How to protect your family – at home and on the road
You've seen the security details for the President, as well as dignitaries, and even the Hollywood stars. These people have a purpose, to ensure the wellbeing and protection of their VIP. Not only while traveling, but at home also.
You have a purpose, you also have a VIP or even VIP's – your spouse, children, and family.
Isn't it just as important (or even more important) to protect them as it is some starlet?
So, without delay, here are 54 ways to protect your family.
Maintain situational awareness
Yellow, orange, and red. Situational awareness is simply being aware of your surroundings. Without being obsessive, you should be able to observe what is in front, on the sides, and even behind you. Yellow is simply “aware,” a relaxed alert and should be your normal position at all times, but especially when outside the home. “Orange” is a heightened awareness when you suspect a possible threat. This is a time of evaluation and planning to take action. Finally, “red” is the action stage in which you are responding to the threat by flight, cover or fight.
Look the part – exude confidence
An article just confirmed that those who are insecure are more likely to be bitten by a dog. It's safe to assume that those who are insecure are also more prone to attacks by others. It is critical that an air of confidence be exuded at all times, for no other reason than to deflect the appearance of an easy target.
Confidence is not being boisterous, it's a power under control, and that means being discreet. The less attention you attract, the better, and the more discreet the more mysterious and powerful you appear.
Understand Fight or Flight situations
In many states, the Castle doctrine has legal implications in self-defense situations. Essentially, the doctrine specifies that there is no duty to retreat before deadly force is used against an individual who intends to cause you deadly harm, especially in a home invasion. Additionally, this legal theory has been applied outside the home. Although this is a real benefit against second-guessing a defensive situation from a legal position, fight or flight is not a simple choice and there needs to an awareness of how complicated a self-defense response can be. A great article on the complexity of this issue should be read by everyone interested in protecting their families.
Establish a baseline for normal
This really is part of the situational awareness concepts, but establishing a baseline is critical knowledge for ensuring that where there's smoke, there may be fire. If people start running, if it sounds like firecrackers, etc., it's important not to ignore the signs. Your normal baseline just got violated and you need to respond.
Have a plan
Some people never plan anything and the concept of looking ahead is completely foreign. It is important to your family's well-being by establishing both “on-going” and “situational” plans. On-going plans might include what the family should do in the event of a fire or home invasion, what to do when a child is separated from the family at a concert, what same third party to call in the event that you are unable to reach other family members directly, etc. Situational plans can include extra planning to cover issues outside of your on-going plans. Knowing that a child will always stay put and contact a park vendor or employee when separated from their family at Disneyland is assuring when venturing out on family outings.
What? When we had younger children, we established a password, like “Ghepetto.” So, if anyone came to pick them up from school, for example, that they didn't recognize, they were instructed to ask them the password. If they didn't know it, they would refuse to go with them. It actually not only protected them but gave them a sense of confidence in dealing with unknown situations. Ghepetto also confirmed that they were not captive or under stress in a telephone call. Establish a password for your family.
Get your family into the car first
Although chivalry may be dead, ensuring that your family is in your vehicle and locked first, is a simple step that may protect you from a disaster. Most crimes are opportunity situations, and your spouse or child would almost certainly be an easier target than you.
Review your Every Day Carry items
If nothing more, ensure that you have a fully charged cell phone with you, all the time, in order to call for emergencies. Also, have a charger available while outside the home. It is easy to carry one that works in your vehicle for recharges. Also, you might review three common every day carry items as discussed in my post here.
Position yourself to observe
This also goes back to situational awareness, but you may notice that any police officer that is seated in any restaurant is positioned in such a way that they can observe what is going on. That means they are not seated with their backs to the front door. Learn from this and always position yourself in such a way that you can observe a departure from a normal situation and respond quickly.
Consider a CCW
We would never even consider having a home or rental in which there are no fire alarms, yet we are statistically three times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime and 58 times more likely to be assaulted than we are to be injured by a home fire. The second amendment was purposely written to protect you and your family. Although it is constantly attacked, it is certainly something that should be seriously considered and pursued.
Have a light for all home guns
Too many purchase a handgun to protect their family and assume that's all they need to do. But, purchasing a defensive weapon is only the beginning of preparing to defend yourself and your family. You can read my article here on The Five Things You Need to do to Safely Own a Gun at Home, but in addition to a gun safe, the right ammo and practice, you need a light on all weapons. Additionally, without significant training, you really need a weapon mounted light. Nothing is more tragic than injuring an unidentified intruder only to determine that the intruder is a family member. It is simply too dangerous to use any weapon until and unless you are able to identify who the potential target is. Without a light, mounted on each and every gun, your risk a family tragedy that may never be reversed. You can check out my recommendation for a gun mounted light here.
Other EDC items that should be considered are a flashlight and knife (see my post here). In places that don't allow knives, even a tactical pen may be helpful. Even boy scouts learn to “be prepared” and you should also.
Always have a first aid kit available
A quality first aid kit should be available where ever you are – at home and while traveling. Whether you buy or purchase the kit, you should be prepared with the following eight essentials. This usually means that you need to supplement the premade kits. I did find a really good, and affordable first aid kit on Amazon here that you can check out. You still may need to add components to really meet your needs. Also, check out my post on making your own first aid kit.
- A water-resistant container including plastic pill bottles
- Personal Items – emergency and medical information as well as extra prescriptions etc.
- Antiseptic – like Bactine and Neosporin
- Creams – Aloe vera for burns, vaseline for minor cuts and Cortisone for bites and rashes
- Pain relievers – aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin), and acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Over the Counter medications – antacids for stomach aches, and antihistamines for allergies
- Bandages and Wraps including blister pads
- Medical tools – blunt tip scissors, thermometers, instant cold compresses and products that stop bleeding like QuickClot
If it looks like trouble is brewing – leave
At the first sign of trouble, you need to round up your family (you of course already have on-going and situational plans in place) and leave. It's too important not to test fate in dangerous situations. Again, the real secret to doing this is the plans you already have in place to facilitate gathering all the family and leaving.
Stop with enough room to maneuver your vehicle
A few driving tips, one, always stop your vehicle at such a distance from the vehicle in front of you, such that you can see that vehicle's rear tires. Why? First, you avoid potential crashes by stopping a proper distance, but maybe even more importantly, you allow yourself some flexibility should another vehicle try to come up behind you and box you in.
Park with your wheels turned towards the curb
Criminals are opportunists and if there's an easier target, they will pass you and take the easier target. Simply turning your wheels toward the curb makes the act of jacking your car that much more difficult and may prevent an auto thief. Additionally, on hills, the act of turning your front wheels towards the curb will prevent your vehicle from rolling into the street as it will roll instead onto the curb.
Don't back into parking spaces – or do
Similarly to making your vehicle more difficult to steal by turning your wheels toward the curb, is ensuring that you need to back it up. Leaving your vehicle with a direct pull out to the street is simply making it easier for a thief to drive off. It does, however, make it easier for you to escape, so this is one of those “use your discretion” pieces of advice.
Never have a member of your party announce that you are carrying
Make sure, if you're carrying, that everyone in your party knows to keep mum about this fact. Announcing to a criminal that you are carrying quickly takes away any advantage of surprise that you may have. Mum's the word.
“Please drop your weapon” sounds a lot like “Police Drop Your Weapon”
I would never suggest that anyone impersonate a police officer. There are, however, situations that, with gun drawn, you may want to issue commands to a perpetrator. A command like “please, drop your weapon” can easily be misinterpreted as “Police, drop your weapon.” It is not your fault that they have misunderstood you. If, however, they think you are a police officer, that could further facilitate your effort to stop the attack. No harm, just smart.
Don't do the obvious – keys hidden above visor or under the doormat
Criminologists have long known that criminals, on average, have lower intelligence than the general population. That doesn't mean that they're all stupid and leaving keys under doormats or on visors is maybe stupider than most criminals. Don't do these obviously convenient, but dumb things.
Consider installing reinforced strike plates on all exterior doors
34% of burglars enter through the front door of your house, while 22% of the time they enter through the back door.
How? A good swift kick.
Consumer Reports ran a test, using a 100-pound battering ram capable of delivering varying degrees of force to the door. In a test to determine what was necessary to breach a door with a typical deadbolt and strike plate, the results showed the door was breached with just two impacts of the test battering ram. When tested using the same deadbolt but with a reinforced strike plate and three-inch screws, the door wasn't breached until after 13 impacts – which equates to more than 17-times the force required to breach the standard door and strike plate.
Obviously, it's important to keep your front door locked, ensure they're alarmed, and that the door's structure is solid.
Replacing existing strike plates with reinforced strike plates is a simple, inexpensive and extremely effective change that should be made in all homes. This should be the first thing you do with any new residence. You can pay for a locksmith to do this or DIY. It does, however, significantly reduce the ease of breaking down your door by a factor of 17.
Here are some simple instructions on how to replace the lockset strike plate –
Remove the lockset’s lip strike plate and 3/4-in. screws. Predrill and attach a new thicker plate with No. 8 x 3-in. screws that are angled in slightly to catch the stud. Predrill with a 1/8-in. bit.
Photo: Courtesy of Family Handyman
Know the increased odds of a home burglary
- A home on corner lots
- A home close to major freeway exits
- A home located on through street (vs. cul-de-sac)
- A home borders wooded area or playground
- A home located in a wealthier neighborhood
- A home recently purchased
Know the decreased odds of a home burglary
- Burglar alarm installed and signage
- Deadbolt locks on all exterior doors
- House is occupied
- Newspaper and mail is picked up
- Lights and noise inside (TV)
- Car in driveway
- Motion-activated exterior lights
- Vocal dog in the house
Change the locks when you move into a new home and make sure they're deadbolts
You just bought a home, or have just rented an apartment. Since you're not the first person there and since you don't know the ethics of the previous occupant, it may be smart to change the key. Remember, in addition to a higher probability of the previous occupant having given out the key to someone or even more than someone, your probability of theft is higher because you're a new owner. Change the keys!
Invest in an alarm and use it
Technology has made the cost of home alarms affordable for almost everyone so you no longer even have an excuse. Unfortunately, only 53% set their alarm, while 21% don't because of kids, 19% don't because of pets, with finally, 7% forget. It's affordable and effective. Invest in and use a home security alarm system.
Conceal outside wiring
With the fact that most individuals have cell phones, the danger of outside wiring is greatly reduced. You should, however, ensure that any wiring for a home alarm system etcetera is secured so that any home burglar is discouraged from disabling your alarm.
Give the appearance that your house is occupied
Most home burglaries take place between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm. Why? Because it's easier to rob an empty home than one that's occupied. Appearance is more than half the game. Again, criminals are opportunists, and invading a home which is occupied by potentially armed and irritated residents, is a harder target than a home which is clearly unoccupied. Ensure that your home looks occupied by lights, sounds, and if possible, dogs.
Automatically light up the exterior of the house
Homes that are lighted at night reduce the probability of criminal activity. In addition to lights that turn on and off with daylight time settings you also have access to motion activated lights. It is important to light up your home to reduce dark areas where criminals can hide.
Protect your windows
Almost 30% of burglars enter a home through an unlocked door or window. Keep all entry points closed, locked and alarmed, even when you're home. First floor and basement windows are especially vulnerable. Use secure locks and if possible, tempered glass and laminates which make it that much more difficult to enter.
Hide valuables outside of a clear view
This should almost be true without stating but whether at home or in a vehicle, valuables in plain sight will only encourage a burglary or invasion. Sad but true, all valuables should be hidden from clear outside views. Additionally, it should be understood that only 13.6% of burglaries result in any arrest and reuniting with stolen property is even less.
Keep your landscape trimmed
This is very similar to ensuring your house is well lighted, but if you think about it, providing hidden position around your home provides the same cover as not lighting your home, only it works all day and all night. It is probably easier to light your home than to trim the landscape but it's important to reduce hiding places without obsessing.
Alert neighbors and police of your absence
We sometimes don't have neighbors like we used to, but it never hurts to advise neighbors or your longer-term trips with an offer to do the same for them. Depending on the size of the police department, they may or may not be interested, but again, it's at least worth a try. Many of these suggestions are maybe very small alone but together can make a difference in protecting you and your family.
Resist the urge to post on social media
The Patriot's Grankowski was recently robbed while playing in the Super Bowl. I'm not sure if he posted on social media, but really he didn't have to, everyone knew he was away from his home. And that's the point, if criminals know for certain that no one is going to be home, they can and do take advantage of that opportunity. You may not be playing in the Super Bowl, but with Social Media, you can get almost the same exposure. Post about your trip when you return. That way, you'll even have pictures to share.
Ensure you have working fire alarms
According to a report from the National Fire Protection Association, smoke alarms sounded in 53% of home fires from 2009-2013, and 60% of home fire deaths resulted from either, homes without an alarm (38%) or nonworking alarms (21%). Additionally, in fires where alarms did not operate, 46% had missing or disconnected batteries, while 24% had dead batteries. Give your family the best survival changes against a home fire by ensuring you have fire alarms and guaranteeing that they work by testing periodically and replacing the batteries.
Avoid, escape, defend
You typically have 1 – 5 minutes warning to avoid a dangerous situation, 30 seconds to escape it and only 3 – 5 seconds to defend against it. Obviously, time is in your favor to act at the first notice of danger. You can always return if it's a false alarm, but may not be afforded that opportunity if you delay and become involved in a dangerous situation. Act quickly.
Don't look like a victim
Looking down at a smartphone while walking has become such a problem that some cities have established smartphone lanes, while other cities have outlawed the practice and issue tickets. One, however, of the biggest concerns, is that if you're distracted, you instantly become a victim target. Focusing on your smartphone violates the number one suggestion of this post, which is to “maintain situational awareness”. At least while escorting your family, avoid getting distracted by a smartphone.
Don't open the door
Identify who is at the door before opening. Also be aware that reverse peephole viewers are readily available – so, cover up any peephole when not in use. WiFi enabled doorbells are also available which contain a camera and two-way communications, and can be accessed on your smartphone like SkyBell or Ring, available from Amazon.
Don't allow someone to come inside and use your phone – make the call for them (to the police)
Criminals are good at sad stories and often rely on your sympathy to gain access to your house. If someone arrives, late at night, with a sad story about a flat tire, and asks to use your telephone, don't do it. Instead, offer to call for them and if necessary, call the police.
Establish a plan and a safe room
I've talked about establishing plans before in this post, but this specific recommendation is more directed at establishing a safe room. Not many can afford a high tech safe room with monitoring cameras inside a locking vault, but a specific place where the family is more protected from, for example, tornados and dangerous weather conditions, and a room where, in the event of danger, everyone can meet up, is a good idea and should be considered and discussed.
Ensure your house numbers are highly visible so police can locate your home
This seems like such a simple recommendation, but how many times have you tried to locate a house in the dark and absolutely cannot identify any house number? I would suspect that police officers are much better at identifying than we would be, but it doesn't hurt to at least check out what you have currently and determine if you want to enhance your house's nighttime identification.
Keep your cell phone next to your bed when you sleep
In the U.S., we've definitely migrated from land lines to cell phones. The problem with cell phones, however, is that they're mobile and we often misplace them. Enter the development of a “habit”. Essentially, it would benefit you to get into the habit of always having your cell phone available to you. Especially at night, having your cell phone available in an emergency can make the difference between prevention and tragedy. One suggestion is simply to use your nightstand to charge your smartphone every evening.
Keep all firearms either in your direct control or in a gun safe at all times
One fundamental rule that I believe is paramount, is to always maintain direct control of your firearms. Children are especially attracted to handguns, and in addition to teaching them as appropriate, it is important to ensure that no handgun is ever just left unattended. They will invariably go right towards it. Avoid any potential disaster by having direct control or storing the weapon in a gun safe. I use and highly recommend two guns safes the Sentry Biometric or the V-Line safe.
Keep a weapon locked and concealed in your vehicle if legal in your state
This may seem like an ad for purchasing multiple guns, but the reality is that instead of transferring a weapon from one location, your home, to another, your car, it may be more convenient to simply have a weapon in more than one location – both the bedroom, for example, and your car. Both in safes and both accessible to you and not to others. Of course, you need to ensure that you are complying with state and local laws, but accessibility is important if you're going to use your CCW to protect you and your family. When appropriate, you can carry concealed, but that becomes more problematic if the only weapon is in your gun safe at home, and you're out on the road.
Always keep your car locked even when in your garage
According to FBI statistics, over 713,000 autos were stolen in 2015. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, one out of every eight cars stolen were either left unattended or unlocked with the key inside. Locking your car, even when inside your garage, not only reduces the chance of it being stolen but will trigger an alarm when an attempt to steal the vehicle is made. It also provides some insurance that someone uninvited is not in the backseat when you get into your vehicle. By the way, lock your doors when you're traveling by taxi also.
Buy the right gun and learn how to use it
I have an entire article devoted to some of the issues you need to understand when you purchase a handgun to protect your family here, but one important subject that needs to be covered is “what weapon to purchase”? Many recommend shotguns and even AR15's. No doubt these are effective weapons, my problem is that these are much more difficult to secure, the majority of the time when you're not using them, than a simple handgun. I recommend a handgun because it's easy to store, easy to light and easy to shoot. I also recommend 9mm because it's effective and available without too much recoil. The military and most police department use 9mm despite the many macho commenters that suggest you need 40 calibers. Remember, you might not be the only person using this weapon, your spouse and even your grown children may need to use it in an emergency – it would be nice if they could also handle the handgun without getting knocked off their feet. Finally, I recommend a simple and reliable semi-automatic handgun without excess safeties that need to be disabled. Can anyone say “Glock or Smith & Wesson”?
Get a Concealed Carry Permit if allowed and carry when appropriate
Where legally permitted, getting a concealed permit has a number of benefits. Initially, there is usually some required training before a permit is granted – always a good thing. Additionally, most, if not all permits, require a background check. This alone gives you some credibility in the eyes of law enforcement. Also, having a permit reduces the legal risk of having a handgun anytime you're away from your home – for example while traveling in your vehicle. Possessing a valid CCW can also be a positive factor in any resulting legal suit. Finally, when appropriate, it's important to carry. Although many of the news stories are throttled, time and time again, someone with a CCW license and carrying has saved the lives of their family and others, including many police officers.
Don't open carry – why show your hand
The only thing worse than having someone in your party announce that you're carrying is for you to announce it by open carrying. A few states have recently allowed open carry and it has been met with much fanfare – effectively much to do about nothing. Even though it's allowed, I strongly suggest that the element of surprise, by carrying concealed, maybe one of your greatest advantages. Don't open carry.
Use a password protection application and learn to establish high-quality passwords
Everyone is your family should be using a password protection program on their computers, such as Dashlane. This is really an example of the weakest link issue. If you have everything secure but your spouse or kids do not, you're ineffective. Everyone should use the correct best practices, we simply have too much personal information on our computers to ignore safeguarding and protecting ourselves and our families.
Limit your personal information
Foreign countries sometimes think all Americans are spies and will actually raid your hotel room to gather information. Consider purchasing a cheap international phone and SIM card when traveling overseas. Make sure all electronics are cleared of private information – credit cards, passwords etc. Again, make sure you are using the best password protection practices you can.
Consider improvised weapons
Have you ever seen that red bandana in the back pocket of many outlaw bikers? Attached to that bandana is a master lock. Why? It's an improvised weapon. This may seem weird, impractical, and even outlandish, but in an emergency, even a handful of change in a sock can be used as a weapon to protect you and your family.
Your goal – stop the threat
I once had a driver tell me that, police officers, instead of shooting repeatedly, should just wing the criminal. “You mean like Roy Rogers?” I asked. I went on to describe how in stressful situations any kind of precision shooting, such as winging them, was totally unrealistic. In fact, according to a 2008 RAND Corporation study evaluating the New York Police Department’s firearm training, between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate during gunfights was just 18 percent. When suspects did not return fire, police officers were a little better by hitting their targets 30 percent of the time. You need to understand that most of these shooting are relatively close range shootings. Additionally, it's important to understand that many body functions shut down in stressful situations such that normal shooting accuracy is simply not practical. Your goal is to stop the threat, not play Roy Rogers and wing them, but to stop the threat. Wounding and destruction may be a by-product of your effort to stop the threat. It may not be pretty, but neither is the injury to yourself or your family.
Train, train, and train again
It's very common to see individuals shooting their handguns at 50 feet with as much time as would be necessary to correctly aim their firearms. Although this may be fun, it is not the type of training that is helpful in a home invasion or self-protection situation. Again, your goal is to stop the threat, you don't have the luxury to slowly aim your handgun and shoot at your leisure. You need to learn to point and shoot at a reasonably close target (10 feet or so) and hit the main body cavity with rapid, and as accurate as possible, shots. To do this effectively, you need to train with both target and defensive rounds using a point and shoot method. Don't let the first time you fire your weapon be when you are in a real life-threatening situation.
It's not uncommon to hear boasts of “bring a knife to a gun fight and I win.” This is understandable if you are at 50 paces, but it is critical not to underestimate the danger of knives. In fact, knife wounds have a higher mortality rate than do gunshot wounds. Why? Knives more easily sever arteries and vital organs, while bullets, unless they are defensive rounds with enough distance, often times simply travel through the body (or miss completely).
Not all is as it seems. You are charged with a very critical task – protecting your family and yourself. Too many give too little attention to this. Be different, be safe, learn all you can, train and make the decisions that will advance your efforts to keeping your family safe.
This is not by any means a comprehensive listing. If nothing else, it may get you to think defensively, and change some previously held misconceptions. All that is good.
Always be prepared, be safe.