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.
At 9:00PM 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?
Most people have never pondered this question for themselves or with their family. 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.
Would you 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, comply, or flee 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.
Sometimes 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 increase the potential for molestation. You need to thoughtfully consider how you or your family members might act under the circumstances and plan accordingly.
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.
Prevention 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 are ineffective as a barrier, so use your peephole to look outside before opening the door. Be suspicious of someone claiming to be making a delivery that you did not order or use other tricks 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. Read more...