Columbus, OH

Home for the holidays: what to consider before leaving campus for winter break

The Lantern
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Off-campus housing near Ohio State, located on West Norwich Avenue and Neil Avenue, are one of the many student housing developments near the university. Collaboration among the Office of Administration and Planning, Ohio State police and the Office of Student Life facilitates effort in promoting awareness regarding the crucial need for off-campus residential students to adhere to a safety checklist prior to their departure for winter break. Credit: Zoe Botley | Lantern Reporter

As decorations go up across campus, gift guides appear online and wintery colors take over, the holidays become unavoidable for students.

Students who live in the off-campus area have a few last-minute tasks to check off their lists before packing their gifts and suitcases to make the trip home. With advice from Ohio State’s safety experts, The Lantern has compiled a list of these responsibilities.

Winterizing your space

Before heading home, students should make sure their homes are ready for the cold weather.

James MacGregor, a manager in the Willie J. Young, Sr. Off-Campus and Commuter Student Engagement Office, said this includes insulating windows and doors and unplugging unused electronics.

MacGregor said the most commonly overlooked step is turning thermostats to above 60 degrees to prevent pipes from bursting.

Even though students might think they’re saving money by turning down their thermostats while they’re gone, the cold temperatures could cause the housing pipes to burst, resulting in thousands of dollars in damages.

“If you have a pipe burst in your home, and no one’s there for close to two weeks, that can cause so much damage,” MacGregor said.

It’s also recommended to use plastic coverings or stuff towels in exposed crevices to prevent unwanted airflow, which can affect the home’s temperature. Of course, making sure all windows are closed and locked can help with this and prevent crime.

Leaving lights on

Though students might traditionally leave on one or two lights to make it seem like someone’s home in an effort to prevent crime, MacGregor recommends using lights with a timer so they can be controlled remotely.

The Bluetooth outlet is controlled via an app, allowing homeowners to turn on or off any light in their home.

“You can turn off the different [electronics] through the smart plugs,” MacGregor said. “Or any other thing that you have in the one that could indicate like kind of showcase that there’s traffic in the home.”

Mind what you leave behind

According to Ohio State’s Community Crime Map , there were a total of 18 burglaries between the winter and spring semesters in the last two years.

Before leaving your off-campus residence, consider taking any valuables like cash, credit cards and electronics home with you. According to university spokesperson Dan Hedman, this can help prevent a worse circumstance if your home is burglarized.

“Police recommend securing your campus residence for the days or weeks you’ll be away. Simple things like making sure doors and windows are locked and having outside lights on at night can help prevent crime,” Hedman said.

Additional steps include placing mail on hold, having packages delivered to a student’s home address and notifying a close neighbor to be alert of suspicious activity during your absence.

Using Ohio State’s resources

MacGregor encourages students to take advantage of Ohio State’s resources while they’re available.

The Office of Student Life provides complimentary window and door alarms, alerting devices and personal safety devices, which are available for pickup any time the office is open. Free smart plugs are also available in Room 3106 in the Ohio Union.

“I’m still learning things that I wish I had learned back then. So we’re trying to be proactive and give students as much knowledge and resources as we can,” MacGregor said.

The Office of Student Life has also created a program with Columbus police where students can have their area patrolled while away. Regardless of whether students request it, Hedman said Ohio State police and non-sworn security will continue to patrol the Columbus campus 24/7 during the break.

Additional resources, information, and alerts are on the Willie J. Young, Sr. Off-Campus and Commuter Student Engagement webpage . For any questions regarding off-campus criminal activity, please call Columbus Police at 614-292-2121 or 911 for emergencies.

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