Keeping safe - the basics


A Understand that keeping yourself safe is necessarily, first and foremost , your own responsibility.
B Recognise that while there are ongoing efforts to minimise the risks to which you are exposed during your training, risks there inevitably w ill be. Critically important is how you relate to those risks. Don't be passive and let things just happen to you.
Be proactive and prepare yourself. Recognise that it is within your power to manage most of the risks out there.
C Keep yourself informed and rehearse your responses to risks that you think you might face.
D Put the telephone numbers that you might need in an emergency on your cellphone.
E Be conscious of your surroundings constantly. Most importantly, follow your gut instinct. If something doesn't ?feel' right, it probably isn't. If you feel worried within a particular institutional or community environment, ask someone who works or lives there for their perspective and any advice they might have for you.
F When undertaking research, health promotion projects or clinical work within residential areas, including home visits, preferably go in pairs or groups or be accompanied by a staff member, community health worker or other community member assigned to you by your supervisor. Avoid deserted areas.
G Ensure that someone always knows where you are, where you are planning to go and how long you expect to be.
H Work after dark or at night should be confined to work in health facilities and, if really necessary, attendance of formally organised meetings - and then only if you know the area and feel comfortable.
I If going back to campus on a UCT-provided bus, be at the pick-up point on time. If you are unable to get there on time, contact the driver and make a plan with him. If you don't have the driver's cell number, contact Mr Leon Ziervogel (072 387 4843) or, if unable to get through to him, Mr Reece Brooks (021 406 6638 or 083 643 2328).
J If using your own car, always keep it locked - including when you're in it.
K Valuables:
  • Leave unnecessary valuables (expensive watches, jewellery, etc) at home.
  • Take a padlock with you so that wherever there are lockers available, you can make use of them.
  • Take a laptop with you only if essential.
  • Keep your cellphone out of sight. Money, ID documents, bank cards, keys, etc are also safest in a ?waist wallet' or ?money belt'.
  • Valuables in a car or bus should not be visible from outside of the vehicle.

For information about safety and security on campus, visit Campus safety.

Violent persons

Going through various options in your mind before something happens, makes it easier to choose a suitable course of action when you find yourself in a pressurised situation. There are a number of potentially useful strategies when faced with a person who is threatening violence or is becoming violent.

Usually people threaten or become violent when they are feeling fear, frustrated, wish to manipulate or intimidate, are in pain, under the influence of substances, hungry, tired or have experienced some kind of loss. Thinking carefully about what the person is trying to communicate or achieve through their threats can be useful in guiding your response and protecting yourself. Always consider whether the person is under the influence of substances.

Remember first of all that you have the right either to refuse to see a patient who is violent, threatening or abusive or who is being accompanied by an abusive person, or to request the presence of another person if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Trust your intuition! If faced with a threatening person . . .

  • Try and stay calm: at least give the impression of being calm, self-controlled and quietly confident without suggesting that you are unconcerned about their situation, dismissive, overbearing or arrogant in any way. Sometimes expressing frustration about an agitated patient's situation may communicate that you understand his or her feelings and displace the emotion into a more manageable process.
  • Let the person know that their position is understood.Usually an event has triggered the anger. The context and people responding may escalate or calm the situation depending on their response. Try to establish as quickly as possible what the problem is and how you can help. Let the person know that their position is understood.
  • Identify areas where the person may be correct in their views, rather than pointing out where they are wrong.
  • Maintain appropriate eye contact, remembering that the more eye contact, the more the feeling between you will be reinforced e.g. if someone is very frustrated, eye-contact may make them more frustrated. Depending on the culture and situation, looking at them, but without eye contact may be helpful.
  • If the situation has turned violent or appears to be on the verge of turning violent, if possible leave and get help. Once you have started moving away, keep going until you have reached safety. Then call for help.
  • Avoid provoking the person who is behaving violently or threatening to be violent - rather seek to pacify and reassure the person. Patients should never be patronised or spoken to in an authoritarian manner.
  • Keep talking, using as normal a tone of voice as possible. Use simple, clear and direct language. Speak in short sentences and use the volume of your voice to get the person's attention. Sometimes speaking softly can be more useful in getting the person's attention.
  • As far as possible, use non-verbal communication to calm the situation. Be aware of your body language and use it to convey concern and a sense of calm. Do not abuse, threaten or insult the patient.
  • Respect the patient's personal space. A person who is angry or frustrated may feel the need for a larger space. It is wise to ask permission of the person before approaching too close or touching him or her.
  • If the attack on you is meant to establish the other person's dominance then pretend (fake) submission and try diversionary tactics - anything that might redirect the assailant's attention.

Losing things & theft

Depending on where you think that you might have lost the items, you can approach one or more of the following people or offices:

Losing your stuff or having it stolen

  • The driver of the bus on which you travelled &/or the Student Transport Supervisor (Mr Leon Ziervogel 072 387 4843)
  • The security office and, if they have one, the Lost Property office of the hospital or other institution where you have been working
  • The security desk at the front entrance (that is, on the Anzio Road side) of the Barnard Fuller Building
  • The Undergraduate Unit - phone Ms Nonkosi Malala on 021 406 6749
  • Mr Mark Williams, Venue Supervisor, New Learning Centre (attached to the Anatomy Building) - phone: 021 406 6811 or 079 537 2058;
  • Ms Natasha Dourie, Venue Supervisor, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Groote Schuur Hospital Old Main Building - phone: 021 406 6070 071 387 5815;
  • Mr Xolile Jojozi, Venue Supervisor, Groote Schuur Hospital campus - GSH 1 & 2 Lecture Theatres - phone 082 927 2412
  • GSH Security Office, E3 Hospital Street (E Floor just past the ATMs) - phone 021 404 3337 / 8 (internally: 72 x3337 or 3338)


If you have insured your own possessions with an ?All Risks' provision report your loss to the police before claiming from the insurers. Make sure that you keep a note of the serial numbers of your cellphone and laptop (if you have one.) In the unfortunate event of these items being stolen or lost, you will need the serial numbers when you report the matter to the police as well as for insurance purposes.

When reporting any matter to the police, make sure that you are given a case number. Again you will need this for insurance purposes and for any follow-up that might be required. Also make a note of the name and telephone number of the police officer who took your report.

Again, please be reminded that the University provides no insurance cover for personal possessions and accepts no liability for any personal items that may be lost or stolen whether you are involved in compulsory academic activity or at any other time.

Travel safe(r) on public transport

A few years back some UCT students were hijacked/abducted by minibus taxi drivers (or men pretending to be minibus taxi drivers). In each case, the adductors robbed their victims, terrorised them by driving them around for hours and then dropped them off far from home. Thankfully there were no physical injuries reported.

Please take note of the following recommendations:

(a) If you have a choice, choose in the following order:

  1. Jammie Shuttle
  2. Golden Arrow bus
  3. Minibus taxi

(b) If you need to use a minibus taxi:

  1. Whenever possible, travel with a companion and let someone know what your plans are (eg, what time you can be expected to arrive at a particular destination). Please look out for one another!
  2. Avoid standing alone along the Main Road (or on any other road) - stand rather at the nearest bus stop.
  3. Do not board a taxi that is occupied by men only (or only the driver and ?guardjie') - particularly if you are a woman.
  4. Before you board a taxi, make sure that you have coins already in your hand to pay the fare.
  5. Carry as few things of value as possible - if you have to have a laptop with you, carry it in a bag that doesn't look conspicuously like a laptop case.
  6. Avoid using a cellphone, iPod, tablet or any other such device while waiting for a taxi. Switch your cellphone off before boarding the taxi.
  7. Generally it's a good idea to leave your ID book or passport at home and carry with you a certified copy instead.
  8. Stay alert and avoid any situation that looks unsafe or makes you feel uncomfortable - use your commonsense and follow your ?gut feelings'.

Put 112 on speed-dial on your cellphone. You can use this number to access any of the Emergency Services (including the police)