Thursday, August 23, 2012
Do I Look Like a Home Defense System?
A couple weeks ago there was a home invasion not too far from Mr. B. and MidWest Chick. Mr. B. writes of it in his post titled 1 mile from my home A trusting older woman, someone's grandmother, living in a nice area out in the country, opened the door to a young man who did not look out of place, asking for help because his car had broken down. He and his accomplices, who had been tipped as to the fact there were guns in a safe and money, came in, beat her badly and robbed her. A quiet day, a small town, everyone thinks it won't happen to them.
You've all probably saw those old ads on TV showing the guy in the hooded sweatshirt stalking some woman coming home from the store and trying to get into the house. The alarm goes off. The security company is on the phone with her in about one nano-second, assuring her the police are on the way as the would be-rapist runs away like a little girl. Thank you Acme Security Company!
Another one, some young babe wearing small bits of spandex is exercising on her treadmill which is set up in her living room, next to the front door, in front of the open window (sure, that's how I exercise). Shifty looking guys dressed all in black, including the" Spenser for Hire" dark colored watch caps, scurry in front of the window, leering at her. Then, the front door is kicked in. With one kick, no less, instantly setting off the alarm, out they run.. Thank you Acme Security! It's a nice idea, but no security device is going to work well if it doesn't have brain-equipped users linked to it and police VERY close by to respond to the call. It can be a deterrent but not a guarantee. For folks with no other methods of protection, it can be a false sense of security.
Even if the alarm company immediately alerts the police (one time a dog walker sent mine off by accident, they never did show up, probably never called), it could be 15-30 minutes or more before they are there. In that time the criminals could have cleared out any jewelry and electronics I had, stolen all my Terry Pratchett books, raped the yard gnomes and drank milk directly out of the container in the fridge.
The commercials make me laugh. But not at the home invasion scenario. It's very real. According to a Department of Justice report, 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions. According to that same report, 1 of every 5 homes will experience a break-in or home invasion. That's over 2,000,000 homes.
The kick in the door scenario does happen, though with the door I have, it would take a whole lot more than one kick from a guy wearing black sweatpants. Charging through the front door, or coming in through the garage, which you left open, is one way. But frankly, hot burglaries usually start with knock at the front door. Do you know how many people will simply open their door to a knock? The criminal may not strike that time, but simply assess your home AND you, pretend to have the wrong house and leave. Have nice things in plain sight? Check! Look small and or helpless? Check!
The humorous 2nd amendment sign notwithstanding, I don't advertise that I have guns, so not to be burgled for them. I do keep burglar alarm signs and stickers up in likely entry points. But they don't have to worry about the alarm, if it's off and you just open your front door.
Common Scenarios include-
*A uniformed individual tells you that they are in the area checking for a gas leak,or a problem with cable or utilities and asks to check out your property. Do you have any idea how easy it is to buy a uniform and make an ID on a computer?
*A uniformed individual informs you that they have a delivery of some sort, usually flowers, telegram or a package.
Knock Knock! MAMMO-GRAM!
Knock Knock! LAND SHARK!
*The individual informs you that they are collecting for a charity or some other good cause.
*A stranger claims to be in some kind of distress and asks if he or she can use your phone or your washroom. That is oh, so common. The person looks ordinary, you are trusting and feel sorry for them. You open the door. Even if I have a pocket pistol on me, I am STILL not going to open the door, I'd simply offer to call the number of their choice from inside and the police for assistance.
The attack can be swift and violent. Home invaders often come prepared with handcuffs, rope, duct tape, knives or firearms Home invasions aren't "we're going to burgle and empty house and surprise, there are people". They plan it when you are there, inflicting violence on you being part of the fun.. Think they'll let you be if you are docile? Think again. Many in-home robbers ENJOY the intimidation, domination, and violence and some even claimed during trial (for the rape and manslaughter that ensued) that it was a "rush."
There are some common sense measures of protection -
*Keep a bright porch light on at all times after dark (try for 100 foot visibility on outdoor lighting).
*Install outdoor motion sensor lighting in the parts of the house that may be breached out of sight from the street. Hide it, so it's not obvious, and easily disabled.
*Look at your windows, some are so cheap they can be lifted out of the frame with a couple of tools, even if locked. There's info on line on beefing up windows, money well spent.
*Get to know your neighbors (unless they have 3 wrecked cars in their yard, two pit bulls and a "my other car is a meth lab" bumper sticker). One neighbor is a police officer, I let him know when I am leaving for any period of time and if (and who) will be house/dog sitting, the other a retired military officer, and educator. Both know that if the dog is barking for no reason (squirrel in yard) or there is anyone at the porch they don't recognize as a regular visitor, to check on the place. I do the same for them.
*Do NOT open the door for any reason if you don't recognize the person. All legitimate repairmen and delivery people carry identification cards with photos and are instructed to show it to you. If you weren't expecting them, call the company to verify the visit while they wait outside the locked door.
*Install solid core doors, with heavy duty locks. Use four three-inch screws to secure heavy duty lock strike pates in the door frame. A good solid entrance door, preferably a steel commercial door and frame (like the ugly gray ones you see on industrial buildings) is a very good way to slow down entrance. A similar door with dead bolt for the bedroom door is useful too. It buys more time- wake up with an assailant or four standing over your bed and this really sinks in deep. (Yes, they can be made pretty with wood veneer, both the doors and the assailants, for the goblins the wood veneer is usually an inch thick and about 2' x 2' x 6'.)
Remember though, the door isn't generally the weak point when someone is trying to force their way in. The part that generally fails is the door frame where the lock penetrates.
There is a fix to this that's neither difficult or expensive. Normally, all of the force of the dead bolt is only applied to the wood directly behind the hole. If you carve out a slot in the frame behind the deadbolt that runs 5 or 6 inches above and below the deadbolt, and then screw in a strip of metal, you spread that force out over a much larger portion of the door frame.
Lock all doors, windows, and garages at all times. I don't reload in the garage with the door open with my back to it. I don't care how nice it is or how many kids are out riding their bikes around the neighborhood.
I won't even talk about these new cheaply constructed family homes in subdivisions made out of vinyl siding, a few beams , some insulationand drywall. Frankly, you could break into mmost of those with a good knife. Physical security of the structure is important. If the structure is open to easy penetration you better have some back up warning system, be it motion, dog or whatever, that something is afoot.
*Keep windows clear but if you do have a few plants, make sure they are the small ,very spiny variety to make access difficult and hiding about impossible. If you have a home alarm, don't forget to wire the windows, it's not always the door they come through..
*Use a secondary blocking device (a simple piece of wood will do) on all sliding patio doors and windows.
*Set the home perimeter alarm at night, if you have one.
Lock your door to the garage at all times.. I could jimmy a garage door open if I had to. It's not that hard.
*If you have a family, have a security meeting. I can't stress this enough. Make sure your children are aware of the dangers of opening the door to people they don't know, even if "Mommy's or Daddy's in the next room". If someone does get in, have a plan as a family. Have a code word for the young ones or unarmed that means "heads up for danger and run".
Effective personal defense responsibility is a learned behavior. It should be core curriculum for all children. Sadly, too often, the weakest link of a home security system is the habits of occupants
Now that you have the basics down, some more hints to keep you safe.
Gas , telephone, electricity and cable lines are checked from outside, not inside the home. If the person claims that they are there to enter your home for a utility or cable company and/or you are suspicious of the credentials they present (holding them up to your window) do not open the door and phone the company for confirmation. If the service is such that they do need to come in (installation, etc), and you are a female living alone, call a friend over to hang out with you when you set up the appointment. I've had big burly shooty friends BE the person in the house when the service person arrived so no one knows I live alone. That's not being helpless, that's being smart.
Most delivery men will agree to leave a package outside your door. If they demand that you sign a form, you can call call the company and confirm that you are about to be in receipt of a package. If it's my neighborhood FedEx or UPS guy with the very recognizable truck, I tell them I will meet them at the truck, and will sign it out there. They don't mind, especially as I usually bring them out a cold water or fresh coffee and a cookie (I've relied a lot on delivery in rural areas).
In the situations where you are being asked for charity or assistance, use your most conservative judgment. Be especially careful if you see a large van or truck nearby, that may be there to load up your household goods after they've made entry. I ask solicitors to leave a brochure, anyone else I would offer to call the police or family for them. Do NOT open the door if you don't know them, male or female, for any reason.
The points here? If you open the door, your alarm is likely OFF. What are you going to do if the person just barges in? Think about it.
A alarm won't save you then.
I have a large barking dog, I intend to make all the noise I can, and I have a weapon where I can get at it. Firearms have been used many times to successfully defend a family from home invasion (though you rarely hear about it in the media) and can provide a means of self-defense in a life-threatening situation.
But you need to be able to get to it quickly. You literally have seconds once your home has been breached. Often handguns are kept unloaded or locked up to prevent children from getting their hands on them. Chemical sprays may be in a cabinet in the next room. You may not have time to get to them before being hurt yourself. I have a gun handy, and I mean HANDY. Normally it is on me, I carry in the garage, I carry in the yard. I've sat up late on the computer writing with a snub nosed special in my jammies or robe pocket more often than not. I've worn a holster late at night enjoying a mug of tea that had more material than what I was actually wearing. Carry. I have a couple guns in places you wouldn't expect, some knives tucked away, and most rooms have a chemical fire extinguisher (older home, funky wiring).
No gun, not going to have one? Chemical fire extinguishers can be a great little disorienting tactic til you can get out the door.
Think. Plan. That Bersa in the range bag in the back of the closet behind your skis isn't going to help you. YOU are going to help you. Knowing yourself, running a scenario, planning, you are more likely to keep your head. How you react depends on so many things other than the obvious, sex age, health. It's personality, culture, survival skills. How you react under extreme pressure, any special training skills and past experiences can save you.
I've had survival training few women of my generation have. My friends are, with few exceptions, are serious shooters, many law enforcement or former special ops. It's a mind set I'm attracted to, that I learn from. Yes, I cry at happy endings in zombie movies but when the things get difficult I can be as tough. I've had to be. Survival isn't of the strongest, it's those who keep their head, breaking down what they need to do into the most elemental things. Clausewitz said "Everything in war is very simple. But the simplest thing is difficult." I remember that, and practice the simple things.
Some women say I'm crazy to keep a gun in my home. "He'll just take it away from you", I hear. One lady said, "I have a cell phone and a stick, I'll use that". That's your choice. You have that choice, in which you abrogate the ancient balances of hunter and hunter. You won't even be that afraid, there in that first moment, propelled by your unerring belief that you are just too good to be a victim, too smart, by god you vote for snappy dressers and drive a Lexus. Then as you look into the eyes of something only those of us who hunt predators have seen, you will know the moment when fear takes you completely. Skin, blood, bones, all will fill with it, memories of childhood innocence, memory of pride, all gone. Nothing left but the fear seeping into every cell. As you wet yourself, your last coherent thought will be sound of pleas for your life as your hands are bound and some thug with gang tattoos drags your 13 year old off to the back room.
Myself. I'll take my gun and take my chances. Call me a gun nut, call me right wing extremist. But I will hold on to that polished lucidity that differs me from the predator. A sense of morality, the power of faith and will, and John Moses Browning. I will protect my life and those I love, or I will die trying.
But having a gun in the home for protection does no good if you are not proficient with it; if you are down with a knife wound and your spouse doesn't know how to fire that Ruger revolver. If ammo is costly for practice, use a .22. for practice. Just keep the basic hand/eye skills up. You need to be proficient even if you are frozen with fear, your hands blue, your blood slowed. You may only have one shot.
Sure it's easy to go to the range in the warm air, birds chirping and sun shining, but that's not when you will be firing. It may be low light, your adrenalin will be pumping, you may be shooting with something other than your regular hand, due to an injury. Are you going to use your weapon like you train, in cold and in heat, snow and in wind, left hand, right hand? Or are you going to stand there shaking, holding the useless gun you know you are not going to be able to fire, not now, not ever, tasting in your saliva that brass aftertaste of fear. Fear that is a dinner bell to the hungry predator.
I'm not an expert, but I can guarantee that hand will NOT be shaking should I have to pull a trigger on someone in my home threatening to cut me, rape me, kill me. What about you? You will not know how you will react to a personal crises, but you can PREPARE.
The fact that you've read this long winded post means you've thought about it. What would you do? Activate an alarm, fight, run, grab your weapon, send a guest or family member out the back to run for help while you fight from within? You better think about it now because the 60 seconds you might be lucky to get, is not going to be time to plan it out.
For your alarm system may be asleep.