The Ultimate Home-Protection Guide
How to Stay Safe During a Home Invasion
By Jeremy Pollack
Street self-defense is certainly the most commonly referred-to form of protective training. And it should be, since the majority of attacks happen outside of the home (i.e., “on the street”). But what about the attacks that occur inside the home? Unfortunately, I have not seen many self-defense programs or instructors very focused on how to stay safe at home, even though it is gravely important in my opinion. Just as I would recommend everyone have a simple and effective street self-defense plan, I believe a plan for staying safe at home is equally, if not even more important. I say potentially even more important because variables in street environments can change dramatically, requiring a more diverse variety of self-defense strategies wherein plans can quickly go awry. In the home, however, you can plan for a particular environment and very particular scenarios, which may be much less diverse. So having a self-defense plan for a home invasion is perhaps even more practical than planning for street attacks.
The following are critical elements of a home invasion self-defense plan. You can use these as safety tips for living alone or with a family. The intention of this guide is not to create a plan for preventative home protection, which warrants home security cameras, lights, an alarm system, and the like. Rather, this guide provides tips in preparation for an actual home invasion – actual protective measures to be taken once there are invaders; in other words, if preventative measures have failed to prevent invasion. Also, this article will cover protective measures for home invasions under normal societal conditions, while Part 2 of The Ultimate Home-Protection Guide will cover protective measures during a temporary societal breakdown (e.g., natural disasters, etc.).
If you live with family members or roommates, you’ll want to create a “GO word,” a safe room, and a rendezvous point. And whether you live alone or with others, you should keep a protective weapon that you can access somewhat quickly. Here are some tips to prepare for home self-defense. Regarding cell phones, you should always keep your phone in your bedroom or in the safe room, for easy access, as this will be your lifeline.
The “GO Word” is simply a designated, uncommon word that can be announced during an emergency situation, alerting all household members to move quickly to the safe room. Hence, everyone in the household should be well aware of the “GO word.” The GO word should never be used in jest – never Cry Wolf – but only in practice or in an actual scenario.
Secondly, all household members should know which room is considered the “safe room” under emergency situations. The safe room would ideally a) be located on the ground level, b) be nearest the highest concentration of vulnerable household members (i.e., near the children’s rooms), and c) have a window whose size and screen door will allow for escape to the outside. We want the safe room as close to the vulnerable individuals as possible so that they have the quickest route to the safe room, or so that the adults or stronger individuals can grab them from the rooms and not have to carry them as far to the safe room. If the children are all on the top floor and you feel the safe room should also be on an above-ground floor, then store a roll-out safety ladder in that room in order to escape from the window. The roll-out ladder can be used in case of a home invasion or other emergencies such as a fire.
Further, a safe room should be located close to the bedrooms without the need for passing through major entry areas to get to it. Determine where invaders are likely to enter, such as the garage, the kitchen, or the front door. Ideally, you will not have to pass through one of these major entry areas to get to the safe room. Note: if the children’s rooms are not easily accessible from the parents’ rooms, such as on different levels and there would be too much exposure to get to the children’s rooms, then the children who are old enough should be taught to escape by drilling the GO word.
Safe room drills should be practiced regularly, perhaps once a month or once every other month, whereby the GO word is called, all parties get to the safe room, and everyone practices escaping through the window.
After escape, it will be important to designate a safe zone rendezvous, such as a neighbor’s house, a nearby 24-hr convenience store, or other appropriate location.
Weapon for Home Protection
Finally, you should have a home protection weapon. If you are legally allowed to own a firearm and you have training, then you might hide a firearm in a safe spot in your bedroom. Otherwise, store another weapon in a close but safe location, such as a taser, pepper spray, a bat, or a baton.
During an Actual Scenario:
Now that you are prepared to protect yourself and other household members, have an action plan in place to stay safe during a home invasion.
1) Don’t freeze: Move!
As soon as your intuition tells you something is wrong, move! If you hear a suspicious noise downstairs, such as a glass break or a door creak open, don’t simply ignore the noise and hope it was nothing. Get up as quickly as possible to investigate the noise. If you believe or discover that the noise is actually an intruder, time to initiate the plan.
2) Get to the Safe Room
Grab your phone, if possible, as this will be your lifeline should an emergency occur. Then, grab your weapon. If appropriate and warranted, trigger a security alarm as quickly as possible. Next, quietly get your family using the GO word and get to the safe room as quickly as possible if it is safe to do so. En route to the safe room, turn on as many lights as you can, as light is an intruder’s enemy. They want to stay in the dark, they want to go unnoticed. So, light up the rooms and halls as you make your way to the safe room, which will stay dark.
Also while on your way to the safe room, close all the doors behind you. For instance, if there’s a hallway door through which you pass, while turning on the lights, also make sure to close the door behind you. If possible, you want to indicate where the intruder is located. So, if you hear a door open, then you’ll know where the intruder is. Keeping all room doors closed will also confuse the invader as to your hiding place, as they will have to go through each closed door to investigate your location if that’s their intention.
All members of the household should now ideally be gathered in the safe room. Turn off all the lights in the room, even though you left the lights on in the hall outside the room as you passed through. While light is an invader’s enemy, darkness can be your friend. You want to create a scenario in which you know their location, but they do not know yours. If an intruder turns the lights off in the hall as he passes through, then again you’ll know where he is.
If getting to the safe room is virtually impossible because you would have to pass through where you believe the intruder is located, then create an alternative area by which to escape. Get to a window where it is possible to exit the house as quickly as you can.
3) Call the Police
At this point, you should have your phone with you, as indicated above in preparation. Once you get to the safe room, immediately call the police.
4) Vulnerable Ones Hide or Escape
Now in the safe room, hopefully with the police on their way, you will want to get the vulnerable ones out of the house, if possible, or at least hidden. Whether you escape or hide depends on the situation and the position of your safe room. Your first option should always be to assist the vulnerable ones through the designated escape window. If that’s not possible for whatever reason, then hide them in the closet or bathroom, and lock the door. NOTE: Realize that a locked door is an indication that someone is hiding there, so just be aware of that as the situation progresses.
4a) If Hidden
If hiding the vulnerable ones is more practical than escape, then you (the protector) should stay ready just outside the hiding spot, with weapon and phone. It is your job now, as a protector, to stay outside the hiding spot to await the police and protect the others. When waiting, stay small, low to the ground, and ready. This means making yourself as small a target as possible, staying low to the ground, such as in a crouching or kneeling position, and ready with your weapon aimed at the doorway should someone come through it.
DO NOT prepare to fire or use your weapon to attack immediately should someone come through the door; rather, ready yourself to powerfully shout “Let me see your hands!” before deploying your weapon. This is because you want to make sure whom you may be attacking or firing at, so as to make sure it is not someone coming to help. You also want to assure the intruder is not an unarmed individual for whom you could be liable if taking lethal measures against them. In the ready position, you should use the “cover and conceal” method by staying behind something like a dresser, as a shield, and using the darkness of the room as your camouflage.
Once everyone is hidden and safe behind the closet or bathroom door, and you are in your low, ready position, announce three things very concisely and powerfully: “The police have been called! I have a weapon! Leave the house now!” Practice these 3 lines. Know them well. If necessary during an actual scenario, you can announce these several times, and will hopefully scare off any intruder.
4b) If Escaped
If, on the other hand, everyone has escaped, then you can escape last. Assure everyone has safely exited, while standing guard at the exit point. Once everyone has exited safely, immediately run to your safe zone rendezvous point. There you can wait for the police to arrive.
5) Wait for the Police
If you have escaped to the safe zone rendezvous, and the police are on their way, then you’ve done your job as a protective member of the household. If you are unable to escape but secured a hiding place in the safe room, then hopefully the intruders were scared off by the time the police arrive. Either way, you will have been prepared to protect your loved ones, yourself, and your home.
When defending yourself and your family, leave your ego behind. No property is worth anyone’s injury or life. Don’t go playing Mr. Hero or Mr. Police Officer without proper training. There’s no need to attempt to proactively scare off or arrest home invaders if police are on their way. If intruders are willing to take the risk of breaking into your home, and are not scared off by your presence, then chances are they are routine criminals with violent tendencies. Never underestimate their ability to be aggressive or violent. Stay in your safe room, stay small, hidden, and ready to counterattack if necessary. Maintaining a defensive position typically gives you a greater advantage, and waiting for the police arrive is the smartest tactic.
So, if you want to know how to feel safe at home, then have a plan for self-protection during a home invasion. Practice this plan, make sure all household members know the plan, and be mentally prepared to enact it if necessary. And if you’re looking to put preventative measures in place, then be sure to check out The Home Security Superstore’s security lights, security cameras, and alarm systems for sale.
Good luck and stay safe!
Jeremy Pollack has been teaching martial arts and self-defense for more than 20 years. He holds a Black Belt in Hapkido, Instructor rankings in Muay Thai and Krav Maga, and belts in several other martial systems. He is also a former member of the California State Military Reserve, Military Police Unit. You can read more about him at CoachJeremyPollack.com and PollackPeacebuilding.com.