Your Front Door Is Not A Safe Space
The same way complacency can be routinized, so can situational awareness.
DISCLAIMER: We here at this blog endorse only lawful and safe behavior. Always consult the relevant legal code first before you engage in actions with potentially serious legal ramifications. Take only reasonable risks and ask yourself first if you can live with the consequences.
I’m sure many of you are wondering if I’ve got anything to say about the Israel-Gaza war currently under way. Boy, do I! I’ve got a lot to say about it, but it’s taking me time, as usual, to put it all together, not to mention my modus operandi is to take my time observing and not allow my thoughts to take precedence over actual events.
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So rest assured, you will have plenty to read and react to in due time. Again, I wish I could push out content more quickly for you, if only because writing can be utterly exhausting at times, but also rest assured that I’m doing the best I can under my unique circumstances.
Today, I want to bring your attention to this heart-stopping video out of Kent, Washington, located in the Seattle metropolitan area. A middle-aged couple, returning home from a night out, narrowly escapes a home invasion as they enter their front door. There’s little in the way of graphic content, so I hope you’ll watch this video:
Do you see how quickly the situation changes? The only reason the couple is alive and well today is because the woman just happened to turn around (likely because she heard something behind her) and see the invader just in time. Even then, it was still a very close call.
The thing that ought to stand out to you in this video is the near total lack of situational awareness involved. It wasn’t until the very last second either of them noticed what was happening. This is far too close and too fine of a margin you’d ever want to bet your life on. I’m pretty sure both of them felt safe because they were at home, if not inside their home. But the area outside your front door isn’t any sanctuary. It’s a transitional space and transitional spaces are where you’re most vulnerable.
The term “transitional space” is self-explanatory, but I’d go further and say it’s an area in which occupants have little to no control over the environment. In other words, it’s an area where you’re physically exposed. The reality is, unless you’re behind some kind of barrier you can control access to; i.e., inside your home; you can’t let your guard down and expect to be safe. Situational awareness is important in every setting, but it’s literally the only proactive defense you have when you’re in an environment you don’t control.
The other reason why transitional spaces are where we’re most vulnerable is because we are often hyper-focused on a task. In the incident in Kent, the almost-victims are hyper-focused on opening a door (it appeared to use a keypad lock) and walking from their vehicle to inside their home. It all seems so simple and it’s something we do a million times a year without any issues. But it’s in the midst of routine that complacency and normalcy bias are bred. All we’re doing is walking from one point to another and we’ve done it a million times without a problem, so why would there be a problem now?
It’s hard for many people to accept, because we take safety for granted and think that as long as we’re doing something totally innocent and routine, trouble should never find us. But there are bad people out there looking to take advantage of others in a distracted state, so while the numbers might be on your side, when the odds don’t work out in your favor, you need to be prepared, lest you become a victim.
This means you need to have a plan for something as simple as pulling up to your residence, exiting your vehicle, approaching your front door, and getting inside your residence. It sounds absurd, but face it: you may not want to wage war on crime, but crime is waging a war on you. War is a thinking person’s game, so you need to act like it. Plans don’t need to be complicated; the simpler, the better. The same way complacency can be routinized, so can situational awareness.
How can we successfully plan out something like leaving your residence to returning to your residence?
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
Know how long it takes you to get from your residence to your vehicle and back: One day, try walking to and from your personal vehicle carrying nothing in your hands and see how long it takes. Then time yourself while carrying your briefcase, groceries, etc. It’s going to differ for all of us, based on age, physical fitness, etc. Consider these times your “Vulnerability Windows.” It’s during these times you need to be most alert and aware to what’s happening around you.
Get in the habit of constantly looking around and listening: Avoid tunnel vision. There’s no benefit to it. Human beings aren’t naturally great multitaskers, but we’re not one-thing-at-a-time creatures, either. We multitask far more than we realize, so keep your eyes peeled. You can afford to look around every few seconds and keep your ears open. If you make it obvious, you at least keep would-be predators honest and let them know you see what’s going on around you. If you’re not aware of your surroundings, then what are you aware of?
Scan your residence as you depart and as you return: Sometimes, the bad guys strike as you leave your residence. Other times, the bad guys show up as you return. In both cases, they’re trying to take advantage of either an unoccupied dwelling or take advantage of you in a distracted state. Look for unfamiliar vehicles and people at or near your residence. No, not everyone is out to get you. But unless you’re keeping an eye on those around you, you’ll never see someone who is. Only the unaware can be taken by surprise.
Don’t leave your house or your car until you feel it safe to do so: It costs nothing, nor is it a matter of living in fear, to wait until you feel it’s okay to step outside. In most cases, the best form of self-defense is a shelter of some kind, even a temporary one like a vehicle. Sure, if you’re in a driveway and your assailants have it blocked off, that’s a bad situation to be in. But being inside the car, windows rolled up and doors locked, can still buy you time, even if it’s a few seconds. If you live in a populated area, honk that horn and get the attention of your neighbors. Call 911 and get that speakerphone turned on. Even if you can’t say anything to the dispatcher, they can at least hear what’s going on and if the call stays connected long enough, the dispatch center can zero in on your location and send police to the scene. How ever you can, get that distress signal out!
Be armed: This is a controversial one, but facing criminals unarmed, even when they are, is a bad idea. Most criminals tend to be young and/or male, meaning they’re able-bodied and have a bottomless pit of aggression from which to draw fuel from. No matter your physical condition, you’re going to have your hands full dealing with an aggressive attacker even when they’re smaller than you, to say nothing of multiple attackers. If they’re armed, then you’re in serious trouble. Either way, going hands-on always poses high risk, which is why being armed is a good idea. Weapons deter attackers and also allow you to defend yourself from a distance. You may not want a gun or a knife, but you ought to have access to at least a blunt-force object (like tools) or pepper spray. Having defensive measures in your vehicle or easily accessible around the exterior of the house (something innocuous like a shovel) can at least temporarily level the playing field and give you something to fend off attackers with. Just don’t expect to win a hand-to-hand fight with a determined attacker, especially if you’re older or in less-than-optimal physical condition.
This brings me to the most sobering point: the law. I spend countless paragraphs talking about the scourge of anarcho-tyranny and how you can never count on the state to be on your side following a self-defense situation. Broadly speaking, however, the law, even in the most anarcho-tyrannical of jurisdictions across the country, recognizes that you possess an unassailable right to safety in your own home. But does that courtesy extend to the area immediately outside your home?
As with all things, it depends. The way to simplify matters is to always remember: use violence sufficient enough to stop the attack, if only temporarily. Once you’ve stopped the attack, get to safety; get inside the house, drive away, run to a neighbor’s house, etc. Don’t burn the small amount of rope the state extends to each of us to exact vengeance against your attacker.
Sure, that line between justifiable violence and excessive violence is blurry. Short of outright killing your attacker, it’s difficult to know for certain when you’ve stopped the attack; it may only be a temporary reprieve. But this is why you need to be focused on getting away from your attacker rather than trying to inflict harm on them. There’s a difference between the two. If you can get away to safety without having to hurt your attacker, that’s as good an outcome as any, because you’ve achieved your primary goal.
That said, once you recognize you’re being attacked and reacting violently becomes necessary, your immediate response must be decisive and explosive. By that, I mean you must fully commit to defending yourself and you need to be willing and able to inflict harm on your attacker. If that means grabbing that shovel and swinging for the fences, do it. If that means delivering a nose-shattering punch to the face, do it. What you don’t want to do is chase after them in hopes of inflicting more damage or taking them into custody. That’s where you can get into trouble, both legal and physical.
Though using undeniably deadly force - like shooting and stabbing - can be viewed critically even when the suspect presented a clear and obvious threat, less-lethal or non-lethal defensive measures are regarded as more reasonable because it suggests you weren’t trying to kill your attacker, but to merely fend them off. If you kill or maim your attacker, deserved as their fate may be, it comes at the cost of having to explain to the authorities that you weren’t actually trying to kill anyone and that you were trying to save yourself from being killed. You better have a lawyer you can call in a pinch if you ever end up killing someone in self-defense, because you’re not going to win that battle on your own.
Regardless of how an incident ends, whether your attacker loses their life or not, you need to be able to demonstrate you did everything other than use violence to protect yourself. Even the Castle Doctrine doesn’t provide a blank check with which to employ force against a perceived attacker. You don’t need to be “right,” you’re allowed to make mistakes, but those mistakes need to be reasonable. You’re not going to have a whole lot of control over events, so you need to ensure you’re in as complete control of your actions as the circumstances allow.
Of course, being inside your own dwelling affords you the best protection in most cases. The point isn’t that we all we need to hunker down and lock ourselves indoors, leaving our sanctuaries only to acquire food and supplies, as if we’re living in a post-apocalyptic zombieland. It’s that we need to be able to recognize danger when it happens and be ready to get inside and batten down the hatches. Even if it comes down to the use of deadly force, you tend to stand on firmer legal ground when you’re somewhere you have an unquestionable right to be versus out in the public, where I think we’ve established already that you stand on equal ground with everyone else.
Just the other morning, there was a home invasion in Auburn, Washington that was thwarted by an armed resident. As the legal resident of the dwelling responding to a clear and obvious threat, there’s no question as to the justification of this shooting.
Here’s the home security camera footage (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT):
Again, being in your own home doesn’t warrant you full license to kill anyone you perceive as violating your premises. It simply affords you wider latitude with which to use force. There’s always risks to firing through a closed door and the situation may not always be as clear-cut as the one presented in the footage above. Again, you’re allowed to make mistakes, but not only must those mistakes be reasonable, you’re not going to have any control over whether prosecutors, a grand jury, and potentially, a trial jury, see it that way. Regardless, the Auburn resident had all their bases covered: in the safety of their own home, motion-activated exterior lighting, security cameras, and, as a last line of defense, a gun and a willingness to use it. This is what it takes.
Having a defensive plan for your home and immediately outside your home is an absolute must. I don’t care if you think it’s “unfortunate” that we have to be willing to invest the time, effort, and money into protecting ourselves and our loved ones. Expecting bureaucrats and strangers to make life safe for you is what’s really foolish, even in a place where safety is more or less a given. Don’t insist on personal autonomy while insisting others place guardrails around you or safety nets to catch you when you fall. And don’t, under any circumstances, expect the bad guys to restrain themselves!
Finally, if you’re serious about being responsible for your safety, download the Nextdoor app and monitor it regularly. I’ve spoken about it previously, but you’d be surprised at how much goes on in your neighborhood, even in the supposedly safe areas. Nextdoor has a divisive reputation, to put it mildly, but get real: if we’re not allowed to talk to each other about what’s going on in our communities, good or bad, then what are we allowed to talk about? The surest sign we’re living under an increasingly totalitarian social order is the extent to which we’re not permitted to notice plainly obvious things happening all around us. We’re not voting our way out of this crisis, so if you want to know what you can do about it, just notice. Notice and speak up, while it’s still legal to do so. It’s the greatest act of defiance there is in this day and age.
I’m going to close with yet another incident from the Seattle area (Ballard, Washington). It’s safe to say disorder has become a part of life in many areas of the country, so much so that people are willing to take up arms and confront the bad guys themselves:
You may not be willing to do what these two gentlemen did in this video. You may even disagree with their actions. But ask yourself: if things really aren’t that bad, why would anyone take such a risk? There’s only two answers that make sense: either they’re criminals, or things really are that bad and they realize there’s no help on the way.
What about you? What’s your plan for making it safely to and from your residence daily? Share your ideas in the comments below.
UPDATE: After publishing this piece, a few other guidelines came to mind for safely making it from your dwelling to your vehicle/other destination and back:
Move as a unit: Something else that bothered me about the incident out of Kent, WA is how the couple were separated from each other at the start, to where neither could support one another in case a problem arose. I suppose it makes sense in certain respects to have someone go ahead and open the door to the residence, but generally, there’s safety in numbers. More important, when you move as a unit, that front door is less likely to remain open for as long, since it takes less time to enter the residence than it would if one person entered and someone else straggled behind. Impractical as it may seem, you need to think tactically and sticking together, even when moving a short distance, is a good tactic, especially at night or if you have children, elderly, or someone who isn’t able-bodied due to poor fitness, health, or handicap.
Don’t leave the front door, nor any entrance, open for longer than necessary: This goes along with not stepping outside your residence or vehicle unless you feel safe to do so. Don’t talk to me about how they don’t need to close and lock doors in some place, somewhere in the world. That’s not where most of us live, nor are most of us ready to pay the price of living in such a world. Securing your property comes first and foremost down to closing and locking your doors. Again, do what’s most practical in the moment, but my general rule of thumb is this: if you can’t see a door to your residence while it’s open, it should be closed and locked instead. Applying the principle of “positive control” to anything you do can save you a whole lot of trouble and not just with respect to personal safety.
Did I miss anything?
Max Remington writes about armed conflict and prepping. Follow him on Twitter at @AgentMax90.
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