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Avoid the Red Zone in College

While time-consuming and complicated, the college admissions process is also exciting and life changing. There is so much anticipation as the application deadline approaches. After finally sending the application, a certain calm settles in for a few quick minutes, and then the next phase starts, “The Wait.” This is the purgatory period when students and parents eagerly anticipate the letters of acceptance to arrive, and the pressure is sure to be high.

As you wait for the life-changing announcement to come, this is a great time to shift gears and start the conversation about values, boundaries, and safety. No matter where your child ends up, you want them prepared with a skill set to improve their success at college while maintaining their safety and security through prevention. The truth is that you have to know the risk to avoid the risk. One such risk is called the Red Zone, and once you understand the facts, you can share risk mitigation to reduce harm. The conversation should be creative and empowering, not scary. Facts, strategies, tools, and techniques will be helpful when discussing hazards and how values and boundaries can and should be incorporated into decision-making. The 2019 National Safety Council Injury Facts listed 173,404 preventable deaths and 48.3 million injuries, leading to billions in cost and human suffering. Every year, there are many emergency-room visits by students who suffer falls, alcohol poisoning, and mental health issues on and off campus.

Keeping your student out of the ER starts with community awareness, prevention programs, and simple family conversations. Many students heading off to college will be their first experience living on their own. Exposure to a new environment, new friends, and new health risks are part of the experience and part of the Red Zone.

The most important consideration is how students are prepared to identify and calculate their responses to new situations. As an example, there are dorm rooms safety hazards. One hazard to share with your student is the dangers of bunk beds or areas that are elevated off the floor for more space. Students sometimes have elevated their beds to create unique work and living spaces under the bed. However, some students have rolled off from these elevated sleeping areas and suffered catastrophic injuries. A quick and simple way to add a preventive measure is to install a bedrail. Rails can be found online at college dorm accessory stores and other locations. Inside Edition has a quick 2-minute video explaining that more than 36,000 people are treated for bunk bed-related injuries yearly. One such injury happened on the show The Bachelor, where the contestant suffered multiple facial injuries after falling from a bunk bed. Also in this quick video is the story of a student named Clark who sustained a catastrophic injury in his dorm at college.

More information about Clark and his family’s advocacy for safety can be found at

The goal of a parent is to equip students with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed in college and life. Bringing awareness is where we can make the most significant difference, which is why we share the 3Ps – Proactive, Prepared, and Protected. In Statista’s College Student Health - Statistics & Facts, you may find areas where you feel your student may benefit from extra discussion time and data. Open communication is critical. Students who know they can talk with their parents and share life stresses and anxiety will have an essential strategy for their mental health.

Here is a quick checklist to get your conversation started:

Start the discussion today.

  • Dorm room safety – bunk bed, doorstop, door and window locks, and fall prevention/balcony safety

  • Red Zone first four months at college, lots of new life choices

  • 3A’s – Avoid vulnerable situations. Alcohol, Alone, At night

  • Risk mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery

In just a few minutes, parents can cover risk factors, like the hidden dangers around the campus during the Red Zone, the alcohol 3A’s, and mental health, by following the Global Secure Resources checklist. Students that feel overwhelmed and have anxiety should have on-the-spot stress-reducing strategies and resources ready so they don’t have to suffer in silence. Experts always say, “it is better to have a plan in place and not use it than to need a plan and not have one.”

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