It is a nightmare scenario. You are in your home, your safe haven, your private space when the unthinkable happens: There is an uninvited intruder standing inside. How many of us can say we have thought about what we would do in that situation? How many of us can say that we've taken measures to try to prevent that situation from happening? For the stay-at-home-moms, single women, college students or a woman who works from home it is important to think about and plan for the "what ifs". There are too many women who have become victims because they think it could never happen to them. The stories they hear about in the news are about other people and it could never happen to them in their gated community, or with their neighbors close by, or with their kids home. Right? Well it can and it has, and being prepared and making a plan is the first step to not ending up as a statistic. This does not mean living in fear or being paranoid at every sound we hear. It does not mean feeling unsafe when we go outside or worry anytime the doorbell rings. It simply means we are choosing to acknowledge the fact that there are bad people out there and we are taking control when we plan for it. We can deny that it could ever happen and be in complete denial and shock if it does. Or we can make a plan and sleep good at night knowing that if we are targeted we won't freeze in panic but will spring into action instead.
In the same way that we keep a spare tire in our car, or a fire extinguisher in our house, we are not hoping for trouble but rather we are prepared for it IF it happens. As they say it is "better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it". So what does this mean when it comes to home security? I will lay out some warning signs to look for, ways to plan for the "what ifs" as well as some precautions to take in your home.
Being alert and aware of our surroundings is vital when making a home defense plan. These are some things to look for when you are home that could be a potential threat, things like:
-The neighbors' gardeners. They can see into your yard and/or windows and know when you're home or not home
-Do you lock your doors while you're home?
-Having bottom-floor windows open even while you're home is easy access.
-NEVER let a stranger into your home. Criminals will often pose as things like salesmen or repairmen and they could be casing your home to find out your floorpan, see when you are home, look for areas for easy entry, or even force their way in and close the door behind them.
-Is there a car in the driveway or loud music on during the day when kids would be at school and most people will be at work? Statistics show that most break-ins occur between 10am -3pm and while most burglars don't want to encounter anybody, the much scarier scenario would be the criminal waiting for when you are home alone.
-Look for people who might notice your routine like the handyman across the street or the pool guy a few doors down, or a neighbor that can see when you come or go.
I'm guilty of it myself; I can get into a project with my music on and be upstairs and realize if there was a break-in, or even if I left a downstair window open or door unlocked, I would never hear somebody coming into my home until it was too late. I've gotten complacent at times when I'm home alone and leave my back door open or unlocked, thinking "no one would come into my backyard". There's been a time or two that I'm home alone at night and realize that I never reloaded my pistol after taking it to the range the day before. It only takes one time of thinking "it will never happen to me" to become another story in the news. I have put in place several safeguards in my home so that I feel safe when I'm alone and I want to share them with you so that you can have a mental checklist:
-If you have an alarm system you should use it, not just at night but especially during the day; Studies show that most burglaries happen during the day, contrary to the common belief that most burglaries will happen at night.
-If your housing situation allows, get a dog. A dog that can be in the house with you while you're home. Dogs are territorial and while you might not hear them barking from the yard or if they are let loose or restrained, a well-trained dog inside your home will almost always bark at an intruder and can alert you long before you would hear it on your own, giving you valuable time to act.
-Lock your doors! Did you know that 34% of burglars enter through the front door and 22% enter through the back door? Locking your door could mean the difference between an uninvited person walking right in or going on to try the doors at the next house.
-If you need your downstairs windows open, think about putting in some kind of system that would alert you to somebody climbing in.
-If you have a firearm that you're confident using, keep it in a safe and practical location, and keep it loaded and ready to use! Too often people tell me they have a firearm for "home defense" but it is either in a far away room locked away, or it is unloaded in some box and I can assure you that any home intruder will not stand by and wait for you while you run upstairs to unlock your safe and load your firearm. Additionally I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say that they have a firearm in their home for safety but wouldn't know how to use it if they had to. If you keep a firearm in your home you need to practice with it regularly.
-Whenever possible change up your routine. Maybe go for your run at different hours, or walk your dog at different times... look for opportunities to switch it up a bit.
-Keep your car keys accessible. Whether in midday or the middle of the night a car alarm going off repeatedly could alert people nearby that something is wrong.
-Make a plan! Think about different scenarios that can occur in different areas of your home at various times and plan for what you will do.
Nobody wants to think about the unthinkable. Assuming that it could never happen to you is a dangerous place to be. The goal is not to feel paranoid or worried but instead feel empowered and prepared. Having a plan in place is key to feeling safe in our homes knowing that we've taken the precautions necessary to be ready for the "what ifs".