you require additional assistance.

Additionally, there are several Rescue Assistance Areas spread throughout the college that act as gathering points for individuals who need evacuation assistance in the event of a campus emergency. If you require assistance evacuating the campus in the case of an emergency, go to one of the following designated areas. Rescue personnel will check these areas in the event of a campus evacuation. If necessary, use the emergency phone to dial 911:

  • A wing: 2nd floor near the elevator
  • B Wing: 2nd floor, men’s restroom
  • C wing: 2nd floor near the C-3 stairway (West side)
  • D Wing: 2nd floor, restrooms
  • L Wing: 2nd floor, women’s restroom
  • M wing: 2nd floor near M109
  • X Wing: 2nd floor, men’s restroom
  • X Wing: 3rd floor, restrooms
  • U wing: 2nd and 3rd floors (East stairwells)
  • Library: Main floor (2nd Level), restrooms

[Ben Boltinghouse is a sergeant with Parkland’s Department of Public Safety.]

[Photo by Bill Friedrich for Champaign Fire Department.]

Shopping by Classified Ads? Think Safety

If you submitted your tax return early, have some extra money in your pocket, and want to replace your couch or TV,  looking through the classified ads or going on a site like Craigslist can be an easy and affordable way to make some new additions to your furniture or entertainment options.

After you’ve gotten in touch with the seller and  agreed on a price, however, setting up a place to meet and complete the purchase can be a dangerous situation if you’re not careful. Use the following tips to help ensure that you’re as safe as possible when setting up an exchange.

Meet in public places. Whenever possible, set up the exchanges in a public place, as opposed to meeting at someone’s house. You’re much safer in a busy restaurant or parking lot than at a stranger’s house.

Don’t go alone. You should always bring someone else with you when you meet to exchange, especially if you’re not able to meet in public. At the absolute minimum, make sure a friend or family member knows where you’re going and how long you should be.

Don’t bring any extra cash. Carry with you only the exact amount of money you’ve agreed upon with the seller. There’s no need to risk having anything else taken if things go poorly.

Meet during the day. On top of meeting out in public, meeting when it’s light out is another way to ensure you stay as safe as possible.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a sergeant with Parkland’s Department of Public Safety.]

Holiday Fire Prevention Tips

The holiday season is the most dangerous time of the year for house fires, whether it’s cooking in an overly cluttered kitchen, lighting too many candles around the home, or stringing up old or damaged holiday lights. Consider the following tips from the U.S. Fire Administration on how to prevent house fires during the holidays.

  • Keep candles 12 inches away from things that can burn, and consider using flameless battery-operated candles.
  • Place candles in a sturdy candleholder that will not tip over, and never leave a burning candle alone.
  • Throw away holiday light strands with frayed or pinched wires, and turn off all your holiday lights before going to bed or leaving your home.
  • Water your Christmas tree every day, as a dry tree can very easily catch fire. Get rid of your Christmas tree soon after Christmas or whenever it dries out.

We hope you have a safe and refreshing holiday break!

 

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

World AIDS Day 2017

For this week’s blog post, we’ll be discussing an intersection between Public Health and Public Safety as we observe World AIDS Day today, December 1.

First, some fast facts about HIV:

  • At the end of 2014, the most recent year for which such data are available, an estimated 1,107,700 adults and adolescents were living with HIV.
  • Of those, an estimated 166,000 (15%) had not been diagnosed.
  • The number of new HIV diagnoses fell 19% from 2005 to 2014. Because HIV testing has remained stable or increased in recent years, this decrease in diagnoses suggests a true decline in new infections.

Although undeniable progress has been made in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS, the job isn’t finished; plenty more work has to be done, both domestically and abroad. If you’d like to get involved, here are ideas on how to help:

  • Reach out to a local HIV  service organization. Many organizations have support groups for people living with HIV and their loved ones. To find a local HIV/AIDS service organization near you, use HIV.gov’s HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator.
  • Get involved in your community. To get involved in HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy, contact your local HIV service organizations and/or community health department. These groups can help identify local volunteer opportunities. You can also visit the sites listed below to search HIV-related volunteer opportunities.
  • Engage with others. Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat offer opportunities to connect with others who are interested and involved in HIV issues.

***This post was compiled using resources from hiv.gov and the CDC.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Home Security for the Holidays

Starting with Thanksgiving, the holiday season is typically a time when police departments see an uptick in burglary and theft reports.  Criminals know that many homes will be unoccupied for prolonged periods of time as people are away visiting family, making it a prime opportunity to break in.

Whether you’re headed out of town or just over to a family member or friend’s house for a few hours, here are a few ideas to keep your belongings safe while you’re away:

  • Secure all valuables in a safe; this includes credit cards, jewelry, cash, etc. While you don’t need a bank vault installed in your home, there are plenty of smaller safes that can be secured to the floor via screws or bolts that are perfectly suitable (if you rent, check with your landlord first).
  • Jot down the serial numbers of your consumer electronics. Save them in a safe space or on a secure cloud file. These will help the police recover your items if they’re stolen and someone tries to sell them at a pawn shop.
  • If you own your home, or your landlord will allow you to make modifications, consider installing security cameras and ample exterior lighting. Ensure that all exterior doors have both a handle lock as well as a deadbolt.
  • When ordering gifts online, consider being discreet as you dispose of the boxes they come in. A massive pile of cardboard next to your house can indicate a worthwhile break-in to an unscrupulous passerby. Break down the boxes as much as possible and don’t put them out until the evening before your recycling gets picked up.

If you do come home and find that you’ve been broken into, call the police immediately and don’t go inside if you have any suspicion that the burglar might still be present.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Putting the Spotlight on Sexual Assault

Victims of sexual assault have come forward with their stories in the past few weeks and months, making it a particularly active time in the headlines. As famous actors, executives, and politicians are falling under suspicion, it can be easy to lose sight of the everyday reality of most victims:

One out of every six American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in her lifetime.* And the rich and famous aren’t the only ones committing sexual assault and harassment; about 70% of assault victims knew their attacker.

It’s hard to know what to do, how to feel, or what your options are after a sexual assault. First of all, please know that you are not alone. Below are some other things to keep in mind. If you are in immediate danger or have been seriously injured, call 911.

  1. Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.
  2. What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.
  3. Call the RACES (Rape Advocacy, Counseling and Education Services) hotline at 217/384-4444 or 1-877/236-3727. They provide free, confidential services to anyone who has been affected by sexual assault, abuse, or harassment.

When you call the hotline, a staff member will walk you through the process of getting help at your own pace.

*The above post was adapted from rainn.org/ and cu-races.org/.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

12 Tips for Winter Driving

As we head into the winter months, conditions on the road can become more dangerous. We need to make a few adjustments to our driving habits to make sure we’re safely reaching our destinations.

As a reminder of those adjustments, we’ve republished our January 2017 post on winter driving, below, which includes tips from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation website. Please give it a read.

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How can you keep safe on the road this winter? Here are the top 12 tips:

12. Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights—even the hood and roof—before driving.

11. Leave plenty of room for stopping.

10. Pay attention; don’t try to outdrive the conditions. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.

9. Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Brake correctly. It takes more time and distance to stop in adverse conditions.

8. Bridge decks freeze first. Due to the difference in the exposure to air, the surface condition can be worse on a bridge than on the approaching road.

7. Exit ramps are an even greater challenge during the winter, since they may have received less anti-icing material than the main line. Be aware of this when exiting the highway.

6. Don’t use the “cruise control” option when driving in wintry conditions. Even roads that appear clear can have sudden slippery spots and the slightest touch of your brakes to deactivate the cruise control can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

5. Don’t get overconfident in your 4×4 vehicle’s traction. Driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle may help you get going quicker, but it won’t help you stop any quicker. Many 4x4s are heavier than passenger vehicles and actually may take longer to stopWinter Driving

4. Look further ahead in traffic than you normally do. Actions by cars and trucks will alert you quicker to problems and give you a split-second of extra time to react safely.

3. Remember that trucks are heavier than cars. Trucks take longer to safely respond and come to a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.

2. Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows! Stay back at least 200 feet and don’t pass on the right.

1. Most importantly, please, remember to SLOW DOWN! Also, seat belts should be worn at all times; it’s the law.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Staying Safe on Halloween

This post was compiled from an article originally posted at http://www.ocm.com/blog/10-halloween-night-safety-tips-to-follow/

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Halloween is the favorite night of tons of college students, ready to enjoy parties and get-togethers in dorm rooms or clubs or even to do a bit of night trick-or-treating. However you choose to celebrate this spook-tacular day, be sure to play it safe by sticking to four Halloween night tips.

1.   Travel in Groups

If you’re going out at night, bring a buddy or travel in a group. If you leave a party early, wait until someone you know or trust is ready to leave with you so you don’t have to go it alone. Make sure you coordinate with friends so that someone always knows where you are, where you’re headed, and when you’re supposed to arrive.

2.   Check Your Goodies Out

Even as an adult, you should be particular about your candy and drinks. Don’t drink something you didn’t order and see prepared, and never eat candy that has already been unwrapped. If you have food allergies, carry an epinephrine pen or other medication just in case.

3.   Stay in a Public Area

Don’t take the shortcut a friend told you on Halloween. Stick to familiar walking paths, well-lit streets, or friend’s apartments. It may be tempting, but it’s better to be overly safe than to risk it.

4.   Avoid Dangerous Costumes

You’ve got a great costume, but can you walk in those heels? Can you see through the mask? Does your accessories look or could be labeled as a weapon? Before you go out, wear it around a bit to see if it causes any red flags.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Out of Gas? Locked Out? Call Vehicle Services

The Parkland College Department of Public Safety strives to be accessible and responsive to the community we’re a part of. Towards that goal, we offer a range of services that go beyond traditional policing in order to better connect and engage with students, faculty, staff, and visitors to the college.

This week’s post will be an overview of the various vehicle services we offer, which are completely free to anyone on campus regardless of affiliation to the college. Just call 217/351-2369, and one of our officers will come out to help.

Locked out of your car? 

In the rush to get to class, did you leave your keys locked in the car? Our officers are trained and equipped with vehicle unlock tools to access your door handles or unlock buttons.

Dead battery?

We carry battery packs in all of our squad cars to jump start your vehicle if your battery is dead. The officer will hook it up to your car battery and help start your car. If it turns out that you have a different mechanical issue, we can call a tow truck for you to get you to a mechanic.

Run out of gas?

If you cruised onto campus running on fumes and need a little gas to get back on the road, we can give you a ride to a nearby gas station where you can put a couple of gallons in a gas can we carry in the squad car. We’ll bring you back and you can refill your tank, at least enough to get on the road and make it back to the gas station for a fill-up.

Flat tire?

We have an air compressor to fill up your tire if it’s a little flat. Unfortunately, we can’t change your tire, but we can provide advice and stand by with you if you need to switch over to your spare.

What to Expect

If you’re having any of the above issues with your car, call 217/351-2369. The dispatcher will get some information to find out where you are ,and an officer will be dispatched to you as soon as possible. They’ll verify your driver’s license and vehicle registration, have you sign a liability waiver, and then get to work to get you back on the road. It’s totally free, and you don’t have to be a Parkland student or employee to receive this service.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Cold and Flu Season

Cold and flu season officially starts in October and lasts until April, but it is possible to catch the common cold or influenza any time of the year.

Not sure what you might have? Check your symptoms on the handy chart below from the U.S. National Institute of Health! In either case, you shouldn’t come to school if you’re experiencing a cold or the flu. Focus on recovery and try to keep from infecting anyone else. If you have to leave the house, consider wearing a face mask and be sure to wash your hands often.

Consult with your doctor if you have a health concern of any kind.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Thanks to earlier detection  (via screening and increased awareness) and better treatment options, a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer has dropped significantly (38 percent between the late 1980s and 2014, according to the American Cancer Society). Another way of saying it:  over the last 25 years, 297,300 fewer people have died due to this illness.

Much more work must be done, however, as breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death among women. The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 37 (about 2.7 percent). Only lung cancer kills more women each year. A large racial /socioeconomic gap in breast-cancer mortality also remains, with African-American women having 42 percent higher death rates compared to whites.

If you or someone you love is concerned about developing breast cancer, have been recently diagnosed, are going through treatment, or if you are trying to stay well after treatment, please consult with your doctor and refer to recommendations set out by the American Cancer Society.

Interested in how to help? Visit the American Cancer Society’s “Get Involved” page for options on how to get involved:.

**The above information was compiled from resources available at the American Cancer Society. **

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Why Texting + Driving = NO

***A number of blog posts will be repeated throughout the year. This post was originally published on March 30, 2017.***

Here’s a stat for you: Use your phone for anything while you’re driving, and you QUADRUPLE your likelihood of crashing.*

That means, if you do this, you’re four times more likely to receive serious injury (requiring hospitalization) than if you didn’t. Why?

Driving and cell phone conversations both require a great deal of thought. When doing them at the same time, your brain is unable to do either well. For example, it’s nearly impossible to read a book and have a phone conversation. So driving and using a phone often results in crashes due to delayed braking times and not seeing traffic signals.

Cell phone use is particularly dangerous because of how often and how long we use our phones when driving. Applying makeup, adjusting the stereo, or reaching for an object that’s fallen onto the floorboards are also dangerous actions when behind the wheel, but they’re typically executed in short bursts throughout a car ride. Cell phone use, on the other hand, is something that can fill up a whole trip, adding a sustained level of risk over a long period of travel.

Texting and driving is a serious problem, and one that almost all of us are guilty of. Too many of us subscribe to the “it won’t happen to me” mentality. Just remember that earlier statistic, though: While it may end up just being a fender bender, serious injury or death are probable risks as well.

Need some assistance keeping off your phone behind the wheel? You can download an app, like DriveMode for AT&T carriers, that prevents you from sending or receiving calls and texts when you’re driving. While it won’t prevent you from scrolling or checking social media, it’s a start.

*Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Alcohol Poisoning: When Drinking Turns Toxic

Alcohol poisoning happens when you drink a large amount of alcohol, usually over a short period of time. Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is so high that it is considered to be toxic.

Alcohol depresses the nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (to prevent choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually cause these functions to shut down. Since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach, excessive vomiting is also common. If the person is unconscious, this could lead to death by asphyxiation.

Some of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Pale or blue-tinged skin
  • Seizure
  • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths per minute)
  • Unconsciousness or passing out
  • Vomiting

If you think someone has alcohol poisoning, call 911 right away. Illinois State Law provides amnesty from any criminal liability related to underage drinking if you call for yourself or a friend. So don’t worry about getting in trouble or getting a drinking ticket; the police care significantly more about your health and safety than about issuing a ticket.

While you wait for help, DO

  • ….Stay with them.
  • …Keep them warm.
  • …If they are unconscious, put them in the recovery position and check that they are breathing.
  • …If they are awake, try to keep them in a sitting position and awake.

If someone has drunk too much, DO NOT

  • …leave someone to sleep it off. The amount of alcohol in someone’s blood continues to rise even when they stop drinking.
  • …give them coffee. Alcohol dehydrates the body, as does coffee. Having both can lead to severe dehydration and permanent brain damage.
  • …make them throw up. Alcohol can interfere with a person’s gag reflex, causing them to choke on their own vomit.
  • …walk them around. Alcohol slows brain function and affects coordination and balance. Walking around might cause accidents.
  • …put them under a cold shower. Alcohol lowers body temperature. A cold shower could make them colder than they already are and lead to hypothermia.
  • …let them drink more alcohol. The amount of alcohol in their bloodstream could become even higher – which could put them in more danger.

***A number of blog posts will be repeated throughout the year. This post was originally published on March 2, 2017.***

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Suicide Prevention Week

This week is Suicide Prevention Week, and today’s post draws information from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

  • Did you know that more than 5 million people in the United States alone have been directly affected by a suicide?
  • Experts believe that most suicidal individuals do not want to die. They just want to end the pain they are experiencing.
  • Experts also say suicidal crises tend to be brief. When suicidal behaviors are detected early, lives can be saved.

Services are available in our community that assess and treat suicidal behaviors and their underlying causes. If you or someone you know is experiencing serious depression and/or suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a friend, instructor,  counselor, or one of our campus police officers for help getting through this difficult time.

For this year’s National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 10–16), the theme is “Take a Minute, Save a Life.” Please join Parkland College in supporting suicide prevention. Together we can reduce the number of lives shaken by a needless and tragic death.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Planning for When Disaster Strikes

Putting together a disaster plan is something that is often overlooked but that can be of tremendous help in the event of a catastrophe. There are four basic steps you can take to help get you and your family ready. (These recommendations were compiled from resources available on The Disaster Center’s website.)

The first is to find out what could happen to you. Apart from the common  “anywhere” disasters such as a fire or gas leak, find out what kinds of things are region-specific that you may need special directions for.

Second, create a plan that includes instructions on where to meet outside of the home if there is a fire, as well as a dedicated out-of-town contact to check in with if your family gets separated (it’s often easier to make long-distance calls rather than local calls in an emergency).

Third, visibly post a checklist that includes emergency numbers as well as instructions on how to turn off water, gas, or electricity in the case of a leak or damaged lines if the authorities instruct you to do so.

Finally, it’s important to practice and maintain your plan. Review your plan and check on any disaster food/water/medical supplies every six months or so; doing this will ensure that all the hard work you’ve done won’t go to waste. Check on and maintain smoke alarms, CO alarms, and fire extinguishers on a regular basis.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Smoke Alarms Safety Tips

For those of us who are moving in at the  beginning of the semester or just haven’t checked in a while, the Department of Public Safety wants to remind you to make sure your apartments or homes are equipped with functioning smoke alarms. Smoke alarms save lives. The National Fire Protection Association offers the following tips concerning smoke alarms:

Properly installed and maintained  smoke alarms play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast; smoke alarms give you time to get out! Remember these important tips:

  • There are two kinds of alarms: Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. It is best to use of both types of alarms in your house or apartment.
  • A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home.
  • Smoke alarms should be interconnected. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.
  • Test your smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
  • When a smoke alarm sounds, get outside immediately and stay outside.
  • Replace all smoke alarms in your home every 10 years.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Personal Safety Reminders

Our campus and local community continue to feel the impact of missing UIUC visiting scholar Yingying Zhang, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and loved ones.

This week’s post serves as a reminder of personal safety tips and habits that can help keep you from becoming a victim. We would like to note that you are not to blame if someone commits a crime against you; however, there are several steps you can take to safeguard against being victimized. Today’s set of tips is broken into two categories, communication and awareness. Both are important elements that work together to keep you safe.

Communication

Make sure someone knows where you’re coming from, where you’re going, and when you’re supposed to get there. This is particularly important if you’re going out to a bar or a party for the night, but can also be a good practice to generally incorporate. This person can be a roommate, friend, significant other, or relative.

Call the police. Police officers get paid to investigate suspicious circumstances. If something happens to you, or you see something that seems out of the ordinary or suspicious, pick up the phone and call. You’re not inconveniencing anyone. It’s our job, and it’s what we get paid to do.

Awareness

Recognize when you’re in a situation where someone is more likely to target you. This can be when you’re standing at an ATM, walking alone on a dark sidewalk/path at night, or fumbling with your keys before you get into your vehicle or enter your apartment. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious, and if something doesn’t look or feel right, consider choosing a different route, finding a public area, or possibly calling the police.

It’s also important to think critically about situations you’re presented with. When you’re at a party or a bar, be cautious about accepting drinks that you haven’t seen prepared. If someone asks you for help that requires you to get into a vehicle or enter a house or apartment, that should definitely set off some red flags in your mind.

No one wants to live their lives dominated by fear, and that’s not what we’re suggesting. Despite the sense that social media and the daily headlines may give you, it’s ultimately not very likely that you’re going to be the victim of a serious crime. Nevertheless, there are simple, relatively unobtrusive steps you can take to further drive those odds down. If we all work together to take a little better care of ourselves and each other, hopefully we can avoid the next tragedy.

 

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Safety in the Summer Heat

Parkland College’s summer session has begun, and the regular public safety messages will also be returning.

This week, we’re going to talk about dealing with the warmer summer temperatures, particularly as they relate to vehicles. If you’re going to be making long road trips in the summer, be sure to bring along extra bottles of water. In case of a breakdown, you don’t want to get dehydrated on the interstate.

Also, don’t ever leave children or pets inside an unattended car, even if you think you’re going to be quickly running in and out of the store. Temperatures inside a car quickly skyrocket, and the risk of serious injury or death is too high. Monitoring website kidsandcars.org estimates that 16% of nontraffic fatalities involving children are due to heat stroke when kids are left alone in vehicles.

Check out this story posted by WJBC Radio with advice from Illinois State Police Master Sergeant Jason Bradley on what to do if you come across a vehicle with a pet that’s been left alone inside: bit.ly/2tSmB5O.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

 

Rest up for Finals Week…and Your Safety

Sleep is one of the most powerful indicators of student success, and with good reason. Sleep not only refreshes our organs and physical bodies, but it helps us consolidate and synthesize the information  we take in everyday. Many college students (and adults in general) find that they have trouble getting enough quality sleep at night.

Not only is sleep important for success in the classroom or the workplace, but getting enough sleep is critical for your safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. These figures may be the tip of the iceberg, since currently it is difficult to attribute crashes to sleepiness.

I found some great tips for improving the quality and quantity of your sleep, from Middlebury College in Vermont:

Develop a routine. Routines signal to our body that something is about to happen—in this case, sleep! Starting a bedtime routine 30 minutes before going to sleep can help unwind the mind and body and release melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Starting the routine at the same time and trying to wake up and the same time everyday can improve sleep quality and quantity.

Reduce caffeine. Caffeine has been shown to cause people to take longer to get to sleep, cause more awakenings, and lower the quality of sleep. Many types of soda contain caffeine as does chocolate, coffee and many types of teas.

Limit alcohol. Consuming alcohol, even as little as one to two drinks can produce fragmented sleep, causing a decrease in deep and REM sleep.

Go screen-free. The light emitted from cell phones, computer screens, tablets, and televisions trick our bodies and brains into thinking that it is light outside and we should be awake. Adding screen-free time into your routine can help you fall asleep faster.

Make time for physical activity. Often at the end of the day our brains are exhausted but our bodies are restless after sitting in class all day. Making time for physical activity, even just a walk around campus or your neighborhood, can help the brain and body get on the same page at the end of the day.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

10 Tips for Nighttime Walking

Whether you’re walking out to your car through the Parkland parking lots or enjoying an evening out in downtown Champaign, Urbana, or Campustown, foot travel at night carries more risks than the daytime. As starts to get nicer outside, we’ve compiled the following list of tips to help you safely reach your destination:

  1. Stay away from poorly lit areas and avoid taking shortcuts down dark alleyways or paths. Choose well-lit, heavily traveled sidewalks.
  2. If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.
  3. Whenever possible, do not walk alone at night.
  4. Be aware of places along your path that could conceal a criminal (shrubbery, buildings, recesses, etc.). Avoid these areas.
  5. Do not use headphones or talk on a cell phone while walking alone at night as this reduces your awareness of your surroundings.
  6. If you think someone is following you, make your way to a populated area and consider calling the police.
  7. Carry yourself with confidence. If confronted, shout or use a whistle to attract attention.
  8. It is risky to travel under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances. Drugs and alcohol can greatly alter your perceptions, reaction time, and judgments.
  9. Make sure to tell someone your plans and travel routes and when to expect your arrival.
  10. Wear clothing that will allow you to run if necessary. If you need to run, drop any heavy cargo you’re carrying (heavy books, packages, etc.) since these slow you down.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. During this month and throughout the year, Parkland College is dedicated to supporting families and reducing the risk of child abuse and neglect.

Even if you’re not a parent, almost everyone knows or is somehow connected to children through family or friends. You don’t have to be a professional to spend time and offer appropriate affection and support to the kids in your life.

Being the best parent you can be involves taking steps to strengthen your family and finding support when you need it. Parenting is part natural and part learned; you can supplement your natural skills with questions for your family doctor, your child’s teacher, family or friends. Books, websites, and parenting classes can also be helpful for ideas on how to deal with new challenges as your child grows up. Parenting isn’t something you have to do alone. When you have the knowledge, skills, and resources you need, you can raise a happy, healthy child.

Find out more about activities and programs in your community that support parents and promote healthy families. Dial 2-1-1 from any telephone in Champaign County and you’ll be connected with trained specialists who can help refer you to the variety of assistance programs available in the area.

A comprehensive tipsheet for parents and caregivers can also be found at: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/tipsheets_2017_en.pdf

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Cyber Safety, Part 2: Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying isn’t just a problem for adolescents; it often impacts those who have long since left high school behind. If you find yourself being bullied or harassed online, there are a few steps you can take to remedy the situation.

  1. Document all evidence of the bullying, taking screenshots or pictures of any messages, posts, or comments that are made. You should also block the person who is cyberbullying.
  2. Next, report that evidence to the online service providers. Cyberbullying often violates the terms of service established by social media sites and Internet service providers, and they can take action against the users who are abusing their sites. This not only protects you but stops others from being bullied as well.
  3. Finally, depending on the severity of the bullying, bring the evidence you have to law enforcement as well. This should definitely be done when the bullying involves threats of violence, sexually explicit messages or posts, stalking and hate crimes, or taking photos or videos of someone where they would reasonably expect privacy.

The Pew Research Center estimates that 40% of adult Internet users have personally experienced some form of online harassment. If you or someone you know is the victim of online bullying, please reach out and start the process to freedom from cyberbullying.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

 

Cyber Safety, Part 1

For the next two weeks, we’ll be talking about cyber safety. Today’s post discusses three of the most common forms of theft and fraud that you’ll find online, and next week will be all about cyber bullying.

Phishing

Phishing is a common trick used by identity thieves to gain your personal information. This crime involves sending email or creating sites that appear to be from a legitimate company and asking you to confirm personal information such as bank account numbers, passwords, birth dates, or addresses. PayPal and eBay are two of the most common targets for phishing scams. Before adding any personal information, contact the supposed site directly to see if they have been trying to contact you. Most reputable sites will not contact you in this way.

Identity Theft

When they think of Internet safety, adults most often consider identity theft a top priority. Identity thieves can use the information they find online to drain your bank account and ruin your credit rating. In some cases, the damage caused by identity theft may even harm your future employment prospects, especially if you work in an industry that regularly does credit checks for all job applicants. Should you find yourself to be a victim of Identity theft, visit https://identitytheft.gov/ for easy instructions on how to report the crime and form a recovery plan.

Watch for Fraud

The global nature of the Internet has brought new life to scams. Some of the most common forms of Internet fraud include the following:

  • Online auctions site postings that feature nonexistent or falsely represented merchandise
  • Nigerian money offers promising large sums of cash in exchange for assistance with bank account transfers
  • Financial scams targeting consumers with poor credit who are tricked into paying upfront fees in hopes of receiving credit cards or personal loans
  • Phony sweepstakes offers asking for payment to claim a prize that doesn’t really exist

Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of on the Internet! Think critically about anything that sounds too good to be true.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

 

April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time when we recognize and focus efforts to combat the damage that sexual violence has on our society.

Sexual violence occurs when someone is forced or coerced into unwanted sexual activity without agreeing or consenting. Reasons someone might not be able to consent include fear, being underage, having an illness or disability, or being incapacitated due to alcohol and other drugs. Consent initially can be given and then later withdrawn.

Sexual violence is a crime that comes in many forms, including forced intercourse, sexual contact or touching, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and exposure or voyeurism. Sexual violence is never the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter what the victim is wearing or doing, whether the victim has been drinking, or what type of relationship the victim has with the person who is committing the abuse.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual violence, Parkland College has a fully trained team of counselors who can help you process the situation, as well as police officers to pursue criminal charges.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Five Tips for Enjoying Spring Break…Safely

Parkland College’s spring break is just around the corner, so here are five tips for staying safe during the break:

Stick together
If you’re going on a trip with a group of friends, you’ll all be safest if you stick together. Should one of you decide to leave a party early or go on a solo shopping trip, make sure others in your group know where you’re going and how long you’ll be.

Keep an eye on your money
You don’t want to get stranded in a new and unfamiliar place without any money, so be sure to bring enough to last you the whole trip. If you carry cash, try to keep the amount you take with you on routine excursions to a minimum. Try distributing your money in various places among your belongings and accommodations so that if by chance you lose some or it’s stolen, you’ll still have more elsewhere.

Alcohol and you
Most spring break trips involve some level of alcohol-related activities, and while you may be safest if you don’t partake, the reality is, that will probably not be the case. Being smart about the way you drink is the next best thing, and that involves being cognizant of the risks of alcohol poisoning, selecting a designated driver if you’ve got to travel, and being wary of accepting drinks from strangers.

Safe sex
Should you decide to have sex during spring break, take the necessary precautions to protect against unwanted pregnancy and STDs/STIs. Make sure that consent has been explicitly and freely established between all parties before engaging in sexual activities.

Use proper activity gear
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that accidental injuries kill more Americans age 30 and under than any other cause of death. With this in mind, be sure to wear those seat belts and use life vests, knee pads, and other appropriate gear, especially before venturing out to some high-risk activity.

Have a fun—and safe—spring break!

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month, celebrated annually during March in the U.S., highlights the contributions of women to events in history and society. Today, we highlight five inventions by women that have had an impact in the fields of police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) that make all our lives safer.

1. In 1887, Anna Connelly patented the first fire escape bridge, allowing people who escaped to the rooftop to make their way to a neighboring building during a fire. Fire escapes are essential to residents’ and first responders’ rescue efforts in the event of a fire.

2. In 1969, Marie Van Brittan Brown, a nurse, was the first person to develop a patent for home closed-circuit television security. Her invention became the framework for the modern closed-circuit television system that is widely used for surveillance, crime prevention, and traffic monitoring.

3. Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy and computer scientist, invented COBOL,  the first user-friendly business computer software system in the 1940s. Thanks to Dr. Hopper, her program was later adapted by other computer scientists and modified for fire and EMS programs.

 

4. DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar in 1966 while she was trying to create a material to make stronger tires. She wove the material into a fiber, and the forerunner for firefighter gear and ballistic vests was born.

5. In WWII, to aid in the deployment of radio-controlled torpedoes, Hedy Lamarr made significant contributions to the field of frequency hopping in radio technology. This development paved the way for everything from Wi-Fi to GPS.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Drunk Driving: Get the Facts

****This post has been edited to provide the most up-to-date information.***
FACT:   An estimated 32% of fatal car crashes involve an intoxicated driver or pedestrian. *

FACT: Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of those crashes involve an underage drinking driver. **

FACT: On average, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.*

Alcohol, drugs, and driving simply do not go together. Driving requires a person’s attentiveness and the ability to make quick decisions on the road, to react to changes in the environment and execute specific, often difficult maneuvers behind the wheel. When drinking alcohol, using drugs, or being distracted for any reason, driving becomes dangerous—and potentially lethal!

Consuming alcohol prior to driving greatly increases the risk of car accidents, highway injuries, and vehicular deaths. The greater the amount of alcohol consumed, the more likely a person is to be involved in an accident. When any amount of alcohol is consumed, many of the skills that safe driving requires—judgment, concentration, comprehension, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time—become impaired.

Being convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can impact your life in ways you may not be aware of, including loss of employment, prevention of employment in certain jobs, higher insurance rates, serious financial setbacks, personal and family embarrassment, and possible incarceration.

Americans know the terrible consequences of drunk driving and are becoming more aware of the dangers of distracted driving. Drugged driving poses similar threats to public safety because drugs have adverse effects on judgment, reaction time, motor skills, and memory. When misused, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and illegal drugs can impair perception, judgment, motor skills, and memory.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Roadside Survey, more than 16% of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter medications (11% tested positive for illegal drugs). In 2009, 18% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one drug (illegal, prescription and/or over-the-counter).

*National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
**Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
     Administration (SAMHSA)

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Learn CPR. Save a Life.

The American Heart Association reports that in the case of a sudden collapse, immediate CPR can double or even triple a person’s chances of survival. Learning CPR can save lives and is an easy way to keep you from feeling powerless if disaster strikes.

Act Fast
Most people who experience cardiac arrest at home, at work, or in a public location die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene. As a bystander, don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help. When calling 911, you will be asked for your location. Be specific, especially if you’re calling from a mobile phone as that is not associated with a fixed address. Answering the dispatcher’s questions will not delay the arrival of help.

Take a CPR Class
Parkland College offers a CPR course through Community Education that’s geared towards Health Professions students but is still accessible to community members. More information is available here.

Classes are also available at both Carle and Presence Hospitals that are more directed toward general community members. Further information on those classes can be found at their sites:

CPR at Carle

CPR at Presence

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

The Parkland College Department of Public Safety is here to provide a safe and secure campus environment conducive to learning. Every week throughout the year, we’ll be releasing a new public safety message, providing applicable information that you can use to stay safe and have a successful experience here at Parkland.

Our message this week:  Teen Dating Violence Awareness.

****

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, when we collectively recognize that abuse can happen to anyone at any age, and shouldn’t be overlooked. The 16 to 24 female age group experiences abuse at the highest level of frequency, at almost triple the national average, and 43 percent of college-aged women report experiencing violent and abusive dating relationships.

If you or someone you know feels caught up in an abusive relationship, it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and that there are a wealth of resources here at Parkland College to help. Here are a few:

  • Most obviously, you can make a report with the Parkland College Police Department if the abuse is happening here or involves another student. Our officers are also available to talk about it and offer advice, even if it’s not happening on Parkland property.
  • The Parkland College Counseling and Advising Center is staffed with trained counselors who can also provide assistance,
  • You can go to the Dean of Students to get help.

Other resources are available at loveisrespect.org, where you can chat with a live advocate, or call 1-866/331-9474.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Are Your Firearms Safe? A Couple of Reminders

 

The Parkland College Department of Public Safety is here to provide a safe and secure campus environment conducive to learning. Every week throughout the year, we’ll be releasing a new public safety message, providing applicable information that you can use to stay safe and have a successful experience here at Parkland.

Our message this week:  Firearm Safety.

****

About 1.4 million homes have firearms stored in a way that makes them available to the wrong hands—children, at-risk youth, potential thieves, and those who intend to harm themselves or others, according to a study by the RAND Corporation using statistics from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you choose to exercise your rights to own a firearm, make sure you also keep that weapon safely out of the wrong hands. Proper firearm storage and reporting are essential to keeping you and your loved ones safe.

Storage Options. The most basic options for securing a firearm include a trigger lock, a cable lock, or a locked storage case. When used properly, these will prevent a gun from firing, but won’t keep it safe from theft. A lock box or safe that you can secure to the ground or wall will more likely keep your firearms from walking away, however.

Reporting. In the event that your firearm is lost or stolen, immediately reporting the theft or loss is of the utmost importance. You will also want to have firearm records on hand that you can provide to law enforcement, which will assist in locating and returning your firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) provides a downloadable form that you can use to properly catalog your firearms.

Gun ownership comes with rights and responsibilities, and we hope you will join us in working to ensure that a firearm never gets into the wrong hands. For more information, please visit safefirearmsstorage.org.[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]