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7 Ways To Protect Your Family During A Home Invasion

Home invasions are often confused with home break-ins or burglaries.  Home invasions are far more dangerous and potentially more brutal than burglaries.  Not all home invasions turn deadly, but some do. Homes are invaded by thugs who know you have substantial amounts of cash in the house, know you have firearms, or who are looking to even a score with you. Learning how to protect your family by taking steps to prevent a home invasion and, if it should happen, how to survive it is very important.

Home invasions commonly happen in two ways. First, the invaders violently break their way into your home. Second, you let them in when they knock or ring the doorbell as they pass themselves off as an inspector, salesman, or some other phony story.  Improving the physical security of your home helps prevent the first kind on invasion. Increasing your “street smarts” and increasing your level of skepticism about strangers at the door will help prevent the second kind of invasion.

Targets of home invasions are usually not “ordinary” people. People known to keep large sums of money in their homes are often targets. People who have positions of power and access to large sums of cash become targets of home invasions for the purpose of kidnapping. People who are known to have large firearms collections also become targets by groups such as MS-13.

Some people will claim that no one is breaking into their homes without a fight. If those people are trained to defend their homes with a firearm they should be able to defend themselves. But if these “no one is breaking into my house without a fight” people are not trained to use their firearms for effective and deadly force they will likely suffer severe consequences.  And if trained or untrained people do not have rapid access to their firearms they, too, will suffer the consequences of being unprepared.

Below, you will find seven suggestions for protecting your family from a home invasion.

1. Create a Strategy to Secure Your Home

An effective strategy disrupts the invaders’ attempt to invade your home. In personal security terms, you need to disrupt the invaders’ OODA loop.

The OODA loop is a tactic for Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting (OODA) to prevent or disrupt an invasion.  All bad guys (and good guys too) have OODA loops.  The bad guys OBSERVE to identify potential targets. Once a potential target is identified the bad guys assess the situation (ORIENT) by staking out the neighborhood and noting the design and features of your home.  Once they are satisfied with their assessment of your vulnerabilities they DECIDE to move forward. They ACT by violently entering your home.

So, how can you disrupt the OODA loop of potential home invaders?

First, you need to do a security assessment of your house. If you and your family are a high risk for a home invasion you should hire specialists to do a security assessment. Silva Consultants (http://www.silvaconsultants.com/home-security-assessments-by-silva-consultants.html) is one example of a home security assessment company.  Here is a list of their assessments:

Their typical Home Security Assessment includes:

  • Interviews with home occupants to gain an understanding of security concerns, past security problems, and daily activities at the home.
  • Review of family safety, security and evacuation plans.
  • Survey of exterior perimeter of site and home, including examination of site boundaries, perimeter fencing, landscaping, security lighting, and signage.
  • Survey of interior of home, including living areas, sleeping areas, and storage areas.
  • Review of physical security devices, including doors, windows, safes, and lock hardware.
  • Examination of the ten common security vulnerabilities that make your home vulnerable to an attack by an intruder.
  • Review of safe rooms and other systems used to protect against home invasions.
  • Review of security systems, including intrusion alarm systems, panic alarm systems, video surveillance systems, and security intercom systems.
  • Identification of likely security risks and potential threats.
  • Review of history of losses and security incidents.
  • Review of the use of security guard or patrol services.
  • Preparation of Home Security Assessment Report.

Their Home Security Assessment Report provides an objective evaluation of your existing security measures, identifies areas of security weakness, and provides a list of specific recommendations for security improvements at your home. Recommendations for security improvements are prioritized into three categories: 1) urgent problems that should be corrected immediately; 2) things that would greatly improve security at the home; and 3) optional enhancements to security.

If you’re not a high-risk target for home invasion but are still concerned about your and your family’s safety some lower cost strategies can help you reduce your vulnerability. A simple, easy to follow strategy can take the shape of a checklist of tasks to secure your home when you leave for the day, when you arrive home, and before you retire for the night. Examples of safety tasks include, lock the doors on the way out, lock the doors when you come back home, and set the security system before you retire.  Over time, if practiced consistently, the strategy tasks are completed routinely.

2. Don’t Open the Door

We think home owners and family members (especially children) should be careful about opening a door to see who is there. A home invader can pose as a salesperson, repairman, stranded motorist, even law enforcement. Once your door opens you become exceedingly vulnerable to a home invasion. Good devices exist for seeing who is at your door and for communicating with a person while the door is closed.  One example of this technology is “Ring” doorbell which is motion activated,

3.  Don’t Depend on Door Chains or Sliding Door Bars

Door chains are easy to defeat.  If you have a bar on a sliding door, home invaders will break the glass to get in. Installing heavy duty deadbolt locks on entry doors can slow down the invaders and give you time to access your firearm. You can install glass breakage alarms on sliding doors and ground level windows. When the glass is broken your alarm will let you know and you will have time to access your firearm.

4.) Use Your Alarm System

If you pay to have an alarm system installed, use it! Set the alarms when you go to bed. Set the alarms when you leave the house. Set the alarms in a way that allows you to be in the house and moving around during the day.

5.) Don’t Share Your Security Plans

Never discuss your home security plans with anyone outside your family. Don’t share keys, security codes, or any knowledge concerning your plans or tactics. Your vulnerability increases if people outside your family know plans or strategies to protect your home.

6.) “Fire Drill” Technique

The fire drill technique is a plan of action for your family to get out of your house quickly and safely.  Of course, it is smart to run fire drills with your family to prepare them to exit the house if there is a fire. The President of our company and his wife run these drills with their family on a regular basis.

The dynamics of fire drill are also useful for getting out of the house if there is a home invasion. An effective fire drill for a fire or a home invasion requires clear, unambiguous verbal commands. For example, let’s say there is a fire or a home invasion threat at your front door. It would make sense to evacuate through a back door or a patio door. If the plan is to evacuate through those doors then you need to rehearse that evacuation. The clear, unambiguous commands to execute that evacuation could be “Fire!” (for a fire threat) or “Out!” (for any other threat) followed by “Backyard!” or just “Yard!” Other exits would have simple, clearly identified names like “garage” or “front.” You also should have more than one way out. With this approach, everyone knows what to do (get out) and where to do it (which exit). Teach everyone in your family to react to these commands by periodically rehearsing the fire drill.

Remember that there may be more than one attacker with a home invasion. This is why it is important to have more than one way out of your house. The first person at the primary exit point must take a moment to look outside to identify other threats. If other threats are seen the alternate exit point should be communicated loudly and clearly to the rest of the family.

Your fire drill plan should also include a specific rendezvous point for the family to meet and a procedure to account for every member of your family.  

One final point, you and your spouse must train to use your firearm effectively in a home invasion situation.  If the first time you use your handgun or AR rifle is when your door is being broken down you are on the wrong side of bad situation.  The situation is made worse by your body’s reaction to severe stress. Remember, in those dangerous situations your body will be experiencing a chemical dump triggered by your brain’s reaction to the danger. Here is a summary of what happens to you under severe stress.

Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)

The parasympathetic nervous system is dominant in non-stress situations. PNS controls visual focus, the processing of information (cognitive processing), and fine or complex motor skills. PNS helps us to carry out tasks that involve fine motor skills, along with maximum visual input and fast processing of information.

Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)

The sympathetic nervous system triggers behaviors commonly called, freeze, flight, and fight. Anytime the brain perceives a dangerous threat to physical safety the SNS is engaged.  Stress hormones (adrenaline, endorphins, etc.) are dumped into your blood stream. SNS restricts the blood vessels in your hands, fingers, and toes (you lose maximum efficiency for fine motor skills). Your pupils dilate which impacts your visual acuity. You gain physical strength. When faced with a deadly threat and you need to respond with your firearm the SNS puts us at a disadvantage. Why?

Here is a summary of why you are put in a disadvantageous situation when your SNS kicks in:

Loss of near vision

Distortion of depth perception

Loss of peripheral vision by 70% (tunnel vision)

If your eyes are feeding impaired information back to your brain then the processing of that information will be flawed and you will experience severe infirmities.

Here’s an example of what can happen when under severe stress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSxuhZ3HdQo. The video is from a police camera. Listen for the number of shots fired by the police officer who is under attack and under severe stress. All those shots fired and not one hit the bad guy. The police officer died.

Cognitive threat processing is also slowed down under stress. Once a threat is identified the brain searches for the appropriate response and then you make a decision (run, fight, and freeze). When you are under the influence of the SNS your higher brain functions are slowed down which results in delayed threat recognition and delayed decision-making. Those delays could get you killed. Remember, whoever strikes first has a powerful tactical advantage. It’s not how many shots you fire but how many hits you get (remember the police officer in the video clip?)

7.) “Reverse Fire Drill” Technique

The “Reverse Fire Drill” is a carefully planned retreat to a safe room within your home. A safe room can be a specially built room (aka, panic room) in your house.  Advice on how to build a panic room in an existing home is found at https://fortifiedestate.com/retrofit-home-safe-room/.  According to Fortified Estate, for a do it yourself build “…the cost for converting a closet or extra room into a safe room start around $4,000. If you want it professionally designed you will need to pay another $5,000 to $10,000. On the high-end panic rooms typically cost somewhere around $50,000 but depending on the features and security level these costs may be higher.”

If you don’t have the financial resources to build a panic room you can still install security features to protect your family. Replace your master bedroom door with a high quality solid wood door. Install a dead-bolt lock on that door. You should have two high-quality deadbolt locks—one above and one below the doorknob. The deadbolt locks should be reinforced with a metal wraparound sleeve and a reinforced strike plate. Here is a video illustrating why it is important to have a strong door on your master bedroom (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt9GQnBhw6A&feature=youtu.be)

Your safe room door should open inward and be hung on at least three, preferably four, high-quality hinges. These hinges should be attached to the door and the frame with three-inch or longer wood screws or deck screws. One of the screws should be replaced with a steel nail. With an inward opening door your egress cannot be blocked by obstacles placed in front of the door.

Your door should have a one-way peephole to look out of your safe room to see if an intruder is still in the hallway. You might consider installing a hallway security camera that you can view through your cell phone.

Then, if you hear someone breaking into your house and you cannot get you and your family evacuated quickly gather everyone into the master bedroom and shelter in place. Close and lock the bedroom door. Position your family in safe locations within the room (e.g., inside a walk-in closet). Call 911 and tell them what’s happening. Tell them where you are located inside your home. Do not disconnect 911 so they can hear what’s happening.

Make your firearm ready by loading a magazine and ensuring there is a round in the chamber. Have at least one extra magazine available. If there is a safety on the gun disengage it. Under stress you may forget to disengage the safety when you need to take a shot so disengage it early. Keep your finger off the trigger until you need to take a shot at a clearly identified target. Position yourself where you can ambush anyone who is able to break through the door. Don’t position yourself directly in front of the door.  If you do that you will put yourself in the deadly “fatal funnel” (the space directly in front of the door. See figure 1).

Figure 1: Fatal Funnel

In the above figure you see the door opening to the inside. If you are positioned anywhere inside the grey triangle inside the room you will likely be shot as the bad guys come through the door with their guns. Similarly, the bad guys will also be in a fatal funnel if they try to breach your door. You can position yourself outside your fatal funnel so that you can engage the bad guys as they enter their fatal funnel.

For goodness sake, if you hear people breaking into your house and you can’t evacuate please don’t leave the safe room to go looking for the bad guys. You will get killed doing that if you are not trained to do search and destroy movements.

Summary

Home invasions happen, especially to people who are high-value targets; for example, people who keep large amounts of cash in their home, people with firearms collections, and people who have powerful positions who become kidnapping targets. Just as you have home owners insurance to protect your home you should have home invasion “insurance” to protect you and your family. The “insurance” is a plan to make your house less vulnerable to an invasion, a plan to evacuate your family if possible, and to “harden” your master bedroom to make it a safe space.  Finally, please train with your home defense firearm at least twice a month.  Teach your spouse and older children how to use a firearm in case you are incapacitated. If you don’t train with the firearm you will be at a serious disadvantage if you need to use it in a home invasion.

Finally, Colonel Jeff Cooper, a highly regarded self-defense expert offered seven principles of personal defense. These principles, we believe, apply to defending yourself in a home invasion:

Stay Alert

Act Decisively

Act Aggressively

Act Speedily

Remain Calm (as possible)

Respond Ruthlessly

Create a Surprise Move to Disrupt the Attacker’s OODA loop