Security is all about your current situation.

As you spend a significant amount of time at home, I will start there. Do you leave your doors wide open all night? No? Then you already think about security. The next step is to recognize whether your locked doors can keep out someone intent on causing harm to you and your family, at least long enough for police to arrive. I have heard the saying ‘locks are for honest people’. They tell people you don’t want them to enter. But if they could easily circumvent the lock, either by kicking down the door or going through a window, they could be in your home in a minute or less. Do a walk around outside your house to see if there is enough lighting and if there are bushes that may hide a potential burglar and should be cut back, and how inviting/rich/accessible your house appears compared to the other houses on your block.

Why worry? I can just call the police, can’t I? Ask your neighbors and the local police about their response time. In an city/urban area, from when the police are called, if there are no other priority calls sending the police elsewhere, and the dispatcher recognizes that the issue is dire and prioritizes your call appropriately, police can arrive anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. In a more rural area, you could wait 30 minutes or more. That’s if you’re lucky! If the intruder means you or your family harm, you could all be dead or seriously hurt before the police arrive. Don’t take this the wrong way. I highly appreciate and support the police. But they are unlikely to arrive in time. So you need to harden your home to slow down the intruders so they either give up or the police arrive before the intruder gets in.

What about defensive weapons and training, you may ask? Yes, I highly recommend them. Whether that includes tactical firearm training, and the appropriate weapon on your person or in a quick-access mechanical safe bolted to the floor or wall, and/or baseball bats, kitchen knives, and sufficient martial arts training to use them effectively, your FIRST and most important objective when in your own home is NOT TO NEED THEM! The aftermath of a defensive shooting, while way better than violence against you or your family, can still be expected to be horrible. To paraphrase the saying, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Prevent a home invasion, and you won’t have to try to stop one in progress.

So how do you improve your home’s security? The best options are to (1) live somewhere with a low crime rate if you have a choice, (2) replace your doors and door frames with ones that can’t be kicked down (unfortunately this can get pretty expensive, but it is well worth it), (3) window safety film to prevent easy access through windows, (4) window alarms and a general alarm, preferably with a doorbell camera, (5) Get quality security cameras. You might say “But cameras don’t keep anyone out!”, and you’d be right. But cameras are a great deterrence on a house. Unless you are being individually targeted, intruders look for easy targets. If they think they are more likely to be caught, they will go elsewhere.

The next step in Security, when outside your home:

You’ve probably heard of situational awareness, namely being aware of your surroundings so you are less likely to become a victim. If you are listening to music or on your phone while walking, an elephant could walk up behind you and you’d be oblivious. You don’t need to do a lot to be aware of your surroundings. Looking confident as you walk will help as well. I would say avoiding dangerous locations such as dark alleys in bad neighborhoods at 3am would also be a good idea. That said, you may not succeed in avoiding every attacker. So what should you do to improve your situation? Here are some basic ideas. Top priority when walking at night is to have a small but powerful flashlight, preferably in your hand (not just in a pocket). Don’t use a piece of junk, or something so expensive that you worry about it being stolen. A metal flashlight with a ridged end can be used as a force multiplier if shining it in their eyes is insufficient. Beware of cheap flashlights sold online which claim to have more Lumens than they really do. Go for quality every time.

If you live in a location that allows you to carry a firearm for defense, and you have the temperament and mindset to only use it as a last resort, do so. Recognize that to use it effectively you need training, confidence, and a lot of practice drawing from concealed holster, something you don’t get at the average indoor range. As in everything else, don’t get a piece of junk, and use quality defense ammo. Also, keeping it concealed allows the element of surprise, something usually only available to the attacker. Learn firearm safety, teach it to your children, and practice it always. Keep it in a quality mechanical quick-access safe when not on you. Those who think they would never make a mistake are more likely to do so. Safety first and always.

As a backup, I highly recommend pepper spray, but practice with it! If you don’t practice, you are unlikely to successfully use it when needed. Go outside in your back yard when there is nobody around, figure out which way the wind is blowing so you don’t have it blow back in your face, and practice pulling out and spraying the pepper spray until you are confident that you know what you are doing. A pocket knife would be useful, but there too, you need some training and practice, and check the laws in your area for what type of knife you can carry. Another option is bringing attention to the attack with a personal alarm, though don’t use it exclusively, as you can’t expect people around you to do more than call 911, if you’re lucky. As an addition to other items, it can be helpful, though it will hurt your ears more than anyone else’s ears. DO some research and find something that works, and is legal in your area.

When in buildings, such as shopping, kid’s school or house of worship:

Don’t just shrug and hope that nothing bad happens today. While you should not get all stressed about it, neither should you ignore the possibility. The first step is ensuring you know where all the exits are, not just the one you entered or just the closest exit. This is useful in case of fire, or a power failure as well. Of course, the more general recommendations above under ‘outside the house’ still apply when indoors but not at home. But in particular when in the types of places that have been targeted by bad people in the past, have a plan and stick to it. When possible, speak to the head of security and ask what they are doing to keep you and your family safe. Make recommendations, if you think they may listen. If enough people ask, they just might.

While traveling:

There are many similarities with walking, as you will frequently be walking to or from your car at gas stations, or from bus/train to another one, or while taking a break or stopped for the night at a hotel or other location. But as you aren’t near your home, you need to have planned your trip to ensure that you are less likely to put yourself in harm’s way and that you can recover from things such as having your suitcase or wallet stolen. Another example would be checking the weather each morning before continuing your drive, as that snow that’s coming down might not seem so bad until you’re on the highway and see all the trucks in ditches on both sides. That initial awareness will save a lot of headache.