by Chris E.
McGoey, CPP, CSP, CAM
Imagine this scenario. After a long week at
work, you are finally able to relax at home with your spouse and two teen-age
daughters. You’re in your living room watching TV with your spouse. Your
daughters are in their own rooms doing…whatever. Because both of you have
worked hard for many years, you are now able to live more comfortably in what
you thought to be a safe community.
you hear a knock on the door and your spouse gets up to answer the door. After
the door is unlocked you hear a sudden outburst as two strange young men burst
through the door and into your living room. As the door crashes open, you see
your spouse is being punched and beaten to the floor. Before you have time
react you are overcome by physical force and
threats of harm to you and your family. The two men are brandishing guns and
are shouting obscene threats and commands simultaneously as they push you onto
the couch. One of the men quickly searches the house for other occupants while
the other stands guard over you.
Your mind is racing. Will we be killed? Will these attackers beat us or molest our daughters? The level of terror and anxiety is enormous and will cause victims to sometimes act irrationally. Some will freeze and become incapacitated from fright. Others will instinctively resist and try to fight back. Others will run away if possible. Psychologists have labeled this phenomenon as the “fight or flight syndrome.” The first thirty seconds are the most critical to your family’s survival.
What Would You Do?
people have never pondered this question for themselves or with their families.
How will I react under similar circumstances? How will my family react
independent of me? How will we react together? How you naturally react depends
on many factors: your sex, age, physical condition, culture, personality, how
you process information, how you react under extreme pressure, special training,
skills, and past experience in responding to aggression. Most people don’t know
for sure how they will respond to a personal crisis
until it occurs. Many are surprised afterwards by their behavior as having been
heroic, calm, cowardly or stupid.
try to overpower the invaders? Would you go for your gun? Would you try to
activate an alarm? Would you try to escape and call for help? Would you comply
with their demands and hope they don’t hurt you? Would you allow them to tie
you up? Would you allow them to take a family member away from the home? Would
you risk death to save your family from harm?
The response possibilities are endless but most fall into three general response possibilities. You can resist the assault; comply with all commands; or you can try to stay calm, wait, and resist or comply as the scenario evolves. One thing is clear, there is no one single correct response to a life-threatening home invasion scenario. The choice is personal, based on your own assessment of your physical and mental capabilities and your belief as to the level of eminent danger.
fighting and screaming works especially if there
are neighbors who will intervene or call the police. It makes no sense to risk
fighting if you are physically incapable of doing so effectively. Total
compliance sometimes works. The invaders might leave you unharmed and just
leave. However, compliance may increase the duration of the invasion and
therefore increases the potential for molestation. You need to thoughtfully
search your mind and soul for how you might act under the circumstances and plan
Having a family and neighborhood plan
is essential. If you develop a home security plan
and talk about it with your family and neighbors the chances of acting
appropriately and getting help are greatly improved.
works best. Harden your home or apartment with strong doors and locks and
three-inch screws in the lock strike plate and door hinges. See my web page on
home security tips for more
details. Use a wide-angle peephole and instruct everyone in your family
not to open the door to strangers. Chain latches
do not work as a barrier, so use your peephole before opening the door.
Be suspicious of someone claiming to be making a delivery that you did not order
or use other ruses to get you to open the door. Fortification of rear doors,
sliding glass doors, and garage doors are also important. This gives you the
necessary time to phone 911, sound audible alarms, or arm yourself.
systems can prevent home invasion...if they are set. Alarm systems can be
designed so that perimeter door and window sensors are be set while the home is
occupied. The alarm can be set to instantly go off upon unauthorized entry. Be
prepared to give a prearranged duress password to
the alarm company if they call. Most alarm panels have an emergency panic
button that will function much like a 911 call and will instruct your alarm
monitoring company to call the police. Alarm company lawn and window signs help
advertise that your house is wired and capable of getting a response from the
dial telephones, that can call 911 in speakerphone mode, can be effective in
getting police assistance. If a home invader breaks in you may have just a
split second to push the 911 direct- dial button on your telephone. If you dial
in speakerphone mode the police dispatcher can
listen in on what is going on in the room. Every telephone in your home should
be programmed with this feature and all family members should be instructed how
to make this emergency call. Your home address will automatically pop up on the
police dispatcher screen and an officer should be dispatched even if the phone
wire is cut. All 911 hang-up calls are supposed to be investigated by the
police because of this type of scenario.
escape plan. If someone in the household can escape and call for help, the home
invaders will have lost their advantage of having privacy and time. To some,
running away from your family in crisis is distasteful, especially to men or
women with children. However, the alternative might mean being handcuffed or
tied-up or otherwise incapacitated and left to watch in horror as your family is
molested. If you have a plan for escaping, make sure you include were to run
and what to say. Sometimes a radical escape
measure pays off, in life and death circumstances, like diving through a plate
glass window, jumping from a balcony or climbing onto the roof. Although you
might sustain minor injuries you must weigh them against your chance of survival
with the assailants.
Home invaders will sometimes threaten harm to children to get adults to comply with their demands. But at the same time, children are often overlooked as potential rescuers and sometimes not as well guarded. If the opportunity presents itself, a trained child can dial 911, activate an alarm panic button, or escape to the neighbor’s house to summon the police. If they are capable, they should do it.
cool head is important, even in dire circumstances. If you can keep your wits
about you one can increase their options by waiting for the right moment to
act. Always be thinking and re-evaluating the
situation as it evolves. At first there may be no chance for escape, but after
a while you may see an opening. Fighting may not be wise, however the attackers
may let their guard down once you appear to comply. If you decide to strike a
blow, do it fast, suddenly, and forceful to the nose, eyes, or throat without
concern for the damage you might inflict. While the assailant is momentarily
stunned, make your escape. Don’t stand there waiting to throw more punches or
gather family members. You might ask, won't that cause them to harm me for
sure? Maybe, if they catch you. This is an option that must be considered.
Sometimes hours into the siege, an opportunity arises where you can hit the
automatic dial on the telephone or alarm panic button without being seen.
Always be looking for that chance.
What Doesn’t Always Work
and shouting is the easiest and most natural thing that almost everyone can do.
Screaming can alert savvy neighbors to call the police or the noise alone may
scare off the home invaders. However, home invaders know this and will be
prepared to make you stop screaming, by force, if necessary. One of the first
threats you will hear is, “if you scream I’ll kill you.”
If you can’t escape, but are out in public, scream your head off. Scream things
like, “call 911.” Visit with your neighbors so they know that you have a family
plan and teach them how to re act when you need help.
and pepper spray can provide a means of self-defense in a life-threatening
situation. Homeowners have successfully defended their families in the past
from home invaders. However, far more homeowners have lost their weapons to
home invaders than have been able to get to them in time to use them. Most
handguns or chemical sprays are tucked away
somewhere or unloaded or locked up to prevent children from getting there hands
on them. During a home invasion, you cannot always count on your ability
to get to the weapon before being injured yourself.
sometimes works, especially if you have some training and are physically fit.
But for most fighting doesn't work because the victim was pre-selected for that
reason. In a life-threatening situation there are no rules for fighting. The
idea is not to stand toe-to-toe and duke it out. All you need is one
incapacitating blow to the nose, eyes, or throat to
allow time to get out of there and call for help. Take a self-defense class
together with your family so all can learn the proper techniques and can
practice the procedures.
illness doesn’t always work. Most home invaders don’t care about your welfare
anyway. As long as you are in your home they will just leave you there. Faking
illness might work in public or while being
transported or fighting off molesters but don’t count on it as you only choice.
You must decide in advance depending on your acting skills.
What Not to Do
Don’t ever try to pull a weapon on an armed perpetrator who has you covered with a handgun unless you feel it’s your last chance. Don’t ever agree to be transported somewhere else like to an ATM machine or other location unless you feel it's a life or death decision. The second crime scene is almost always more violent than in your home. If you have a choice, never agree to be tied-up, handcuffed or placed in the truck of a car because it takes away most of your options. Don’t ever follow an intruder once they leave your residence. Leave that for the police. Don’t fight over property loss, it can be replaced…your life cannot.