Most people's home defense strategy is a bit haphazard and even a bit thin. About the farthest that the average person takes it is coming up with the weapons they are going to use and practicing a bit with them. But as for a detailed plan for dealing with attackers or intruders, that's sadly lacking.
We need go no farther than the military to see the value of developing a comprehensive strategy for dealing with attacks. Every military organization in the world spends countless hours designing and perfecting strategies for attack and defense and then training their soldiers to perfection in the execution of those strategies.
This strategy development and training pays off. If you don't believe me, just look at the effectiveness of the U.S. Army in the First and Second Gulf Wars; or how about looking at the many operations committed by the Navy Seals... that is, if you can find out anything about them.
Likewise, a well trained SWAT team can clear a house or other building in moments, leaving death, destruction and confusion in their wake. When these groups do their jobs properly, the aggressors they are fighting against don't have a chance to respond, let alone trying to respond in any effective way. The battle becomes severely one-sided.
One of the things that make these battles so one-sided is the speed of the attack. A well-trained military or police unit can attack so quickly, that before the bad guys realize an attack is happening, the attack is over. That makes things much safer for the good guys... and much more deadly for the bad guys.
But a fast attack can't happen without exquisite planning. Even the simplest of plans becomes much more complex when done at breakneck speed. Nevertheless, the clear advantages of speed make creating such plans and training to perfect them worthwhile.
That's the kind of defenses you need for your home. If you come under attack, either by home invaders who want to cause you problems or by gangs who want to steal your food during a crisis, you want to leave the attackers wondering what happened to them, and more importantly, leave your family intact, uninjured and alive.
This can only happen with a well thought out plan and exquisite execution of that plan. Just owning a weapon and practicing with it a bit isn't enough. You're going to have to get your plan down to the point where it's as finely tuned as a ballet, even with the variety of problems that can happen along the way. Then, when your plan is ready, you're going to have to train yourself and your family to execute it, coming down on the heads of your enemies like a clap of thunder.
What Types of Attacks Can You Expect?
Not all home attacks are the same. Therefore, we can't count on just one plan for dealing with them. You've got to have different strategies for different types of attacks; otherwise, you're not going to be truly ready when the attack comes. So, what kinds of attacks can you expect? There are three basic types:
- Burglaries - A break in artist or two finds a way into your home, with the intent of stealing what they can and getting out. They really don't want to confront you and will most likely leave if given the opportunity.
- Home Invasions - Home invasions differ from burglaries in that the criminals aren't afraid of meeting up with you. In fact, they could even be hoping for that opportunity. More likely, they're hoping to mix a little rape in with their pilfering, getting more for their efforts.
- Gang Attacks - There's a common understanding in the prepping community that people will gather together in gangs, in the aftermath of a disaster. The main purpose of these gangs will be to find and steal food and other necessary supplies. Their numbers will give them boldness to do things that they wouldn't normally do.
As you can see, the number one difference between these three types of attacks is the number of criminals involved in them. There's a huge difference in dealing with a lone burglar and ten or so people intent on ransacking your home. Not only is it easier to fight one-on-one, but the lone burglar isn't going to be desperate, so they won't take unnecessary risks.
The other major difference is the intent of the criminals. The lone burglar is probably stealing to meet their needs, whether that is for drugs or just life's normal expenses. As such, they don't want to make a big scene. They want to get in and out, without anyone noticing.
On the other hand, those that perpetrate home invasions aren't trying to keep anything secret. As I said, they are hoping to meet up with people inside. While there are a myriad of reasons why they want to meet those people, their intent is always more or less the same, violence. With that in mind, you need to be ready to fight them when they come.
Burglars tend to come during the daytime, when everyone is away at work and school. It's easier to get in, get what they want and get away when nobody is home. On the other hand, home invaders will come in the evening, when they are sure people are at home. So, the first sign you have of which you're dealing with is the time of day they arrive.
The last thing you want to do is give these people an opening to attack. Unfortunately, they are at an advantage in that; our normal lifestyle gives criminals a lot of opportunities. Eliminating those opportunities requires making major lifestyle changes, of the type that most people don't want to make.
But there are things you can do, which will reduce the window of opportunity to criminals. Many of these are passive measures, which serve make you and your home a poor target.
To start with, don't let your home look like a target. Fancy homes, especially fancy homes in isolated locations are prime targets. Of course, owners of those fancy homes probably have them because it reflects their wealth and income. But even then, they don't need to leave things lying around to show that they are rich.
Children's toys are one of the best advertisements for criminals. If you have a bunch of expensive toys in the front yard, especially things like electric cars for the kids to drive on the sidewalk, it shows that you have money. Better to keep those things in the garage when they aren't being used or just have the kids use them in the back yard.
Another good sign that criminals look for is expensive cars. People who drive around in expensive vehicles usually have more money than their neighbors do. If you've got the oldest cars on your block, you're probably not a good home to rob. But if you've got a Jaguar or a Hummer parked in the driveway, you must have some money. Keep those types of vehicles in the garage, out of sight to the casual viewer.
Don't Give Them an Inch
While this article is focused on active defenses, don't ignore the passive ones. Passive defenses alone won't protect you, but they can buy you the time you need to put your active defenses into play. Even delaying an invader a few seconds is worthwhile, as often that first few seconds is what's needed to make the transition from condition yellow to condition red.
Hardening the exterior of your home can go a long way towards your family's security. This means making your doors and windows hard to break into, especially on the first floor of your home. Normal security measures are all but worthless; but there are other things you can do, which will make it much harder for anyone to break in.
Most home intrusions happen through the first floor of your home. That means the front door, the windows and the back door. So, that's where you need to concentrate your efforts, when it comes to home security. Harden those points and few will bother climbing to the second-floor balcony.
The problem with most conventional security measures is that they are only designed to stop burglars. They operate under the premise that locks only keep honest people honest. But in fact, locks can do much more than that, if they are properly designed and installed.
Basically, conventional security measures assume that the criminal is not going to be willing to break anything. That's why they recommend deadbolts, putting a stick in the track of a sliding glass door and making sure that you have good locks on the windows. But none of those security measures will do the least bit of good, if the criminal is willing to break down a door or break out a window.
Rather than sticking with conventional wisdom, what you need are security measures that prevent people from kicking in doors and breaking out windows. While those are more expensive and aren't 100% foolproof, at an absolute minimum they will slow an assailant down, buying you precious moments in which to react. Some possibilities to consider are:
- Security striker plate
- Security hinges
- Replace screws with longer ones
- Additional deadbolts
- Door club
- Door security bar
- Window security film
- Burglar bars
Sliding glass door:
- Replace it with a conventional door
- Window security film
- Burglar bars
As you look at these, don't think in terms of whether or not they will make your home into an impenetrable fortress; but rather, look at them and ask yourself the question "How long will it take to break through that?" That's ultimately what you're buying for yourself and your family. Your best security usually comes from using a combination of these items on each door and window.
Are Alarms Worth It?
Many people install burglar alarms, which is a great business for the alarm companies and of questionable benefit for the homeowner. Alarms are actually intended to alert the police when you are not there. So, they are of almost no benefit when the family is at home.
Of course, having that sign in the front of your home, saying that it is protected by XYZ Alarm Company, will dampen the ardor of most burglars. But that won't really do much to slow down the other types of attackers you might have to deal with. Most of them know the limitations of an alarm system, and will act accordingly.
If you are away from home a lot, the investment in an alarm might be worthwhile. But keep in mind that most break-in artists are in your home only 90 seconds. By comparison, the national 9-1-1 center says that it takes police an average of 11 minutes to answer a call. So, the criminals will be long gone when the police arrive.
If you're wanting an alarm that will work when you are at home, you're better off with a dog. Dogs are naturally territorial and so most will bark no matter who comes to your door; even family members. But I'd personally rather have a dog barking when my kids come home, than not telling me when someone else shows up at the door.
Other types of animals are excellent alarms as well; guinea hens and donkeys both make great alarms, as touchy to the arrival of strangers as dogs are and able to make a lot of noise. If you have guinea hens in your yard, nobody will be able to come close without you knowing it.
Keep in mind that dogs and other animals aren't foolproof. Criminals can befriend them or even worse, poison them. Either way, they aren't going to be able to set off an alarm and let you know that there is an intruder. Of course, if you keep your dogs indoors, criminals won't be able to poison them before they can set off the alarm.
Examine Your Assets
Okay, let's get to the more active part of this defensive strategy now; specifically, fighting to protect your home and family. To start with, you need to examine what assets you have to work with. How many shooters do you have in your home, how well trained are they and what types of weapons do they have to work with? Don't forget to figure in your dogs, assuming you have some. Most dogs, especially large dogs, are going to attack an intruder, especially if they see you fighting for your life.
Most men have the attitude that they will defend their home themselves, protecting their family from any and all attackers. While that is a noble sentiment, when you're outnumbered ten to one, it's not all that practical. Sure, plan on doing as much as you can, but also plan on your family pitching in to help, especially with a gang attack.
Fighting together multiplies your ability. Two or three family members, who have practiced fighting together, can accomplish much more than the sum of their ability. That's especially valuable when you're facing off against more attackers than you have family members.
Of course, this means that each family member needs to be trained in the use of firearms. It also means that you need to develop the means of communicating with each other, so that one person doesn't accidentally shoot another family member. Bullets can easily go through walls, hitting people on the other side. You've got to take that into consideration on your defensive plan.
The other asset you need to consider is your home. Some homes provide advantages for the defender, in providing good fighting positions you can use. A long hallway that the attackers have to come down is a great defensive position, as it forces them to expose themselves to your fire, while you are concealed or even behind cover.
As you look at those positions, think about what you can do to make them more defensible. Maybe a home's walls won't stop a bullet normally, but there are things that can be done to that wall, to make it into excellent cover. Something as simple as filling the wall with sand and then capping the sand so that it can't expand, will turn an ordinary interior wall into the equivalent of a sandbagged foxhole.
Of course, your best bet is to keep the assailants outdoors, while your family fights from inside the home. That gives you a huge advantage, both of concealment and hopefully of cover. This can be a bit touchy, as you might have trouble explaining how your life was in danger, if they weren't even in your home. But in the case of a gang attack, after a disaster, sheer numbers explains why you were fighting them, even though they hadn't entered your home.
Another way you can use your home is to create obstacles to slow the attackers down. If your furniture is placed in such a way that they have to go around it to get to a passageway, that makes it into an effective obstacle. For that matter, you can overturn chairs and tables as you go through the home, creating a series of barriers they have to negotiate. Every second you gain gives you a chance to get away or to target them.
The "What If?" Question
Here's the most important part of this process; asking yourself "What if?" There are countless variants of this question, asking yourself what you can do if X number of assailants take Y action. In doing so, you give yourself the chance of thinking through the situation, with the comfort of time to develop a good answer.
This is what I was referring to earlier, when I was talking about the military and police. Every military unit has planning officers in it, whose whole function is to think through "what if" questions. These officers and their staffs develop countless scenarios in which various different enemies attack in various different ways. For each of them, they seek out the best possible response, taking into account the assets they have available.
The reason for this, is that when something happens, you don't have time to think. That's when thinking stops and reacting starts. Actually, your brain doesn't do all that good a job at thinking anyway; so if you haven't thought about it ahead of time, it's going to be too late.
But if you already have a plan, then all you have to do is follow it. Granted, the bad guys are never going to do things exactly like you thought they would. But I'd be willing to bet that if you have taken the time to think through a bunch of possible scenarios, their actions will be close enough to one of them, that you can follow that plan and it will work.
Some possible "What Ifs" you want to consider are:
- What if someone kicks in your front door?
- What if they break out a window?
- What if you come home and find an intruder in your home?
- What if someone comes into the home in the middle of the night, when you're all asleep?
- What if they come in the back door, instead of the front door?
- What if they take one of the children hostage?
- What if a hungry gang approaches your home to steal your food, after a disaster?
- What if that gang comes over the fence in your backyard?
- What if you're attacked while in the shower?
- What if the dog starts barking?
- What if someone rings the doorbell, late at night?
- What if you're watching TV when someone comes in, and you don't have your gun?
Like I said, the list is endless. But this list, or more importantly, your answers to these questions, are the basis of your defense strategy. Those answers are what are going to make it possible to protect your family.
Train, Train, Train
The next thing to do, once you have a bunch of plans, is train to accomplish them. What do you need to be able to do, so that you can accomplish that plan? How well do you need to shoot? Do you need to be able to use some other types of weapons? Do you need to be able to shoot in the dark? Will maneuver be part of your strategy?
Even if you know what you're going to do, you still need to run through it and make sure you can actually accomplish what you have planned. We've all seen one super hero movie too many, and tend to think that we can do things which we haven't trained ourselves to do. Without taking the time to train, you just might find yourself woefully inadequate when the time comes.
Don't forget about training for the mundane things too. Shooting accurately is fun, but it's just as essential to be able to change your pistol's magazine without looking. Likewise, you need to be able to shoot while moving, something that doesn't come naturally to anybody.
Ideally, you want to train to the point that you can do things automatically. During a crisis situation, you won't be thinking too clearly. So, saving the limited brainpower you have is important. If you have to think about how to load and shoot your gun, you're in trouble. But if you can do those mechanical tasks automatically, then you will be able to concentrate on things like outflanking your enemy or seeking cover to protect you from their fire.
Training also gives you the opportunity to check out your plans and make sure they are workable. It's amazing how few plans survive the first training session. Usually, some detail surfaces, which invalidates the whole plan. But that's all right, because that training gives you the opportunity to find that error and correct it, implementing the change at the moment it is needed.
Another thing that training does is allow you to check out your equipment. I remember the first time I was in a tactical shoot and we were shooting in low light conditions. I suddenly had a revelation of the value of tritium sights. The next day, I purchased some.
You want to train with the equipment you plan on using, so that you can find little things like that. But you can't do all your training that way. Shooting holes in your home, in order to train isn't very practical. Besides, it's illegal. So, you'll need to do at least some of your training with other equipment; just like you'll need to do some of your training in the shooting range.
Getting Some Realistic Practice
Target practice isn't realistic practice. As far as I know, nobody has ever been attacked by a black spot on a white sheet of paper. Likewise, the bad guys don't hold still at an ideal distance, with good lighting on them. When things become real, the difference between live shooting and range shooting are dramatic.
One good way of getting some realistic training is to participate in tactical shooting events and competitions. In tactical shooting, you shoot at a series of targets, just as if you were dealing with those home intruders. You will probably have to move, might have moving targets to deal with, and might even end up shooting in low light. Between all that, it's much more realistic that normal target practice.
Another great way of practicing, which can be done in your home, is with airsoft guns. Airsoft uses 6mm plastic BBs, so it's not going to break the china or even the mirror in the hall. You can work your way through the home, clearing rooms just like the police do and making all the mistakes when all it will cost you is a hit with a plastic BB. That stings a bit, but that's about it.
This sort of practice also allows you the opportunity to have someone or even several people acting as the bad guys. That way, you get instant feedback on your mistakes. I guarantee you, after you've been hit a few times with one of those BBs, you're going to find a better way to look around door frames, so that you don't have to expose yourself to the enemy fire.Of course, once you have a good method of clearing your home, you'll be ready in case you ever have to do that. You might as well count on using the home-team advantage as much as you can, especially considering that it's your home that you are defending.