Are You and Your Property Home Invasion Resistant?

We look at nine top tips to prepare you and your home.

Home invasion can be a very frightening and stressful event. This article provides information and guidance on how to make your house – and the action you take – home invasion resistant. Recently, I heard a fascinating interview with someone who had experienced a home invasion which resulted in a physical struggle. What was different was that this man was a high-end professional fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  How did he fair?  Well you would think it was easy for him, wouldn’t you?

Firstly, huge respect to Anthony Smith for sharing this. It is a fantastically open, honest and humble interview.

The link for the full interview is here.  If you are pushed for time, I have broken the key parts out below. I recommend listening to the whole thing if you have time.

Before I begin, I want to be clear that the following points are not a debrief in what Anthony Smith should have done differently, or what he got wrong; hindsight is a wonderful thing. It is simply an excellent real life example that we can all learn lessons from. Here are some ideas, some of which relate to the interview others which don’t, that can help put your mind at rest.

A good quality security chain is a must.
A good quality security chain is a must.

1. Security. [Interview Time: 11m 42s – 12m 12s & 28m 05s – 28m 48s]. I often hear from people that they don’t need to do a self-protection course because they live in a really safe area and that crime is non-existent.  It doesn’t matter how safe your neighbourhood is, you MUST ALWAYS maintain your security.  It is surprising how many people don’t lock up their houses before they start relaxing. Lock your doors and windows on the ground floor or any easy access point. It is best to have one person whose responsibility it is to at least check that someone has done the job every night and before leaving the house. Of course, we all make mistakes occasionally, but most burglars and intruders are looking for is an easy target. If your house isn’t one, they’ll almost always move on to the next one. The only exception is if they are after a specific person or piece of property. If you don’t have an alarm install one and use it.

2. Plan Ahead. Pre-thinking any scenario will, lead to a better performance if, or when, it happens. Think about possible scenarios and how you would deal with them. Look for safe areas where you can barricade yourself in (see below). Think about how to escape from your house, not just from the ground floor but from upper floors too. Identify which upper floor windows are definitely not an option for escape due to height or obstacles below. Often, houses with garages can allow for egress from an upstairs window onto the garage roof. You can subsequently escape from there. Ensure that you ‘think to the finish’ [1], once out of the house where would you go from there? This may vary depending on what time it is. Rural police stations are often not occupied, even during the day. If your plan is to get to a friend’s house how will you rouse them late at night? Waiting on their doorstep for an extended period of time is the last thing you want to do, particularly if you are being pursued. Make sure that you share the plan with the other adults in the house or do the planning with them. Even those with little or no experience are valuable, as the saying goes, ‘there is no monopoly on good ideas!’ All that the planning really requires is a rigorous application of logic. The process of team planning often helps to clarify thoughts and will get greater buy-in from those it impacts. It is well worth the effort.

Keeping your foot behind the door prevents forced entry.
Keeping your foot behind the door prevents forced entry.

3. Answering the Door. Peep holes are fantastic for checking on callers before you open the door. A security chain is great for keeping people out. But even the dimmest would-be home invader will pose as a delivery person or someone in desperate need of help. Criminals have gone as far as using theatre make up to look like they have been in a vehicle collision. They ask to call an ambulance from your phone. After giving them access they steal whatever items they can conceal and then leave. In this event, even if the supposed victim looks genuinely injured, tell them you will call the ambulance for them. Then close the door and make the call. The ambulance services are more likely to know whether there is an active gang in your area. Even with a half-baked effort by the potential intruder, our confirmation bias will probably lead us to open the door. While wearing a sturdy pair of shoes, open the door a few inches but keep your foot behind the door. Look round the door and look for what their hands are doing. There have been cases of mistaken identity with acid attacks, in this case, lean back behind the door and push the door closed. If someone does try to barge their way in put your weight on the foot that is blocking the door. Ensure that you do not push your shoulder against the door; they will have a run up and your shoulder will be knocked back taking your weight off your front foot. This a particular problem if you are relatively light. Once they have bounced off on the first attempt quickly close the door and lock it. You can then brace the door with your shoulder while calling the police. Trust your instinct, if it feels wrong then it probably is. These criminals can be clever and very adept at conning their way into your house. If you are not expecting a delivery, sign the paperwork or electronic device through the gap then get them to leave parcel on the doorstep. After you have watched them leave you can retrieve your parcel.

Use of weapons to defend your home requires additional planning.

4. Weapons. [Interview Time: 7m 01s – 8m 17s & 27m 17s – 28m 8s]. You may think that weapons are not a consideration in the UK but not only do some people own shotguns, rifles, bows and other projectile weapons but everyone has access to kitchen knives. With projectile weapons you will need to run a quick survey of the walls in your home. You don’t want to risk shooting a member of your household seeking refuge on the other side of a wall. If they are partition walls, they may not even stop a shot gun round. A single brick thickness walls will probably stop most pistol ammunition dependant on the build quality and whether the ammunition is very high power with a large calibre projectile. The main consideration with the employment of any weapon is escalation. You must be completely confident that there is no other option before employing a weapon. Never threaten an intruder with a weapon unless you intend to use it. If the weapon is taken from you in a struggle or by someone you haven’t seen, then you will reap the whirlwind of your escalation. Hesitation will only increase the chance of losing control of your asset. Furthermore, as Anthony Smith finds, when you have a weapon it takes up a valuable hand; this is a particular issue if you are trying to hold someone down. Bruce Lee asserted that if you have a weapon, you focus entirely upon the use of this one item to the sacrifice of all others. This over dependence can become a liability rather than an asset.

Opportune weapons can give a marked advantage if sought at the right time.
Opportune weapons can give a marked advantage if sought at the right time.

5. Opportune weapons. Whether you play a sport that uses and bat or stick, or you have some air-freshener or anti-perspirant to hand these can be very effective for evening up the odds. I’ll be honest, I’m more than a little sceptical about employment of opportune weapons during a physical clash which is advocated by many self-defence systems. If you are in a fight and you are distracted by looking around for something to give you momentary overmatch, then you are probably about to get knocked out. Having said that, if you are in a safe place and have time to prepare for someone breaching your defences then you have time to grab something that you can strike them with or spray in their eyes as soon as they get through the door that will briefly halt your attacker to enable you escape. It is worth mentioning that in the UK there is no such thing as a self-defence weapon; the only legal self-protection product is a rape alarm which emits a very loud tone. Pepper spray, extendable batons and stun guns[2] etc are all  illegal. If someone is in your house, you should assume they are armed with something. Always keep an eye on the intruder’s hands, are they holding a weapon, or do they have their hands in their pockets where a weapon may be? If you can’t see their hands or they have a weapon, maintain your distance. With projectile weapons get as much in the way of walls and doors between you and them as possible and escape as soon as you can.

6. Safe Areas. Avoidance of any physical engagement is of paramount importance. Physical force is unpredictable and must only be used as a last resort.  Losing can result in death or life changing injury and winning with excessive force could land you in jail. To that end, identifying a safe area in your house where harm can be prevented, and assistance can be summoned is important. Consider each room in your house and evaluate how easy it would be to barricade yourself in. Bear in mind that it may be your children or an elderly parent carrying this out so consider whether all those in your household are capable of moving the barricade you have in mind in front of the door. Try to get inside the mind of your intruder and think about the options that will be open to them. Bathrooms tend to be a good option due to generally having a lock on the door, but this will need to be reinforced with a chair or simply sitting on the floor with your feet against the door. In addition to preventing entry you must also think about escape. Ideally choose a room that has a window that you can jump from. If this is impossible, it is imperative that you can summon assistance quickly.  You may want to consider options in addition to the Police as it can take time for uniformed assistance to arrive particularly in rural areas.

 7. Mental Preparation. [Interview Time: 53s – 2m 04s & 15m 14s – 18m 00s]. One of the differences between competition fighting and reality is that you don’t have time to mentally prepare. You must prepare beforehand to be able to switch on total aggression instantly. This generally isn’t hard once you have had the time to think about it and prepare. What is difficult is to keep a lead on it and not go too far. It is also worth training under stress (or as close as you can get to it). It is well known that even trained fighters resort to very basic strikes when under the influence of the Human Stress Response otherwise known as the fight or flight response.  Bear in mind that home invaders may be on drugs and may not respond the way you expect. This is where debilitating bio-mechanical destruction may be required to finish the fight. Anthony Smith mentions that the attacker was ‘super strong’ and very resilient to Smith’s counter attacks despite Smith being a professionally trained fighter.

Knowledge of effective self-protection techniques is essential.
Knowledge of effective self-protection techniques is essential.

8. Learn Effective Self-Protection Techniques. [Interview Time: 2m 16s – 9m 00s & 26m 30s – 27m 13s]. Another major difference between competition fighting and reality is the type of techniques that are allowed. In competitions, it is better to have longer fights that give viewers more for their money, therefore all techniques that finish a fight quickly are banned. I always tell my students that if they want to know what techniques finish fights quickly, look at the list of banned techniques for the UFC for example. The other point with this is that no one wants to see competition fighters seriously injured and having to stop competing. This leads to many competition fighters training in a certain way to automatically avoid these highly effective techniques. This is their livelihood and they don’t want to get banned from competing, so it is no great surprise that’s they are drilled this way. It does mean that even when they are in their pre-fight training camp, approaching peak performance, they are on track to deal with the attacker ‘safely’. That is not to say that the attacker wasn’t badly injured by the ‘competition safe’ techniques employed by Smith. Finding that small trace of primeval fury that is in all of us and training yourself to utilise it at will can be the difference between life and death.

9. Aftermath. [Interview Time: 18m 04s – 20m 59s, 22m 03s – 25m 14s & 33m 20s – 34m 51s]. Don’t feel that you are weak afterwards. The aim of self-defence is to walk away from the contact with your life and without any life-changing injuries, physical or psychological. If you achieve that, you have won. It may not feel like it if you have been robbed or beaten up, but this remains the ultimate objective. Overthinking what happened is easy to do and what may have happened if the attacker was armed or had entered a house occupied by those less capable than you. Try not to think like this, focus on the positives and spend time preparing for the worse case in the future. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a fundamental human requirement, after the base physiological needs such as water, food and shelter have been fulfilled, is personal security.  When this is undermined, for example in the case of home invasion, most victims describe the feeling of being violated. Forceful reestablishment of security measures can provide that critical psychological safe zone from which to heal.

I have huge respect for Anthony Smith and for all that he has done here, it is never easy to relive things like this and he is confident enough to admit his mistakes, not to mention that he continues to be on track to take part in his up-coming fight. This is the mark of a true warrior.

Stay aware and stay safe people!

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[1] Quote attributed to Field Marshal Edmund Allenby

[2] In the UK knives can be carried provided they are a non-locking pocket knife type and under 3 inches in length, however, it is illegal to use any knife in a threatening way.

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