Thwarting Home Invasions, Part 2

Home Invasion2In Part 1 of this article, we explored how the first and most critical defense against the terrifying and often violent crime of home invasion is to prevent criminals’ entry into the home in the first place. However, no preventative measure is foolproof and criminals are increasingly crafty. If the criminals do gain entry, the focus of thwarting a home invasion shifts to protecting the home’s most precious contents — the lives and safety of its occupants. In Part 2, we explore ways to reduce the threat of kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault and other violence occurring in the event criminals are successful in gaining entry to the home.

Get A Head Start

Many of the measures described in Part 1 to deter or prevent criminals’ entry into the home also serve a second purpose – to give occupants as much warning as possible that a home invasion may be about to occur:

  • Solid entry doors with reinforced hardware and locks should take several kicks or attempts to pry open before yielding, the resulting noise serving to warn occupants that an illegal entry is in progress.
  • Windows with bars, pins, locks or storm-window coverings will require significant effort to break or breach, the sounds of which also provide a warning to occupants that there is danger.
  • Motion-sensing lights will light or flash upon sensing movement along the perimeter of the house, providing a visual cue that there may be someone lurking near entrances or along the perimeter of the home.
  • Home security systems will sound if a door or window is forced or struck possibly before the door or window is actually open, providing at least some warning before criminals actually enter the home.

However, in order for these measures to provide any advanced warning, they must be implemented and used. The money and time to install a few dollars’ worth of improved door hardware or window pins, or the effort to make re-arming a home security system upon entry a habit, can mean precious seconds and the difference between having options or not having options when a home invasion occurs.

Have A Plan

Sudden, severe stress (such as realizing someone is about to or has invaded your home) causes a number of extreme physiological reactions – loss of fine motor skills, time dilation (a state when events appear to happen faster or slower than actually is the case), and a severe reduction in cognitive ability. This last reaction often results in crime victims taking no avoiding action because they are unable to determine an appropriate course of action and execute it while under duress.  This problem is not unique to home invasions, but combined with the more relaxed state most people are in their homes and the fact that many home invasions occur while occupants are asleep, it a particular problem in thwarting home invasions.

In self-defense training, this sudden inability to reason under duress is overcome by planning in advance how to respond to threats.  Another element of self-defense training is to practice a planned response to threats again and again, until it becomes almost reflex. This combination of planning and practice helps to overcome the effects of sudden and severe stress and allow for an effective response despite its near-paralyzing effects.

The equivalent of this in the case of home invasions is to plan in advance what actions every occupant will take at the very moment a home invasion threat is perceived, and to practice that plan until it becomes ingrained behavior. Please note that this applies no matter what actions might comprise the plan itself.

Reacting to a Home Invasion

As with any violent crime, there are four basic possible responses – fight, posture, flee or capitulate.  In the context of a home invasion, these often mean: 

  • Fight: Use some manner of force to disable or dissuade the home invader(s), for example, employing a legally-owned firearm or other ranged personal defense device. This option is contingent upon having such a firearm or personal defensive device available and can be complicated if you are in one room of your home and your ranged personal defensive device or other defensive device is located in another. This option also can be complicated (particularly in the case of firearms) when other members of the household may be in the potential line of fire of ranged weapons. In order to be an effective option, a “fight” response must be considered and planned in advance in order to be safe, effective and not put innocents at risk.
  • Posture: Find some way to disrupt the home invasion and potentially drive off the home invader(s).  In a home invasion, this might simply be a function of making your presence known (as many home invasions occur unintentionally when burglars break in without realizing the home is occupied), activating a home security system (if it hasn’t activated already), or shouting that you are armed or have called 911. Unlike violent crimes that occur in public, posturing may be less effective at ending a criminal encounter on its own but can play an important part in an overall plan to thwart a home invasion.
  • Flee: Fleeing a home invasion may involve fleeing the home itself, or fleeing to a safer location in the home. In the former case, it is important both to have an immediate and effective route of escape (fleeing into a fenced backyard with a gate locked from the outside may leave family members trapped, for example) and to agree in advance where to go once out of the home (such as a neighbor’s front yard or porch). In the latter case, it is important that the selected location in the home be accessible and secure to avoid family members being trapped – a designated and properly equipped “safe room” probably being the best option. Fighting and posturing inside the home also may be more effective when done from a safe location.
  • Capitulate: To capitulate in a home invasion is to comply with the home invaders’ demands.  If you choose to capitulate, let the home invaders know that you are prepared to do what they ask, and follow their instructions. Please note, however, that capitulation can be interpreted as a sign of weakness and may prompt escalation of a botched burglary attempt into kidnapping or other violent crimes (as happens, as was discussed in Part 1, at least a third of the time). Be prepared to fight or flee to protect your life.

No one of these responses always will be the best one for every home and, in practice, a good home invasion plan likely will combine several of these. For example:

  • At the first sign of danger, any family member with access to an alarm panel or fob should activate the home security system’s panic mode if the alarm is not already sounding.
  • All family members should flee upstairs to the master bedroom. Parent 1 or Teenage Daughter (if present) should call 911 from a personal cellphone or the emergency cellphone in the master bedroom closet and keep the line open.
  • Tweener Son (if present) should also attempt to call 911 from his personal cellphone if available and hand the phone off to Parent 1 if he connects first.
  • Once all family members are in the master bedroom, Parent 2 should bar the door using the door bar in the master bedroom closet. Parent 1 and all children present should take cover behind the bed on the side furthest from the door.
  • Parent 2 should unlock the gun safe and make the pistol ready for use while taking cover behind the bed next to other family members and practicing strict muzzle and trigger control.
  • Parent 2 should repeatedly shout a warning about the police being called, about being armed, and about being prepared to shoot any home invader that enters the master bedroom.
  • If Parent 2 is not present when the home invasion occurs, Parent 1 will undertake all responsibilities of Parent 2 except making the pistol ready for use.  If the master bedroom door appears at risk of being breached, Parent 1 will deploy the master bedroom fire ladder through the window and all family members will flee out the window and meet on the agreed-upon neighbor’s porch.

Many factors will have bearing on an individual household’s plan to respond to a home invasion, including:

  • The availability of a safe room or other refuge in the home
  • The willingness and ability of family members to defend themselves from attackers
  • The presence of young, elderly or disabled family members who may not be able to take independent action

The Bottom Line

If the worst has happened and criminals are gaining entry to the home, every second counts. By having a plan and having practiced it, family members leave themselves the most options and create the best chance of escaping violence at the hands of the home invaders. While even thinking about the possibility of a home invasion is unpleasant, failing to do and to plan accordingly could have even greater negative consequences.

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