Whether it’s a random act of crime today or one which might come in a more degraded societal scene, being able to feel safe and protected IN your home is vital. The fact of the matter is, even today you have a 1 in 10 chance of being the victim of a home invasion of some sort whether it be a kidnapping attempt, a drunken “wrong house” event, or an act of larceny. But we don’t have to crumble emotionally just because someone has broken our first line of defense—our outside doors, windows, and/or garage. We can still have the upper hand if we do a little preplanning for such scenarios. So here are a few tips that may be of help to you AND your family members, young and old. First and foremost, every time you close a door to the outside of your home, you should be in the habit of locking it—period. No further discussion. I don’t care where you live, what kind of a neighborhood you think you’re a part of, or what. Locking the door as soon as you close it should be your habit and that of your children and frequent visitors. Next, remember that in spite of the fact that someone has broken into your sanctuary, you still have the home court advantage, so make the most of it. Know where every squeaky board is in your home. As seen on Doomsday Preppers, (watch segment here) my husband and I do practice navigating in our home in the dark. The criminal doesn’t have that knowledge and familiarity—even if it’s a person who’s been in your home before. You have the advantage, use it. By all means, practice it. Practice going through your home in the dark. It’s actually a great activity to play with the kids too if you turn it into a hide and seek in the dark kind of scenario. (Look at the picture to the right. You see? I'm so good at hiding in the dark, you can't even see me. *grin*) Be sure that you’ve trained the kids to have a specific “go to safety” spot when given the proper key word or phrase. Practice it again and again. If someone confronts you in your sanctuary or appears to be headed that way at your doorstep, then you should be hollering that phrase clear as a bell. I remember my mom taught us kids that if ever the house caught on fire, we were all to go outside of the house out the front door if it was clear. At 6 years old we had a little grease fire in the kitchen. While Mom screamed a bit and worked to find the proper fire extinguisher, I ushered out my little brother and sister. One of the best compliments my mom ever gave me was that she was proud of me for doing exactly what she taught us to do. Praise goes a LONG ways in getting kids to remember these drills, so use it liberally. Splurge on a proper peephole for your door. They have peepholes that give you a 180 degree view and a taller view up and down AND you can stand 5 to 7 feet away from the door to see who that person is. Furthermore, NEVER allow your kids to answer the door to a random knock. In fact YOU should never answer the door from a knock of someone you don’t know. It’s not uncommon for me to yell through the door “Who is it? Sorry, I don’t know you. I’m not opening my door to you.” And you can bet when I DO talk through the door like that, I stand to the weak side of the person who’s at my door. That way I’m less likely to get hit in the event some crazed psycho chooses to shoot through the door—like we had in Utah last year. Safety ALWAYS trumps politeness. It may seem rude to communicate through a closed door, but guess what? It’s your right to do so. I believe in this approach regardless of who’s on the other side of the door. NO ONE gets into my door if I don’t invite them OR if they have a properly served search warrant. Check with the local Castle Doctrine laws in your area, but here, once a person breaches the home it’s “game on” and if a person feels that their life is at peril in any way, they can dispatch the invader however they deem fit. Now, if you comply with the last suggestion I gave you, you may think that the next one isn’t necessary—but unfortunately I make this suggestion because the last one isn’t always followed properly. So, my next suggestion is that you invest in a locked “screen” door. (It doesn’t have to be screen, necessarily. You can use the thin glass kinds). All too often I see kids jump up and race to answer the door not hearing their parents holler after them “don’t answer the door! I’ve got it!” There was recently an incident in which a magazine salesman pushed his way through a partially opened door that was answered by a young woman. He raped her and assaulted her violently right here in “Happy Valley.” Clearly she gave away way too much information at the door to enable him to think that he could do so without being interrupted by someone else in the house. Casual brings casualty. And disaster can happen at a moments notice. Unfortunately the face of humanity nowadays has become ugly and we need to be diligent to protect us and our loved ones against it. Since we’re talking kids and safety, we also should address how our kids answer the phone and what information they give out on the phone. I know I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 years old before I was “allowed” to answer the phone but only after I displayed a comprehension of the skills my parents taught me. If a person called the house and asked “Who’s this?” I was taught to respond “Who were you calling?” If a person called and said “Is your Mom home?” I was taught to politely ASK, not answer, who is calling? (This is NOT appropriate when answering business lines—just to be clear.) As far as any caller was concerned, my parents were ALWAYS home but may simply be unable to come to the phone right now. That was the response whether or not we had a babysitter, etc. In fact, the babysitters were told NOT to answer the phone if we kids were up and able to. And our parents said they would let the phone ring once then call back again if the call was to the babysitter. We also learned that kids displaying politeness gave a sense of maturity and thus were more likely to discourage someone who might be testing the waters prior to a home invasion. Bad guys know they are thwarted by smart kids just as easily as smart adults. This was in the 70’s and 80’s folks, that my parents displayed such cautions. Imagine how much more important such cautions are today. My folks taught us that “If you can conceive it, Satan can achieve it.” Some may think we wet the bed every night with this kind of culture in our home, but the truth is, it had the opposite effect. We knew that we had the upper hand and that we would be safe so long as we followed proper protocol. I was never scared as a child—ever. We all know that you can see reflections in the mirrors placed around your home, but did you know that you can also see reflections in strategically placed glass covered picture frames? Enable your family photos to do more than just brag about your cute family. Many TV screens today can still do the same thing too. Place them strategically in your home so that you have more of the home court advantage by being able to leverage their position in order to better evaluate your next move. Have barriers set within the normal flow of the house at night. We have to dog gates that we attach at night. If someone were headed to various parts of our home at night and by some miracle managed to get in without riling the 4 highly alert dogs, such a perpetrator would be stalled once he encountered any of the dog gates. Even in the daylight people have a hard time figuring out how to navigate those gates. Mind you, you don’t have to go to the extreme of a gate—though it does have some great management traits for children and dogs at night, frankly—you could do a number of things to make admittance to bedrooms more difficult. Squeaky toys deliberately placed on the floor, bells strung across the hallway, anything that’s going to make a noise that you’ll hear but that won’t inconvenience you and you make your way around a dark home. Since I’ve mentioned dogs, I think that if there’s anyway you can see your way to it, adopt a dog. They make GREAT security systems if you’ll take a little time to train them properly. And they make a dreary day bright with their unconditional love. What more could you ask for? Be sure to check on which breed of dog is best for your family make up, but seriously, a well trained dog is worth way more than anything you could pay a security company in my opinion. But understand, if you don’t have the inclination to train your dog to be an asset to your safety and security, then the dog is a liability—one you cannot afford. It’s way too easy for owners to be distracted by the dog that runs out the front door and into the street when instead they should be more concerned about the stranger who’s just knocked on your door. (I hope that made sense—it looks right in my head at least. *grin*) Have 9-1-1 programmed into your cell phone for an easy, one touch dial. The last thing you want to have to rely on is your fine motor skills when you’re stressed that someone may be in your home or you’re hiding under the bed, or whatever high stress scenario you may find yourself in even outside of the home. Most phones have a one-touch program feature. Worst case scenario, dial the phone and lay it down somewhere. The proper protocol for the majority of the cities in the U.S. is for 9-1-1 to still send someone out to your home or location if a 9-1-1 call is placed even if you aren’t able to further speak to the 9-1-1 operator because you’re hiding under your bed. You can’t RELY on 9-1-1 to be there when you need them, but this strategy is simply one more way to provide you with the best chance of coming out unharmed. Have several protocols for various scenarios in place. You’re responses will need to be catered to the various scenarios. Is the intruder coming in from a window, the door, or are they just lurking back and forth on the back deck? When you see something on the news related to a home invasion, ask yourself, “What would I do under the same circumstances” That’s one of the best things you can do to mentally prepare for such circumstances. The next great thing is to back up the thinking with physical action even when still in “pretend mode.” On Doomsday Preppers (Watch the segment here) they showed my husband and I communicating in Morse Code WHILE we were clearing our house. Frankly, I can’t think of a scenario in which we would actually communicate like that if we were clearing our house with the understanding that someone(s) else were inside. We wouldn’t give away our position that way. (Don’t you feel better knowing that we’re not idiots? But hey, we’re not performing entertainment when it’s the real thing so we obliged Nat. Geo with some Morse code examples. *sigh*) Anyway, American Sign Language and the standard law enforcement/military hand signals would certainly be a good idea. There really isn’t a standard set of hand signals in law enforcement; it’s all based on what the team decides such signals will be. So have fun with some family activities. Get the kids to play and to communicate with each other in their alternative hide and seek game this way. I can tell you, it only takes one instance in which you need it to make it so that you’ll never regret preparing in this manner. Lastly, if you have an enclosed garage, ALWAYS keep it closed and when you’re checking your house at night before you go to bed, ALWAYS be sure to check the garage. There are far too many instances of criminals just hanging out in the garage that was open most of the day and wait for the right moment in the middle of the night to gain access to the house. Our garage goes open for going in and out and otherwise it’s never left open. And our door that leads to the garage is always locked. Most important of all, regardless of how you are going to secure your home, you need to make informed and firm decisions NOW on how you will handle a threat to your safety in your home. Waiting until the reality that you weren't even willing to consider previously finally hits you is certainly NOT a wise move. So discuss this and plan NOW with your family. Decisions such as "at what point do we use physical harm? At what point are we willing to take another human beings life?" It's also critical that you ensure that your perceived greatest vulnerability/liability of your family is armed with as much knowledge and skill to fight back as possible. (See example here) If I were the bad guy, the first thing I'd do is take down/subdue the strongest threat in the house (presumably the man of the house) and then use the children or mother as emotional leverage to get whatever I wanted. Sorry, that may sound sexist, but criminals aren't very politically correct nowadays. They function based on experience, not women's' rights movements.) But if you take the vulnerability of the children and the mother out of the equation by training them, you gain a MAJOR advantage over the perpetrator. Anyway, these are just a few strategies which I keep as a part of my Castle Defense Strategies. I hope you find it helpful to you and your family.