The numbers aren’t comforting. Home break-ins happen all too often—data reported by the FBI show 1,117,696 burglaries in 2019, and those statistics are projected to be higher when the numbers come in from the pandemic years. While most feel safe inside their home, former Army Ranger and self-defense expert Jim Gilliland recommends having an in-place plan should the unthinkable happen. "It's scary to think about, but sadly, it's a real possibility,” he says. “The more prepared you are, the better your chances of protecting your family."
Gilliland recommends a four-step process for proper home protection.
1. Make A Plan
There's not much you can do if you don't have a plan, and it's critical that everyone in the house knows the procedure and can execute it properly. Proper execution can only be achieved through practice, and you and your family must rehearse your home-invasion plan regularly.
"How you plan is up to you," Gilliland says. "The key is developing a system that makes sense and ensures every person's safety. Communication is essential, especially when people are sleeping in different rooms. Cell phones are great because they allow instant communication and can be silenced quickly. If you have children without a phone, be sure they 100 percent understand where to remain in their room or where to move to if a bad situation arises
2. Become Awake & Aware
While he preaches caution and preparedness, Gilliland quickly stresses that noise in the night doesn't necessarily mean a break-in. Houses obviously creak and moan, pets can crash into things, and a teenager planning to stay the night at friend's house might come home unexpectedly.
“The last thing you want to do is jump into action and take a harmless situation and make it dangerous because you failed to let your brain process.”
"Accidents happen when you don't become awake and aware," Gilliland says. "You're dead asleep, you hear something, sit up in your bed, and you're groggy. Before doing anything—calling for help or going for a weapon—get a grasp on what's going on. The last thing you want to do is jump into action and take a harmless situation and make it dangerous because you failed to let your brain process."
3. Go To The Gun
"It sounds a little selfish," he says, "but you have to protect yourself first. "What I mean by that is you can't save others until you can protect yourself. Have a plan in place that allows you to get to your gun and get to it quickly. Lockboxes and the like are great for this."
Once you get to your gun, keep gathering intel. Don't stop thinking. Once you've made the assessment that something is not right, prepare yourself to take action if necessary, but let that action come to you—don’t go looking for it.
4. Call Local Law Enforcement
Don't try to be a hero. Family survival and home protection are the goals, and you should notify local law enforcement immediately. Gilliland repeats that though you might be exceptionally well versed in home protection and familiar with your firearm, law enforcement personnel train year-round and are best prepared to handle these types of situations.
“This isn't the movies, and the last thing you want to do is go creeping around the house looking for a gunfight.”
"If you and your family are secure and protected, don't seek out danger," he says. "This isn't the movies, and the last thing you want to do is go creeping around the house looking for a gunfight. Get to a phone and notify the proper authorities, and if possible, stay on the phone with them. A calming voice on the other end of the line is a positive during a high-stress situation. There is nothing in your home, other than your family, worth dying over. If everyone is safe and secure, only resort to action if you are put in a bad situation."
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