Survival Update

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Prevent a Home Invasion

A home invasion is when intruders force themselves into your house, intent on damaging you and your loved ones. A home invader doesn’t operate like the average burglar or vandal who wants to avoid detection in order to snatch and grab or tears things up – preferably while no one is around.

No, the home invader has targeted you, not your stuff.

Despite all those horror movies that show hapless victims at the total mercy of their attackers, there are steps anyone can take to even the odds when personal safety is at stake.

First, study up on the state and local laws regarding protecting yourself and your property where you live. Colorado has its infamous “Make my day” law (from Clint Eastwood’s line in Dirty Harry). More properly called a castle doctrine, castle law, or defense of habitation law, the idea behind it is the old saying that “a man’s home is his castle.” Of course, the same applies to women.

Castle law “designates a person’s abode or any legally occupied place (for example, a vehicle or home) as a place in which that person has protections and immunities permitting one, in certain circumstances, to use force (up to and including deadly force) to defend oneself against an intruder, free from legal prosecution for the consequences of the force used.”

Colorado permits the use of deadly force when a person is threatened in their own home. The would-be victim doesn’t even have to back down, according to the Colorado Legal Defense Group:

“You do not have a duty to retreat if you are at home, even if you can safely do so.”

The only caveat about this law is that it covers only residential defense:

“Colorado’s Make My Day doctrine applies only when you are at your or someone else’s home or in another dwelling (such as a hotel room).”

Colorado folk wisdom is that if you have to shoot an intruder on the front porch, drag the body inside before calling the authorities. (Explain the drag marks by saying the miscreant crawled inside after being wounded.)

About 20 U.S. states have castle laws that protect people inside a dwelling. The Oregon statute states that:

“a person is not justified in using deadly physical force upon another person unless the person reasonably believes that the other person is:

(1) Committing or attempting to commit a felony involving the use or threatened imminent use of physical force against a person; or
(2) Committing or attempting to commit a burglary in a dwelling; or
(3) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force against a person.”

Second, no matter where you live, no matter how nice the neighborhood, no home is immune from assault. Criminals have cars and use public transportation, after all. But, as with all emergency preparedness, failure to plan is the hallmark of people who plan to fail. Don’t be like those people. Get a clue and make a plan.

The grisly truth is that only about 38 percent of the people attacked in their own homes can get to a phone to dial 911. This means that no first responders (police or sheriff) are ever alerted to the scene until families make inquiries or the neighbors smell something rotting.

Even if an emergency services call gets through, you still need to count on being your own “ground zero responder” until help arrives.

Remember, a petty thief is likely to run away after being noticed. If you flash the outside lights off and on or bark like a dog without deterring the attacker, you may have a violent, dangerous sociopath on the other side of the door, wall, or window.

Here’s what to do if someone is trying to break into your house:


Stay calm and start thinking fast. You have a plan so follow it. Panic never helps resolve a crisis.


Forget all those horror flix where somebody inside breaches the perimeter by unlocking the door to take a peek outside or bring in Fluffy the cat. The screenwriters had plots and about 90 minutes of time to fill. If fictional movie characters used a little common sense, most slasher films would be very short and have happy endings for the intended victims. (Just sayin’.)

A true sicko will also have a plan of some kind, even if it’s somewhat spontaneous and improvised. Someone outside will try to convince the people inside, through a closed or partially-opened chain-locked door, that there is a perfectly good reason why you should let down your guard and open up. “My car broke down, my cell phone died, my dog ran off, and my head is bleeding,” may be true – or a ruse to gain your sympathy and hospitality.

If you can’t see the disabled car or other excuse, err on the side of caution and call 911 to help the stranger. After all, why would they wander so far from the scene of an accident or injury that you couldn’t see it? They would seek help as close as possible to the source of their distress. (This is why horror films take place in the deep woods. If you live in the deep woods, just forget about opening your door. Like, ever.)

Be suspicious of unexpected strangers at the door any time of day or night. A clever home invader may use a disguise – utility worker or delivery person – to persuade you to let them in during broad daylight.

The equally clever home defender will look for a company badge or shirt insignia, as well as a parked vehicle with a business name. When in doubt, ask for identification. When still in doubt, just say no and shut the door.

If you look out the peephole on the front door and see a cop in uniform, make sure there is also a police car out there, too. Ask to see a badge and call the station to confirm this person is legitimate law enforcement.

Calling the police instead of opening the door is the best and easiest way to survive an attempted home invasion.


Prepare for a home assault by stashing a house key chained to a glowstick. If the miscreant entered from the back or a window, the front door will still be locked when the police arrive. Should you be trapped on the second floor during a home invasion after calling 911, wait for the cops, open a window, and quickly and quietly throw the glowing housekey so your saviors below can unlock the front door for easy access.

For this to work, you need to be able to open the window. Although this seems obvious now, when was the last time you tried to open the windows in your house? Check out the ones over the front door and any other place police might assemble outside.

It’s not a bad idea to look for broken glass when you inspect your windows all over the house. Busted windows aren’t helping your residential defense system.