So, you’re out on your own. Living on your own for the first time is exciting – and can also be a little intimidating.

While we can’t help with roommates who use up all the paper towels and never replace them, or upstairs neighbours who practice their tap dancing at all hours, we can offer a bit of advice for how to help make your new home safer.

If you’re in a dorm:
  • The housing department of your school will have an emergency plan in place, take a moment to review it and don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions about it.
  • If the fire alarm goes off, do not hesitate to evacuate the building – go directly to the designated meeting spot
  • Learn where the first aid kits are kept – if your floor doesn’t have one, flag this with the housing department staff
  • Don’t leave things like candles, irons, tea kettles, hot plates or hair straighteners unattended – make sure you extinguish candles or turn off these appliances when you leave
  • Build your emergency kit
If you’re in an apartment building or house:

Okay, student housing can sometimes be a little on the rough side – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be safe.
  • When you move in, make sure you know where smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are – test them to make sure they work. Don’t forget to regularly test these alarms as well, a good way to remember is to check them at the start and the end of daylight savings time
  • Learn the risks in your area – like ice storms, hurricanes, flooding or wildfire -  and make a plan – if you live with roommates make a plan together – including a designated spot to meet up if you have to evacuate the building
  • Learn all the potential exits that can be used in the event you need to leave in a hurry
  • Build your emergency kit
  • Have a first aid kit in a common area, like the bathroom or kitchen
  • Be aware of your surroundings, don’t open your door if you don’t know who is on the other side and don’t hold the door for strangers to enter your building
  • Try not to get distracted when you’re cooking. Event at the best of times it’s possible for a stove-top or oven fire to start – remember, don’t pour water on these fires as this will not be effective and potentially can make things worse. Smother the fire with a pot lid, or fire extinguisher
  • Don’t leave candles unattended
  • Unplug  or turn off things like irons, tea kettles, hot plates and hair straighteners when you’re finished

While your first experience being out on your own will be full of what my mother calls “learning opportunities”, these are some steps you can take to set up a safe new home for yourself.

Have you downloaded the Be Ready app? This app will send you geo-targeted notifications for a range of hazards, provides practical information that can be accessed even when you don't have reception, and helps you get ready before a disaster or emergency hits.