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Be Your Own Safe Space

Preventing fires in and around your residence is pretty easy. We all recognize the iconic image of Smokey the Bear, and his message about putting out campfires, and we know not to let our kids play with matches. When my oldest was in Cub Scouts, we drew up a fire-escape plan for our house, and then we—out of all the families in the pack—also drew up a home-invasion plan that laid out where our safe room was and what he and the rest of the family should do if a there was a “bad guy” (or guys, or gals) in the house.

I was fairly surprised that I, out of the dozen parents there, was the only one who had drawn up a home-invasion plan. What are the chances of a deadly home fire versus the chances of a deadly home invasion? If you live in the Phoenix area, as we did at the time, you got used to hearing stories on the news every week about deadly home invasions. Deadly house fires, however, didn’t happen all that often.

Securing your home from burglary or home invasion is not that difficult. The three things to keep in mind are:

  1. Secure the exterior
  2. Strengthen the interior
  3. Prepare a refuge

Secure the Exterior

You know that old joke about the two hikers running from a bear and the one turns to the other and says “I don’t have to run faster than the bear, I just have to run faster than you!”? That’s what the outside of your house should look like. You don’t have to live in Fort Knox to be safe, you just have to make your home appear just a little more difficult to break into than the home next door.

If someone really wants to get into your house, they’re going to get in, but any casual burglar is going to look for the easy mark and not the bank vault. A yapping dog, a decorative security door, or even a low-rising and thorny decorative plant under a window will help convince the bad guys to look elsewhere. One new gadget that I really, really like is an internet-enabled door bell which allows you to see who’s on your front pouch from anywhere in the house or anywhere in the world.

Strengthen the Interior 

So the bad guy hasn’t gotten the hint from what you did to the outside of your home and has decided to try to enter your abode with malice on his mind. A burglar alarm with perimeter sensors which includes a panic button that calls the police for you when you don’t have time to press digits on your phone is probably a good idea. You can also make the inside (and outside) of your home more secure by replacing the short screws holding your doors in place with longer, more robust screws that go deeper into the frame. Locks on the windows and a strengthened patio door are also great ideas. 

Prepare a Refuge

Welcome to the worst day of your life. At this point, there is a real and present danger to your life and the lives of your loved ones, and you need to get to safety. Walk through your home and find a room that the entire family can quickly get to in a time of danger, then prepare that room to be the place where you’ll defend everyone. That’s your safe room. Replace the lock and hinge screws on the door to that room with stronger screws that go deeper into the jamb, or replace the door altogether with something more robust. Have a flashlight and first aid kit here, along with an old cell phone plugged into the wall to call for help. Consider storing a dedicated self-defense gun in this room. Your safe room should be somewhere in your home that you can get to quicker than someone who’s just broken into your home and is a place where you will wait until more help arrives.

Everything in my house is replaceable, except for my family so—unless I know they’re in danger—I’m waiting for help to arrive in my safe room, rather than searching through my house where I might encounter trouble. We accept the fact that our homes may catch fire, so we should also realize our homes might be targeted for violence and plan accordingly. Accidents (and crime) happen: It’s what we do to prepare for them that determines a successful outcome.

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