Gates on Sunday…

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Home invasion: Family survival tips (Part II)
Last week, we began this column by looking at a scenario whereby a family of four is relaxing at home in what is perceived to be a ‘safe community’, when suddenly, around 9pm, there’s a knock on the door.
The wife responds, and, as the saying goes, ‘all hell breaks loose’, as there on her porch are two young men brandishing handguns, and threatening to harm the entire family if their demands are not met.
As the story progresses, the author discusses the various precautionary measures one can employ so as to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening in real life. The following is a continuance of that discussion:

Have an Escape Plan
IF SOMEONE in the household can escape and call for help, the home invaders will have lost their advantage of having privacy and time. To some, running away from your family in crisis is distasteful, especially to men or women with children. However, the alternative might mean being handcuffed or tied-up or otherwise incapacitated and left to watch in horror as your family is molested.
If you have a plan for escaping, make sure you include where to run and what to say. Sometimes a radical escape measure pays off, in life and death circumstances, like diving through a plate glass window, jumping from a balcony or climbing onto the roof. Although you might sustain minor injuries you must weigh them against your chance of survival with the assailants.
Home invaders will sometimes threaten harm to children to get adults to comply with their demands. But at the same time, children are often overlooked as potential rescuers and sometimes are not as well guarded. If the opportunity presents itself, a trained child can dial 911, activate an alarm panic button, or escape to the neighbour’s house to summon the police. If they are capable, they should do it.

Never stop thinking

Keeping a cool head is important, even in dire circumstances. If you keep your wits about you one can increase their options by waiting for the right moment to act. Always be thinking and re-evaluating the situation as it evolves.
At first they may be no chance for escape, but after a while you may see an opening. Fighting may not be wise, however the attackers may let their guard down once you appear to comply. If you decide to strike a blow, do it fast, suddenly, and forceful to the nose, eyes, or throat without concern for the damage you might inflict.
While the assailant is momentarily stunned, make your escape. Don’t stand there waiting to throw more punches or gather family members. You might ask, wont that cause them to harm me for sure? Maybe, if they catch you. This is an option that must be considered. Sometime hours into the siege, an opportunity arises where you can hit the automatic dial on the telephone or alarm panic button without being seen. Always be looking for that chance.

What doesn’t always work
Screaming and shouting is the easiest and most natural thing that almost everyone can do. Screaming can alert savvy neighbours to call the police or the noise alone may scare off the home invaders. However, home invaders know this and will be prepared to make you stop screaming, by force, if necessary.
One of the first threats you will hear is, “if you scream I’ll kill you.” If you can’t escape, but you are out in public, scream your head off. Scream things like, “call 911.” Visit your neighbours so they know that you have a family plan and teach them how to react when you need help.
Handguns and pepper spray can provide a means of self-defense in a life-threatening situation. Homeowners have successfully defended their families in the past from home invaders using such weapons. However, sometimes homeowners have lost their weapons to home invaders because they couldn’t get to them in time to use them.
Most chemical sprays are tucked away somewhere and many handguns are kept unloaded or locked up to prevent children from getting their hands on them. During a home invasion, you cannot always count on your ability to get to these weapons before being injured yourself. Ordinary household products can work in self defense. Chemical fire extinguishers work great to disorient the robber.
Fighting with the intruders can sometimes work, especially if you have some training and are physically fit. But for most, fighting doesn’t work because the victim was pre-selected for their lack of fight capability. In a life-threatening situation there are no rules for fighting in self defense. The idea is not to stand toe-to-toe and duke it out. All you need is one incapacitating blow to the nose, eyes, or throat to allow time to get out of there and call for help. Take a self-defense class together with your family so all can learn the proper techniques and can practise the procedures. A practiced technique has a better chance of being used effectively in a crisis.
Faking illness doesn’t always work especially in the home. Most home invaders don’t care about your welfare anyway. Faking illness might work in public or while being transported or while fighting off molesters, but don’t count on it as your only choice. You must decide in advance which technique to use depending on your acting skills.

What not to do
Don’t ever try to pull a weapon on an armed perpetrator who has you covered with a handgun unless you feel it’s your last chance. Don’t ever agree to be transported somewhere else like to an ATM machine or other location unless you feel it’s a life or death decision.
The second scene is almost always more violent than in your home. If you have a choice, never agree to be tied-up, handcuffed or be placed in the trunk of a car because it takes away most of your self defense options. Don’t ever follow an intruder once they leave your home. Leave that for the police. Don’t fight over property loss, it can be replaced…your life cannot.
(Robert Gates is the director of Strategic Advisory Service, a local firm that prides itself in providing private investigation and security consultancy services, and training in investigation, intelligence and security techniques.)