Break-ins and home invasions are obviously terrifying and are not things that we can control. What we can do however, is pro-actively take steps to secure our residences and react accordingly in the event of a breach.
So technically, a break-in happens when you’re not at home vs. situations where someone is present during a home invasion. The latter accounts for close to 30% of reported incidences annually and will unfortunately include the added risk of potential physical assault or worse.
Ultimately, we’re talking about safety and survival for you and your loved ones in cases where you’re at home when criminals enter. It has nothing to do with being a hero or sweeping rooms in the dark looking for the bad guys. Home defense means just that. You do whatever is necessary to minimize risk and get yourself to a safe space. Remember that even those with a great deal of tactical experience would still need to be cautious. Imagine the classic ‘Honey I think I heard something downstairs’ scenario and having no idea what you may be dealing with. It’s dark, you just woke up, you often have very little time to react, and protecting your family is your first priority. It’s also important to understand that your average person would typically have limited (if any) experience with real violence or practical self defense. Coupled with the natural fear and adrenaline that occurs in these situations, your best bet will almost always be to retreat, call for help and defend if necessary. This isn’t the movies after all.
What You Can Do
Have a Plan
Leaving things up to chance doesn’t work in real life, especially when you find yourself in a dangerous, stressful situation. Having at least some form of family plan for an emergency will always serve you well. This would include fire, medical emergencies, natural disasters or a home invasion. Discuss clearly what your exit routes will be, rallying points, and assign specific tasks for who does what, including calling 911. Having a Plan B is also a good idea.
Avoid Curb Appeal
As your first line of defense, how you manage and set-up the outside of your home is an important element in deterring or stopping bad guys from entering. Criminals typically follow a path-of-least-resistance and if your place appears to be easy pickings, then you might just as well send them an invitation. A few things to consider:
- If nothing else, your home should at least look secure, without any obvious signs of easy entry or valuables in plain view
- Keeping the area well-lit is important, with fixed or motion-sensor lights that are out of reach from being disabled
- Don’t be shy about posting signs declaring the presence of an alarm system, security cameras and/or a nasty dog. Speaking of which, having a dog is a great home defense tactic, even if it simply barks as warning.
- Limit the places close to your home where criminal types may be able to conceal their activities and potentially gain access. This would include including sheds, trees with large overhanging branches or large bushes around window areas. If you’d like to be tricky, plant low, thorny bushes under windows as a deterrent.
- Try and avoid having tools or other items around the exterior of your home that could be used to break through doors or windows
Clearly, keeping anyone from getting inside in the first place would be a major step.
- Get into the habit of keeping doors locked at all times. Depends on the neighborhood of course, but you should absolutely be locked-in at night.
- Keep blinds and drapes closed after dark
- Most people don’t give much thought to the strength and security of their doors. Be sure to have deadbolts in-place, reinforce door jams and use heavier duty striker plates and hinges.
- Keep garage doors and other areas like enclosed deck areas and sunroom doors closed and locked
- Ensure that all windows and sliding glass doors are equipped with secure locks
- Invest in a decent alarm system that covers windows and doors and is connected to a 24hr. monitoring station. Depending on your budget and level of security required, you can also utilize motion sensors, lights, cameras and Smart Technology for mobile control.
Strengthen The Interior
In the event that intruders do enter your home, you can ideally limit access to specific rooms and levels with the use of strong, lockable doors. By compartmentalizing the interior, you may prevent further advance through your home or give you some warning and more time to react at the very least. This would be especially true of the area where you might plan to retreat to. Whether you have a true safe room established or not, you’ll want a space that can be effectively secured.
Weapons Of Choice
This topic always has some debate built-in as many have strong opinions as to what works best in home and personal defense scenarios. There will obviously be preferences depending on the owner’s experience and comfort level with firearms handling, but in any case, you should try and get some specific training when it comes these situations. Simply having a gun in the home or your proficiency with hunting deer will have little bearing on how you handle things when it comes down to it. A few things to think about would include:
- Your gun should be simple to operate, without being too big or awkward for you to handle. Also be sure that the caliber of the firearm and the ammo has enough stopping power if you need it.
- We’ll assume that you store your gun(s) safely, so be sure that you can retrieve them quickly and efficiently when necessary. Biometric locks are a good choice, especially when you’re rushed.
- Utilizing a flashlight or mounted light can help to ID and potentially blind intruders.
- Handguns can be a good choice as they allow use of a free hand to work door locks or dial the phone
- Be aware of the laws in your State as they apply to Castle Doctrine or ‘stand your ground’ criteria. Although you may be perfectly justified in using your gun to protect yourself, there have been incidences of criminal charges or civil lawsuits arising out of home invasions.
- You may also consider the use of non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray or a trusty baseball bat in the event of an attack. Always a good back-up either way.
Taking steps to effectively secure your home and protect your family and possessions can provide for a certain peace-of-mind. Ideally, we don’t want to create an environment filled with paranoia and fear, but it does make sense to be prepared.
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