Volunteering Safely

The purpose of this webpage is to help you to stay safe while volunteering. It is not intended to scare you, but to encourage you to take a few sensible precautions.

Plan ahead

  • Tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to get back. Agree a course of action if you don't return when expected. If your plans change or you are held up, don't forget to let them know!
  • Make sure you know exactly where you are going and plan your route in advance. Avoid isolated and poorly lit areas if possible, especially if you will be walking or cycling. Ask for directions or a map from the SCA office if in doubt.
  • Take your mobile phone if you have one - make sure it is charged (and has credit if necessary). Or carry change and a Phonecard.
  • Carry a personal alarm.
  • If possible carry essential valuables/purse/wallet etc. in a secure outside pocket or money belt.

Avoiding problems

Public Transport

  • Check in advance which stop you need.
  • Check departure times (know the time of the next bus in case you miss the one you are aiming for!
  • Have emergency money and the telephone number of a reputable taxi company just in case.
  • Wait in a well-lit place near groups of people if possible.
  • Sit near the driver.
  • Note the whereabouts of alarms in case of emergency.
  • Don't get off the bus if you feel that you are at risk - tell the driver and ask them to help – if necessary stay on the bus until you are somewhere safe and get a taxi home.

Walking

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are easy to move in.
  • Walk confidently.
  • Don't wear a personal stereo - be alert and aware of your surroundings.
  • Stay in well-lit and busy places as far as possible.
  • Don't be tempted to take short cuts through possible danger spots, even if you are late.
  • Be wary of strangers, groups, or parked vehicles with people sitting in them and the engine running.
  • If you think that you are being followed, check by crossing and re-crossing the road. If you suspect you are being followed, go quickly to the nearest place where people are, and call the police.

Cycling

  • Make sure the bike is serviceable. Always wear a helmet and wear clothing that can be easily seen.
  • Check brakes, tyres and lights etc. before you set out.
  • Use a lock so your bike will be there when you need to return home.
  • Don't stop if someone signals for help. Acknowledge them, notice where they are, and go on to the next public place and telephone for help for them.

Taxis

  • If possible book by phone, ask for the make and colour of car, and driver's name. Ask to be phoned back with these details if necessary.
  • Check the name of the company and driver when the taxi arrives, and who they are expecting to collect. Never get into a taxi that you have not ordered.
  • Have your fare and house keys ready before you arrive home. Ask the driver to stay parked outside until you have gone indoors safely.
  • If you talk to the driver don't give away personal details, and if you have any concerns about them, ask them to stop at a busy public place and get out.

Driving

  • Make sure your car is well maintained and has enough petrol. Check oil and tyres regularly.
  • Join a national breakdown organisation.
  • Keep the doors locked and the windows closed, especially in built-up areas and slow-moving traffic.
  • Park in a well-lit area, especially if you will be returning to your car after dark.
  • Have your car keys ready when you return and check the back seat before you get in – use a torch at night.
  • Never pick up hitch-hikers. If someone signals for help, don't stop - acknowledge them, notice where they are, and go on to the next public place and telephone for help for them.

Safety in Clients' Homes

  • If the client makes you feel threatened or uneasy, make an excuse and leave immediately.
  • Make sure you know the location of:
  • - First Aid Kit
    - All exits to the house/flat
    - Contact details for the child’s parent/guardian
    - Contact details for family doctor

General Advice

  • If you can, get away from potential problems.
  • Walk away as fast as you can and go somewhere where you know there will be people.
  • Avoid confrontation and aggression.
  • Stay as calm as possible.
  • Don't act like a victim (don't keep looking back if you think you are being followed). A person who appears confident is less likely to be attacked.
  • Aim to talk yourself out of trouble if appropriate or necessary.
  • Use your personal alarm if necessary.
  • If you can't escape and feel threatened don't be afraid to shout as loudly as possible for help - draw attention to yourself.

If you would like more information about personal safety, check out the Suzy Lamplugh Trust website: http://www.suzylamplugh.org