Safety while You’re Abroad
As a student at the Tuscany Campus, you can count on a number of resources to help you stay safe while abroad.
During Orientation, you will be provided with a list of phone numbers to be used in case of emergency: the numbers for local police, national police, emergency medical service and fire department, as well as the UNH Tuscany campus emergency phone number.
As part of Orientation, a local police officer will give you a comprehensive information session on staying safe while abroad and will answer any questions you may have.
Some Safety Advice against Petty Crime
Although Prato is a very safe town in Italy, it is important that students are aware of how to protect themselves against petty crime. Being aware is the first step toward preventing incidents of robbery or theft from occurring. When traveling throughout Italy and Europe, try to follow the safety advice below:
Adapted from the website of the Polizia di Stato (Italian State Police)
Italy and Prato are, by the standards of many other nations and cities, a safe place to live. However, it is your responsibility to be on the alert and take preventative measures to avoid being the victim of crime.
Bag snatching and pickpocketing
Unfortunately these are common problems for tourists and students in some areas. Sometimes bag snatchers ride mopeds or motorbikes, so when you’re walking, keep hand and shoulder bags on the wall side, not the street side, ideally across your body, protecting them with your forearm. Avoid carrying valuables and documents.
Do not carry your wallet in your back pocket or in bags which can be opened easily. Do not flaunt earrings, chains and other precious or very eye-catching gold jewelry: having something like that snatched can also cause serious injuries.
When you’re in a bar or a restaurant, never hang your bag over the back of your chair where you can’t see it. Be particularly careful in bookshops, internet cafes, changing rooms of shops, or any other place where you’re distracted and your bag might be out of your view.
Some tricks that pickpockets frequently use: Banging into the victim; using cardboard, newspapers, and clothes to distract or hide their hands when pick-pocketing; causing a “traffic jam” in the crowds when passengers are trying to get on or off trains; staining the victim's clothes and then offering help to clean up; asking for information to divert the victim's attention.
When with friends
Friendships and new acquaintances abroad are great, but be careful! Select your new friends well. If you have to go back home late, get someone you know and trust to take you home or pick you up. Always help each other out by escorting each other on nights out. Use the “buddy system”: NEVER leave someone on their own at a bar or a party.
If you think someone is following you
Go to the nearest police station. Stop a police officer. Go into a bar or another crowded place. Ask a passer-by for help.
At the Post Office, ATM and bank
When withdrawing money, try not to go alone. Put your cash into an inside pocket and keep a purse with a few odd coins handy so that you can use it for shopping or, in case of robbery, give it to the criminals.
If you feel like you’re being watched, stop inside the bank or the Post Office and express your fears to the person you are with or to the security guard. If you are in the street, go inside a shop, look for a police officer or a trustworthy person.
Be careful when using your cash card: do not withdraw any money if you feel like you’re being watched.
Tips for travelling on public transport
Beware of pickpockets. Don't carry your wallet in your back pocket. Be vigilant not only on buses and trains, but also on platforms while waiting to get on: at the bus stop or underground stations a bit of apparently normal pushing and shoving may be a deliberate trick.
Don't fall asleep leaving your bags, shoulder bags and jackets unattended. Don't leave any valuables in your compartment if you go to the toilet or for longer absences. If you travel in a sleeping car, don't forget to lock your compartment door.
Don't agree to bring bags or items belonging to unknown travel companions, especially when passing through Customs or Immigration. Avoid isolated compartments on trains. Don't accept any food or drinks from strangers: they may contain sleeping drugs or narcotics. Beware of requests or offers for help from strangers: it could be a trick to divert your attention so that an accomplice can steal your luggage!
Other Important Safety Tips
If you haven’t done so already, make photocopies of all of your important documents now, and keep copies separately from the original documents in your housing.
Monitor local and international news sources. Be informed. Be alert and sensitive to your surroundings. Report any irregularities to the authorities. Avoid demonstrations. Heed local authorities. Keep a low profile as a U.S. American. If you break local law, you are subject to local penalty.
Do not operate a motor vehicle while abroad. Road rules and etiquette and liability laws and customs are different.
Do not take risks abroad that you would not take at home.
Visit www.travel.state.gov to:
Enroll in the “Smart Traveler Program”
Read the “Worldwide Caution” issued July 26, 2011
Read the Worldwide “Travel Alert” issued October 11, 2011
Obtain “Country Information” for the country in which you’ll study and those that you might visit
Read “Tips for Traveling Abroad” and to learn the role of the U.S. embassy or consulate in a crisis
Some Useful Numbers while in Italy
You will be provided with these and other important safety contacts during Orientation.
Telephone Directory Assistance – 12
Carabinieri police force - 112
Police (Polizia) - 113
Medical emergencies (Emergenze sanitarie) - 118
Fire service (Vigili del fuoco) – 115
Prato Municipal City Police (Polizia municipale) – non-emergency 0574 42391
Financial Police (Guardia di finanza) - 117
Please note that the country code for calling Italy from outside the country is 39.