While there are countless reasons to pursue self-defense training, one we hear often from students when we ask them what motivated them to start training is that they want to know they can protect themselves and their loved ones.
Knowing how to physically defend yourself doesn't have to be the only method to do that. These 11 tips will make sure that if the worst does come to pass and you find yourself in a situation where you need to protect yourself and your home you'll have a higher chance of making sure everyone comes out of it safe. This is absolutely not a comprehensive list - there are a lot of things to consider in planning for a situation where an intruder has entered your home - but it will get you started.
Understanding the Mindset of an Intruder
Professional burglars spend time to plan out their targets and perform enough reconnaissance to make their work as easy as they can. This means they are not the type who will be breaking in when someone is home. You are more likely to get an intruder that falls into one of the categories of:
Inexperienced Burglar Who Doesn't Realize You're Home
Burglar Desperate Enough to Not Care You're Home (Someone Suffering from Addiction, etc.)
Burglar Who Knows You're Home & Enjoys the Thrill / Potential for Violence
Unknown Intruder Who Specifically Intends Harm (Kidnapper, Rapist, Murderer, etc.)
Known Intruder Who Specifically Intends Harm (Domestic Abuse, Angry Ex, etc.)
Most of these types of intruder are willing (or already decided) to do you or the people in your home harm. Intruders who aren't will generally run when it becomes clear someone is home. Because of that distinction you should always treat an intruder who doesn't run when confronted as one who is a threat to your life. For that reason you need to be prepared to do what's necessary to end the threat. Even in a situation where your life is threatened it's not necessarily easy to get in the mindset of being prepared to fight for your life, so it's important to know the type of person you're likely up against in order to be mentally ready.
Home Defense & Home Security Tips
Have a Plan and Supplies Ready - Do you have a plan in place for what to do if you wake up to a house fire? Do you have a plan for if a tornado is about to hit? Do you have a plan for a flood?
Hopefully, you answered yes to all of those. A home invasion should be treated no differently than any of those other emergency situations. You need to have a plan in place for exactly what you and everyone else in the household should do as soon as it becomes clear there's an intruder. Everyone needs to know the plan well enough to execute it out of habit, without panicking. If you have a plan in place but your spouse or children don't know it well enough then you don't have a plan. Know what room everyone should get to for safety, have backup options in place in case you or a family member is cut off from that room, and know where your supplies are and how to use them.
Panicked people tend to wander, or try to bolt. Having a predetermined rally point or hiding place and knowing that a specific spouse or older children are in charge of moving elderly family members or the younger children will help ensure no one endangers themselves.
Another aspect of this type of planning is having your supplies in place where they will be most useful. If your safe point is the master bedroom do you have a flashlight, firearm, first aid kit with CAT tourniquet and quick clotting agents, and backup phone or charger stored there? Do you have any critical prescription medication, inhalers, etc. that a family member might need if you are barricaded in there? Just like you would stock a safe area in a basement with food, water, a radio, and other things in case of a tornado if you have a plan for an intruder but no supplies you might as well not have a plan.
Evade, Hide, and Barricade - Always place a focus on avoiding contact first. The best way to guarantee an intruder can't hurt you is to not be where they can reach you. If you're alone in your home and close to an exit when you discover an intruder, there is nothing wrong with exiting your home to seek shelter at a neighbor's. If you can't outright escape like that, or if there are other family members to consider, get everyone to your designated safe point as quickly and safely as you can.
If an intruder blocks access to your designated safe point then having a secondary place to hide is important. Particularly in situations where you are unarmed, concealing yourself until you can move to a better position or until police arrive is often the best bet. Trust in your family members to follow the plan and call the police.
Your safe point should be a room with a limited number of access points which you can securely barricade. This can mean specific hardware improvements like installing deadbolts, kick plates, and solid wood or metal interior doors - or it can just mean knowing there's a heavy dresser on hand to shove against the door. Your barricade should be set up so that everyone in the room can be positioned at a 90-degree angle from the barricade and entry. This not only allows the best positioning to engage the attacker before you're seen if it comes to it, but it also clears the likely line of fire through the door itself if the intruder has a firearm.
Have a Police Script Ready - It is unavoidable for there to be some level of panic in a situation where someone has invaded your home. Panic will make you forget details, repeat things, speak quickly and unclearly, and in general make it more difficult for the emergency operator to get the key information they need to get help to you as quickly as possible.
Having a planned list of what information to relay to the emergency dispatcher ready and stored with your other supplies in your safe point will make sure you don't miss key information, and that if the only person in the safe point able to call 911 is a small child or someone more likely to panic they have a clear list of what to convey.
The key information to include is: Where You Are (Both Your Address and Location Inside the House), Where the Intruder Is, What Is Happening (Number of Intruders, Is Anyone Injured, the Intruder's Entry Point, Possible Intent), Whether You any Family Members or the Intruder Are Armed, What You and Any Family Members Look Like and Are Wearing, and lastly What the Intruder Looks Like and Is Wearing.
The operator may request additional information, but that basic list will get them enough crucial information to ensure help, and the right help, gets there as fast as possible.
Make Your Home a Hard Target - You will never be able to stop someone from entering your home who wants in badly enough. However, having enough complications present for the intruder as possible can encourage them to give up, or choose another house. Even in cases where the person knows you and is specifically targeting you it can make the difference between having enough time to enact your plan and being caught unawares.
Make sure you have adequate outdoor lighting, preferably on a motion sensor. Install an alarm system, even if you don't have it connect to a security company. Install sturdy deadbolts and kick plates that are rated to be kick and crowbar resistant. Make sure any sliding doors have a metal security bar, and that all windows both lock and have burglar latches engaged. If you have windows within arms reach of a door install a deadbolt with a keyhole on both sides so that a person can't smash the glass and reach in to unlock it. Keep bushes and anything that might provide concealment trimmed low and away from windows so there aren't any hidden places for an intruder to attempt to break in. Don't leave ladders or other tools out that could be used to break into your home where anyone can access them.
It's also a good idea to consider a camera system. Personally, I'm a fan of Nest cameras - they're not necessarily the cheapest option, but when it comes to security trying to go the cheapest route isn't always the best idea. Having a camera system is both a potential deterrent and also a good way to ensure if you have to defend yourself you have video to verify self-defense claims. An outdoor camera at the front door will also allow you to see who is knocking without standing right behind the door in a potential fire zone.
Lastly, please do not ever hide a key to your home outside. Ever. If you absolutely must have a backup key outside put it into a combination lock box that is secured to something or bolted to the structure from inside the box.
Get First Aid Training - Things don't always go to plan. In a home invasion situation you or others may make it to your rally point having suffered gunshot wounds, lacerations, puncture wounds, etc. It's not enough to have a well-stocked trauma kit, you need to know enough emergency aid to deal with these types of critical injuries. It also gives you the tools to save the life of an intruder once you have neutralized the threat - once they are no longer a danger to you and your home is clear there's no reason not to stabilize them.
If you've never had any kind of emergency medical training you likely don't even know how much there is you don't know beyond controlling bleeding. How to identify and clear obstructed airways, how to properly seal a sucking chest wound and provide chest decompression, and how to avoid shock or hypothermia are all things you may not have even realized you should know.
The Red Cross and other organizations often offer first aid and emergency aid training. You should also check with your local community center as many offer classes in first aid and/or CPR free for residents. We also work with EMTs to offer occasional seminars in trauma first response.
Know How to Defend Yourself - This one probably goes without saying, but knowing how to defend yourself with and against a variety of weapons is important. While you should try not to engage any intruders until placed in a situation where it is unavoidable, having the skills to do so is critical.
When learning for the purpose of home defense you should include empty hand, blade, blunt instrument, and firearm training at a minimum. Additionally always be sure that any weapon or self-defense tool you keep with your supplies or close enough at hand to use in a home invasion scenario is one that you specifically train with. If you keep OC spray in your nightstand but have never practiced charging and deploying it, the odds of you successfully doing so in a high-stress situation significantly diminish.
Firearms for Home Defense
These last few tips deal specifically with considerations for the inclusion of firearms in a home defense plan. The topic of whether or not to - and how best to - prep, store, and deploy firearms in a home defense situation is one that deserves it's own article. These tips will give some basic guidance in the matter for those considering their use.
Drill Your Deployment - You should already drill the plan you've put in place in case of a home invasion, particularly if you have family members to consider. Having a firearm in play adds the additional level to your drilling of being sure you, and anyone else who may need to, can access and deploy the weapon safely, quickly, and efficiently.
If your firearm is in a safe you need to practice opening that safe to access the firearm. You might be shaky and pumped full of adrenaline, or groggy and half asleep. If the first time you have to try to access and deploy your firearm from its storage place is when you hear glass breaking downstairs then you're setting yourself up for failure. Your spouse and any children you deem capable of doing so should also be drilling. You might not be home, might be cut off from the safe point, or might be critically wounded before anyone can react.
It's a personal decision on who you want to be entrusted with access to the firearm. Odds of self-injury with a firearm are much higher than odds of an intruder breaking in, so it's important to know that allowing access won't make everyone less safe than they otherwise are. Know that those with access are both responsible enough to have it, and properly trained to do so. The one exception to making things as real as possible is that when drilling never use a loaded firearm - the chance for injury to yourself and others when trying to train yourself to do things quickly isn't worth it.
Get Tactical Training - Logging thousands of hours of range time is not the same thing as firing from a compromised position in the dark at a moving target while your fight or flight system is kicked into high gear. Seek out qualified instruction specifically targeted to situations involving an intruder in your home. Whenever possible do this training with the actual firearm and gear you keep ready for that situation, or at least an identical model of firearm. Be sure that any family members entrusted to deploy a firearm if needed also have adequate training.
While we work some elements of the Center Axis Relock system of close-quarters firearm combatives into our training at the Academy in our firearm defenses, we lack the facilities for live fire training. Locally I often recommend people to the Tactical Training Center run by T.I.G. as a great option. They have the proper facilities to provide the type of training needed, a full team of expert instructors, and offer classes in topics like cover and concealment, firing from a vehicle, and night fire that you can't often find at a basic indoor range. They also offer occasional special courses specifically in home defense and emergency medicine.
Choose Your Firearm Carefully - There are a lot of considerations that need to go into choosing a firearm that you intend to deploy in the case of a home invasion.
Your MK18 Daniel Defense 5.56mm SBR with tactical foregrip, EOTech XPS3-0 HOLO Sight, and Streamlight 69265 TLR-2 rail mounted combo green laser sight/flashlight might make you look like such a bad-ass the intruder's likely to wet themselves - but can you maneuver it in that narrow hallway? Can your spouse or child handle it effectively? Will rounds that miss their target penetrate to a neighbor's house or apartment, or your child's bedroom?
Unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. That SBR I described may be a terrible choice for one person and an ideal one for another. Some things you have to consider when selecting a firearm, or even choosing between handgun, shotgun, or carbine, are: the potential for overpenetration (drywall does not do a great job stopping bullets), maneuverability of the weapon in your home, ease of operation under stress, ease of operation by others (a shotgun might not be a good choice if your 12-year-old daughter has to be the one grabbing the gun), ammunition capacity, and availability and ease-of-use of attachments such as flashlights.
Take time to determine what firearm will be the best fit for your situation, and then make sure everyone who will potentially have to operate it has been trained to do so.
Ambush, Don't Stalk - While part of you may want to attempt to sweep and clear your house, either once you've determined someone has broken into your home or once you've neutralized an initial intruder, you should never do so unless you have to retrieve and secure a family member in another part of the house.
Clearing a room is something best done with a team. If everyone is hunkered down in your safe spot there is no reason to try to clear your house - wait and let the police do it. Especially without anyone backing you the room for error moving through a building with a hostile intruder in it is enormous. By contrast, if you're hunkered down at a 90-degree angle to a barricaded entry point that is the sole way into a room the odds are stacked much more in your favor.
Even as the rest of the family is moving to your safe point, if you can take up a position to cover the area at a channelization point while they do there is no reason to go looking for the intruder. If everyone is asleep upstairs and you hear someone breaking in on the first floor, it's always going to better to take up a covered position at the top of the staircase than to rush downstairs to engage. Setting an ambush and letting them walk into your sights is safer than risking stumbling into theirs.
A Focus on Preparedness
These are just a handful of tips to help you ensure you're prepared to keep yourself and your family safe in the event of an intruder. There are more considerations than can be reasonably covered here, but the central point that unifies all of these are cultivating an attitude of preparedness.
The odds of an aggressive intruder breaking into your home while it's occupied are relatively low - so don't let thinking about and preparing for things like this get you worried. It doesn't accomplish anything to dwell all the time on whether or not a tornado is going to come through, you just set things up so that if it ever does you're ready to do what's needed to keep everyone safe. The same goes for this sort of situation.
If you have specific questions about any of these tips, feel free to reach out via the Contact page or give us a call at 513-760-5553.