We recently polled members in Teachers in Remote Communities (Past, Present, Future) about their ‘biggest fear’ about teaching in a remote community school. The 4th biggest concern for new remote teachers was ‘crime’.
Here are a list of safety and crime reduction hints and tips we learnt along the way.
General Safety Tips
- Save emergency services numbers under ‘AAA Police’ or ‘AAA Nurse’ etc so they can be found quickly and easily in your contacts. Ask for the direct number to the nearest police station, medical service, fire brigade (bonus points if you become friends with them and can call their personal mobiles haha). Make sure you know how to describe your location- what is the main road, nearest landmark/building/street.
- Get to know your neighbours and exchange numbers so you can both keep an eye out for each other.
- Form good relationships with students- reduce the ‘target on your back’ so to speak.
- Ask experienced teachers or local staff about hazards or risks in your community. Your local police will be able to give specific advice for your town.
- Your insurance for your car or home insurance may be more expensive in your community depending on previous crime data.
Home Safety Tips
- Bring dowel (long wood pieces) in your uplift. Or ask for off cuts from Woodwork Department or visiting carpenters or get some in your next visit to a larger town. Use these to slot into the tracks of sliding windows and doors to limit how far these can be opened if broken into.
- Buy an automatic timer switch that plugs into your power point and turns on whatever is plugged into it intermittently. So you could plug your TV in, or a lamp, or the radio and then at preset times it goes on to give the appearance that someone is home. These are about $20-50.
- Turn on sensor lights outside. If no sensor lights are installed- ask for your housing coordinator to have some installed.
- Remove temptation- line of sight through windows to items of value, put alcohol bottles buried deeper in your bin
- Store tools that could be used to break into your property safely away (locked shed, inside laundry, or out of sight outdoors).
- Store away valuable outdoor items such as bikes, skateboards, balls
- If you are able to form strong relationships with local colleagues or adults they may be able to keep an eye on your property and reduce the likelihood of break ins or damage.
- Fire proof, water proof personal case safes can be bought from hardware stores in larger towns for around $100.
- Ask your Housing Department (such as GROH for DET WA teachers) for safety upgrades such as deadlocks, security screens, sensor lights if needed.
Car Safety Tips
- Store your car keys out of sight in your bedroom each night.
- Shutting your driveway gate each night adds another barrier to entry to your driveway, and another barrier to leaving if someone was to attempt to steal your car.
- Remove temptation from vehicles such as bags on seats, money in consoles and other items.
- Park your car in your carport, garage or in the driveway and under cover where possible- avoid leaving it in the street.
- Seek advice about best types of cars for security such as alarms and immobilizers.
- Have a spare set of keys stored somewhere safely (lost keys can cost an arm and a leg to get to remote locations- trust me!).
- If your keys are stolen or lost- disconnect the battery, park another vehicle behind it and alert your local police who may be able to assist in securing the vehicle (tyre locks etc) until you can come up with a solution.
Classroom Safety Tips
- Check you have locked windows and doors at the end of each day.
- Consider putting wood poles or dowel in the sliding window tracks of your classroom windows.
- Store interesting, small or ‘stealing worth’ items ‘out-of-sight-out-of-mind’.
- Turn off technology overnight- the glow of a computer screen or iPads catch attention of passers by.
- Store expensive equipment safety- technology in storeroom etc.
- Set boundaries about areas students are allowed to access- such as behind teacher desk, in teacher desk, in storeroom, in prize box etc.
- Report any damage to locks, windows, security cameras, sensor lights and other classroom equipment to your administration team as soon as it is noticed so that it can be added to the list of things to fix.
- Reduce opportunities for students to behave inappropriately- reduce temptation.
- Actively supervise students in the classroom.
- Have unconditional positive regard for your students… but put in place behaviour plans and risk assessments to encourage the appropriate behaviours and reduce negative ones such as stealing, graffiti, property damage.
Personal Safety Tips- School
- Ask for training around the school policy for intervention and management of physical fights.
- Be aware of the behaviour management policy- especially around assault of teacher. Report, record all incidents. It is within your right to lodge a police report, and workers compensation if assault occurs.
- Avoid being alone with students in intimate, small or personal spaces.
Personal Safety Tips
- Keep a flashlight by your bed.
- Charge your phone prior to bed, or in a power point in your room so you have access if you need to call emergency services.
- To deter ‘cheeky dogs’ carry a stick or rock as you walk. Usually a loud firm ‘Go home’ or ‘Get away’ will send them off.
- Know places where you will get phone reception and places you won’t. Consider UHF or satellite phone as safety
- Consider if it is suitable to be wearing flashy jewelry or sunglasses or shoes out and about. These objects may draw attention and create a reason to break into your house or take from your desk.
- Consider going on walks around town, on the bush tracks out of town or at night with someone else.
- Be aware of your surroundings- listen to your music with one earphone, avoid playing on your phone as you walk or getting distracted by a phone call. Be alert for dangers.
Holiday Safety Tips
- Don’t tell students you are going out of town, or imply that you will just go for a very quick trip. It is best to say you will be around, or a friend will be staying, or very honestly ‘I don’t have firm plans yet’.
- Invite a colleague, friend or even teacher from a different town to house sit for you.
- Tell the local police that you will be out of town.
- Take important things with you- documents, ID, valuables.
- Put things away where they belong. Not only will your house feel better to arrive back to, but it will make it harder for robbers to access if they do get into your house while you are away. Often times break ins occur by children and teens- and very often they enjoy some food, TV and leave.
- Put away outdoor items that could be taken- but leave enough to make your house look lived in.
Your time remote will be life changing. But it would be naïve to think that it will be all smooth sailing. There is crime in every city and town in the world. There are risks with being in any location. Be alert, be aware and be prepared is advice for any location.
Check out our courses, Thrive Intensive and resources on this page. Look through other blog posts. Sign up for our email notifications. And join our Facebook groups: Teachers in Remote Communities (Past, Present, Future), Australian Outback Beginning Teachers.