In almost every home in America, parents teach their children how to escape the home in the event of a house fire. They install smoke alarms and fire extinguishers and they teach their children how to use them. A family plan designed, administered, learned and practiced, all in the name of fire prevention and safety…Outstanding! Unfortunately however, many of these same households do not have a family safety and security plan dealing with the important issues of home invasions, robbery and other violent crimes. Many have never heard of such a plan and many wouldn’t know how to go about it…until now.
Crime prevention experts advise that crime, in one form or another, will affect everyone at some point in their life. Whether it’s assault, armed robbery, home invasions, rape, etc., you can be sure that the majority of these crimes will occur in the home, and perhaps in your home. Are you prepared?
Good locks are essential in slowing down and even stopping criminals from entering your home.
A family safety and security plan is simply a verbal or written strategy and preparation used by all family members to keep the home, property and most importantly, everyone, safe. The plan can include many topics of basic home safety and security, such as break-ins, intruders, alarms, burglaries, crime prevention, attacks, self-defense, firearms, and the list goes on.
The family plan can be designed and conducted much like the fire prevention and escape plan. It is important that the entire family gets involved with the arrangement and preparation of the plan. It should be followed like the fire escape plan, because any safety and security plan can prove to be just as important. It’s a life saving plan.
Here are a few guidelines that you can use to help plan and initiate a family safety and security plan. Design the plan to fit the needs of your family, home and property. Make it simple and change it as often as needed. This helps eliminate routines that could lead to predictability, which criminals look for in a victim.
As the adult in the family, gain as much information about safety and security as you can. Obviously, by reading this magazine, you have already taken the essential and important steps. Search the Internet for crime prevention, home security, etc. for useful information and keep it as a reference. Contact local safety and security experts for advice and tips, but take the information you are given with a grain of salt and figure out what will work best for you.
Take the necessary, basic crime prevention actions to ensure home security. Buying and installing alarms can provide a layer of protection or alertness. These can be as complex as a complete wired system throughout the home, or simple, ten dollar, magnetic window and door alarms. Any alarm will do, as long as it will alert you and possibly scare off the intruder. A dog has always proven to be an extremely effective deterrent to criminal behavior. Criminals, in general, do not like to tangle with dogs, no matter what size they are.
Good locks are essential in slowing down and even stopping criminals from entering your home. Of course you have to use them to be effective. You would be amazed at the victims of home crimes, who, by simply leaving their doors and windows unlocked, open themselves up to crime. Locking your doors and windows, as well as having solid doors will prove to make a criminal’s life that much harder. Install plenty of exterior lighting to illuminate your entire property. Criminals would rather not attract attention to themselves. Make sure to check them often to make sure that they are in proper working order.
Advise your children as to where to go in the event of an intrusion or a break-in. Choose a “safe room” that will provide safety, and if possible, an escape route. Sometimes the best safe room is a room that the adults can get into quickly and easily. A child’s room can be the best, because at times, it is difficult for children to think straight in the event of a sudden emergency incident. If you have more than one child, the youngest child’s room would be the best room as the safe room. This way, the older, more responsible children can quickly and quietly move to that room without problems.
A “safe room” is a term that most people have heard. It’s a basic room that you and your family go to in order to escape the situation or to take up a defensive position within the home in the event of an intruder. A safe room can be as simple as a hidden room within the home, or an elaborate, steel door fortress smack dab in the middle of the house. Whatever room you choose as your safe room, be sure that it will work for your needs. A good safe room will contain a way of escape, which should be your primary objective.
When answering the door, children especially should be taught to never let strangers into the house, and to never give the impression that they are home alone.
Now I know that there are many debates concerning the fight-or-flight law and mentality, but given a certain situation, you will have to decide what to do. Your decision to fight or flee will be your own, and one that you may have to alter, depending on the situation. This issue in and of itself requires an entirely additional article. Any safe room should contain items that can help in an emergency. Items could be a cell phone, flashlight, firearm or other defensive option, and the list goes on. Understand and realize that an incident may prevent you or your family from getting to the designated safe room. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a “plan B.”
Designate roles and responsibilities to each family member that will be accountable for any tasks that need to be done in an emergency. These can include calling 911, going to a neighbor’s house for help, retrieving a home defense firearm (preferably the adult!), etc. Be sure that each role or task is easy and goes to the most mature or capable child or person.
Be sure that all family members make a habit of keeping doors and windows secured at all times. This is one routine or habit that is good to have. Even during the day and when you are home, doors and windows should be secured. Many cases involve victims who were assaulted in their home while they were in the shower, watching television, cooking, etc., simply because their mentality was that it’s broad daylight and other people are around, so nothing bad will happen. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that crime happens only at night. Statistics show that crimes can and will happen every hour of the day. Many home invasions, attacks and robberies occur in the light of day. Realize, of course, that no lock is 100% foolproof, and if someone wants to get into your home bad enough, no lock will stop them for long, but it can buy you some time to react.
When answering the door, children especially should be taught to never let strangers into the house, and to never give the impression that they are home alone. This applies to adults as well. Just because you are an adult, it doesn’t mean that you can handle an intruder by yourself. It’s best to give the impression that you and others are in the home, but too busy to answer the door. I should state that when I refer to “answering the door,” I do not mean to open it. You should never open the door, no matter what, until you know for sure who it is. By answering the door, you are simply asking who is there and establishing why they are there. You can do this from behind the door, through an intercom system, from an upstairs window, etc. Do not unlock and open the door. Let’s face it, the majority of the people who are at your door are probably just trying to convert you or sell you a bunch of crap anyway, so why open the door in the first place.
Another aspect of the family plan can include passwords, code words or phrases that can be used by family members in the event of an incident, a crisis, or an emergency situation. Codes are also helpful in identifying a family member that comes home late at night and is at the door or heard roaming the indoor hallways. It can also prove to work well if a family member is in trouble on the phone. These code words or phrases can be anything that you decide on. Just make sure of what they are for and that they are easy for everyone to remember. Of course, those words or phrases should stay within the family and never be repeated in public.
Make sure that your family safety and security plan is researched, mapped out, taught to the family and practiced throughout the year.
Ensure that all outside family members and guests know of your family’s safety and security needs and requirements (but not necessarily your code words). Be sure that they know what you expect if they are staying in your home, whether you are there or not. It is also a good idea to inform any baby-sitters, nannies, gardeners, pool boys, etc. that care for your children, home and property about your security expectations and requirements. This should not include your entire plan; just advise them of what they need to know.
The family safety and security plan is a life saving plan and it should be an extremely important aspect in your life and home. Make sure that your family safety and security plan is researched, mapped out, taught to the family and practiced throughout the year. Schedule the practice like you would any other family event. Don’t wait until something bad happens. Do it now.
[ Jerrod S. Smelker is the Owner and Senior Instructor for Edge Advantage Consultants a business which conducts courses and seminars in crime prevention, safety and security, personal defense and firearms training for law abiding citizens (www.edgeadvantageconsultants.com).
Mr. Smelker has an extensive background and experience in the fields of security, law enforcement, corrections and crime prevention. He is a certified Defensive Tactics Instructor and NRA firearms instructor and the instructor for the On-line Police Academy’s Officer Safety course for law enforcement agencies. ]