Personal Security and Safety at Home – 10 Ways to Protect Yourself In Your Own Home


There are two basic fundamental principles to acknowledge, accept, and abide by in regard to personal safety and security in your home. The first is this: If a truly determined bad guy wants to get into your house they will find a way in.  Just don’t make it too easy for him. And the second principle is this: You never want to get into an armed or unarmed confrontation inside of your home if it can be avoided. It is the last thing on the long list of decisions and choices you should be making. Lots of really bad things happen to really good people at the hands of bad guys inside their own house. Remember you have one objective, your safety and the safety of your loved ones and it is the only thing that matters. Do nothing to compromise that fact. Ever! That’s your goal and your mission and you cannot waver or deviate from that mission until the all clear signal has been sounded.

Don’t be a hero or you might end up being a dead hero and then the bad guys can do whatever they want with your family. Let the heroes be the guys who wear the badges. It’s what they do for a living. Chances are, your “experience,” is what you have only seen on television. Besides, it’s pretty cool to throw a party down at the police station for the guys who saved you and your family from harm.

Everything that I will discuss here is governed by a set of four principles that I call The Protocols of Action. They are in the correct sequence of application as follows;

  1. Detect  
  2. Evade
  3. Barricade
  4. Engage

In an extreme situation such as confronting an armed intruder, if you do anything that does not comply with the Protocols of Action then you are doing the wrong thing and you better start doing the right things quick, fast, and in a hurry.

But also bear in mind that you still may have to, given no other choice, and as a last resort, take up arms against an intruder to save yourself and your family from harm.  Following the simple principles and steps I’ve outlined below will help you accomplish your mission and avoid the violence that an intruder brings into your home.



  1. Don’t Invite the Vampire In.

Never let anyone inside your house unless they are an invited guest. Do not answer a knock at your door by opening the door.  Ask who it is and then ask them to state their business or reason for being there.  Not satisfied with their answer? Tell them to leave.  Don’t be bashful and don’t be worried about coming off a little rude to a complete stranger. Remember, you’ll never see them again and believe me they are used to it.  And don’t forget we are dealing with your safety and the safety of your loved ones.  Being polite to a potential burglar is never the right choice.  Now taking this even further, you’d be surprised, maybe shocked, at how many people actually invite the bad guys right through their front door.  I t reminds me of the old story that a vampire can only enter your house if he is invited in.  Don’t welcome Dracula into your house.  And drum it into your children to never open the door for anyone, and I mean anyone, not even someone dressed as a police officer.  If it wasn’t you who called the police, call 911 and verify that these are “real” cops at the front door.  If they are actual police officers, they will understand and won’t mind.

Get some way to “see” who is at your front door.  You can get a low cost remote camera and wireless intercom that you can easily mount on your door so you can both verbally and visually identify who is there.  You might want to get a cheap sticker at the hardware store or off the internet that says, ”You are being recorded on video.” It will have an effect whether it’s true or not, because bad guys never want their picture taken.  Just take away this; Never open your door for anyone unless you know who it is and never let anyone into your home unless it is an invited guest.


  1. Install a Security System


Install an alarm system and an internal and external camera system that can be accessed via the internet or a cat 5 direct line.  This is to allow you to see what’s going on both inside and outside of your house in a moment of crisis.  More on the importance of this, we’ll discuss shortly.  Is this expensive? Not really these
days.  You can get simple yet effective security cameras and systems from Costco, Home depot, Walmart and places all over the internet at very reasonable prices. Besides, what is the value of your family’s safety?


  1. Have a Safe Word. 

Remember that the military still uses the password system for soldiers standing watch. There is a good reason for it.  The reason is so that you can tell friend from foe.  How does this apply to you inside of your own home? If you have a family it’s vitally important for their safety and your ability to assess a situation and to tell family members from “unwanted guests.”  If you have children, especially older teenagers or other family members living at home, it is absolutely essential to pick a safe word – the password – so that if you hear a door open after midnight or something get knocked over downstairs, you can immediately assess whether it’s your daughter’s boyfriend hightailing it out after curfew or a bad guy on his way in. And if there are any weapons involved, you have to be sure who’s in that other room. Your daughter should have answered with the safe word.

It’s human nature to call out, “Who is it?” And it’s human nature to answer back, “It’s me.”  Unfortunately experienced bad guys know that same answer too. So you must develop a code word or phrase that has a programmed cue and response. Why so complicated? Because I guarantee that if you only have a response word, it won’t work.  I’ll explain. Let’s just say that you only have the password, “jackrabbit.” When you ask, “Who is it?” The reply you will receive back will be 9 times out of 10, “It’s me.” The reason is that that response is programmed into us since we learned to talk. And in a potential crisis situation you need to know exactly who you are dealing with.  You need a specific question or cue word that is never used in normal conversation such as “Who is the dog?” And the response would be “Rover” or the name of your cat or some cartoon character, just make sure it’s something that no one will forget.  It has to be something that’s never used anytime else and it has to be different and specific enough that there can only be one response, the correct response.  That way you won’t shoot the shadow coming down the hallway that is actually you son or daughter.


  1. Get a Dog. 


Now I‘ve already mentioned in a previous article the importance of a dog as a deterrent against a break in, but the dog is also a defender and protector – a Guardian Shepherd.  For this purpose if you can, get a big dog.  If you are a true dog person, then a German shepherd is a good choice.  You’ll need to spend some training a dog such as a shepherd. So that’s why I said, “If you’re a true dog person.”  If you are a hands off pet owner then there are plenty of less assertive breeds that are also territorial and protective of their “family.”  Let the dog have the run of the house, he doesn’t need a password and he can always tell a friend from a stranger.


  1. Take Control of Your Lighting.

Contractors don’t build for security unless you ask them and building codes are more for the safety of the structure not for the type of security I am talking about here.  Assess your lighting and pick one light, maybe two, downstairs in the living room, the dining room, or kitchen.  Then pick one or two upstairs, whatever gives you the most illumination overall.  Then either have an electrician rewire those two or three lights so that they are on a three way switch that you can control from a wall switch on the side of your bed.  Or, you can install some remote control units, usually in a wall plug and plug lamps into them.  Keep the
remote on your nightstand.

The goal in this is that if you hear a noise, you turn on the lights – all of them.  Bad guys do not like light.  Sometimes just the light going on is enough to scare them into running away.  Don’t forget the outside lights.  On all of the Emerson Compounds I have a bunch of motion controlled floods along with motion controlled solar floods to brighten the night and scare away the Zombies.
And always have some bright, rechargeable, flashlights in your bedroom and in all of your family member’s bedrooms just in case your power is taken out.

As long as I’m on the electric kick I should mention that you should always keep your cell phone and the recharging unit in your bedroom, because you want to have that phone within arm’s reach all of the time.  It will be your only contact to the outside world in the event of a crisis.


  1. Pick a Safe Room.


Pick your safe room and reinforce it.  Now, I’m not talking about steel sheeted walls, unless you want to but at least get a solid wood door with reinforced hinges and a couple of deadbolt locks or industrial slider type locks that can only be accessed from the inside, perhaps one going up, at the top into the jam or header and one going down at the bottom, into the floor.  This is not complicated. Essentially what you’re doing is putting an outdoor entrance door on an inside room.  Try and pick a room that has outside walls along the exterior of the house.  A bathroom is not a bad choice.  They usually have fairly strong walls due to the
plumbing and many times they have cement backer board with tile cemented onto them.  Although it may seem a bit crowded with the whole family in there, remember that you are going there for temporary safety.  Just try not to pick a closet where you need to retreat directly behind the door – in the line of fire. Now, what do you need in your safe room?


  1.  Get A Gun.

I’ll say that again. Get a gun.  Get more than one.  Teach your entire family how to use them safely.  I’m not going to get into what type of guns to buy so I’ll just say one word – Glock.  I won’t get into one of those pointless debates about caliber size so I’ll just say two words – nine millimeter.  Let’s just say I’ve got my reasons – valid reasons.  You might want to get frangible ammunition for use in the house.  At least check that option out. You should have at least two guns that are exactly the same.  One you will store with extra ammo and magazines in the safe room.  One you will store by your bed.  

What you need to do is go to Home Depot or on the internet and buy some metal, battery powered, keypad lock boxes. They look almost like a thick metal briefcase with a suitcase handle on one side. Pick the same combo for all of them.  The reason I say get more than one is that if I have to send my wife and kids to the safe room if I can’t make it, they’ll have a gun and so will I.  You will need a couple of more things for that safe room also.  Always bring your cell phones with you into the room.  Have some cell phone chargers along with flashlights and batteries in the gun lock box also.

You will also need a command word or order for safe room evacuation.  It could be something as simple as Safe Room! Now! That will work just fine.  Just be sure that everyone knows the command and that it will never be spoken unless it is a real emergency or a drill.  If they ever hear it they’ve got to know it’s serious and it’s go time.  Another reason that I favor the gun box is that no one can get into it except for those who know the combo and if we do have to retreat (Barricade) I can just grab my box like a briefcase next to the bed and we’ll have two boxes of goodies with us in our safe room.  

As an aside, I used to play baseball.  I have quite a few baseball bats that I’ve collected over the years along with all my sons aluminum bats from little league.  You’ll never see them but I have a baseball bat handy in almost every room of the house.  I had to put them somewhere and now they’re ready for me to “swing away” if I ever need to do so. Does that sound a bit paranoid? Well I have had quite a few credible death threats over the years and I abide by this maxim: “Be ready so you don’t have to get ready.”

Remember when I said to be sure that your security system is setup for WI-FI?  Well you should always keep a charged WI-FI tablet in the safe room. I actually have mine directly connected via cat-5 cable so I’ve got direct access to the system.  My system’s brains are hidden in another secure area that no one would be able to find or disable while we are in the safe room.  There are many reasons to have access to your system from inside the safe room.

  1. I can see where the bad guys are both inside of my house and outside of my house.
  2. I can see when the police roll up.
  3. I can advise the police where the bad guys are when they get here.

I also keep a first aid medic/trauma kit in the room with Kwik Clot, tourniquets, gauze and two boxes of super absorbency Kotex napkins.  I also have ballistic vests and night vision along with some other things but that’s just me.

Why did I suggest a safe room with outside walls earlier? Because outside walls are the strongest walls on the house. However do not pick a room with ground floor windows, for the obvious reasons, unless you can metal shutter them from the inside.  If your safe room is upstairs you can get away with windows as long as you don’t leave an extension ladder next to the house.  But always have some fire extinguishers in the room and if it is upstairs get a fold-able fire escape ladder.


  1. Do Not Fight For Your Stuff.

Only fight (Engage) if you feel that you and your family’s lives are in danger.  That’s the only thing really worth fighting for or dying for.  Let’s say you hear a noise and you go downstairs to, “investigate.”  You’ve got your gun and you “know how to use it.”  You creep through the dining room just into the kitchen door where you see him.  You raise your gun slightly to take aim. In your head your voice shouts,”You son of a….” BANG! You never finish the thought as your lifeless body slumps to the floor, half of your skull blown away by the other bad guy holding the sawed off 12 gauge on the other side of the doorway. He was standing in a place you didn’t look because you only “saw” one bad guy and all of your focus was only on him.  

So now they’ve already committed murder.  What do you think is now going to happen to your wife and kids left upstairs with no one to defend them?  You do not know what you are about to walk into and unless you are a real door kicker, you don’t really know how to clear a room.  Unless you are a real gunfighter, you really don’t want your very first gunfight to be your last.  Leave that job to the professionals.  Stay where you can best protect your family.  In this case you have to let them bring the fight to you.  If they never come upstairs then you’ve done your job…correctly. If they come upstairs to get you then you fight and you’ve done your job…correctly.

Remember when I said that survivors make the right decisions?  Think about that for a moment.  Come on guys it’s not about being a coward or not “stepping up.”  It’s about being smart.  Survival in any crisis event is about making choices, the right choices not the wrong ones.  Remember I said you never want to engage in armed or unarmed combat inside of your house.  Think about it, this is not a robbery or an attack out in the street where you are ambushed and have no choice but to fight back.  And this is not a fist fight with some drunk in a bar over some girls honor.  If you get into combat or a gunfight inside of your house and it’s probably because you decided to walk right into it.  

Break in robberies involve a higher risk type of criminal and they can be very violent.  They are almost always armed and there is a high probability that they are not alone.  What number was Engage, in the four Protocols of Action?  That’s right the fourth one.  The last one.  The last choice.  Given the choice, it’s definitely never the first choice.  Staying alive means staying smart, no matter how stupid you might want to be.


  1.  Develop the Proper Mindset.

Never forget your mission. What is that mission?  To save the lives of your family.  Nothing else matters.  Your safety doesn’t matter.  You will give your life to protect them.  You will do anything and everything to protect them.  You will attack with Violence of Action and Ferocious Resolve to protect them.  You will fight to the bitter end with all of your might and you will never, ever give up. You will kill to protect them.  You are a Warrior and a Guardian Shepherd and you only live to keep them safe.  

I’m going to leave you with three anecdotes that I use in my classes.  As fellow trainer, “Rory Miller” states so eloquently, “Make my kids orphans or his kids orphans?  That’s a no brainer.”  I also ask the students; What do the U.S. Marines do when they are ambushed or attacked? They counter-attack with overwhelming firepower and Violence of Action. And I always bring up the quote from an old west, outlaw, gunfighter when he was asked how he survived so many gunfights.  He simply said, “The one who wins is the man who has the coolest head at the most dangerous moment.” You have the coolest head.  You are the protector and the defender.  There is no higher calling for a Warrior.


  1. Have a Plan and Stick To It.

Have a plan and have everyone well aware of and well versed in its execution.  If anyone deviates or goes “rogue”, it can compromise the entire mission. And the goal of the mission is to get everyone through the crisis event safe, unharmed, and alive.  If someone decides to, “do their own thing,” it can get everyone killed. Everyone must be disciplined to the rules of the plan and they must keep that discipline while under the pressure of a crisis event.  

So, if everyone has done everything according to your plan, what do you do when the bad guys are banging on your safe room door, trying to get in?  Well you should already have called the police at the first sign that your perimeter has been breached and someone should be staying on the line with them.  Keep them on the line, it’s important.  You or someone should be yelling loudly at the bad guys on the other side of the door something like this; “I’ve called the police!  They’ll be here in a minute!  I’m armed and I’ll shoot if you make me! Get out of here now!  Now I want you to think about what I’ve just said.  It’s not just words.  It’s a finely crafted defense you can use if you have to shoot and kill someone.  Remember I told you to keep the 911 operator on the telephone all of the time?  There are a bunch of obvious reasons for this but it’s also so they can hear you say those words to the bad guys.  And they will weigh heavily in your favor in court.

Let’s take a look at them.

  1. “I’ve called the police…”  You’ve done the right thing by calling the proper authorities.  You did not take the law into your own hands.
  2. “They’ll be here in a minute…”  You are reinforcing that you are relying on the police as the first choice for your safety and protection.
  3. “I’m armed and I’ll shoot if you make me…”  This statement is critical.  It will read to the court that you have warned them and given them the chance to cease and desist.  In fact you warned them twice (I’m armed. I’ll shoot).
  4. “I’ll shoot if you make me.” This reads both to the D.A. and the court as; I don’t want to do this but you by your actions are forcing me to do so. I had no choice left but to shoot.
  5. “Get out of here now.” You have given them yet another chance to stop and retreat. You have exhausted all of your other options.  

Of course, that is if they continue trying to break down your door. If they run, you’re safe and you can’t shoot, ever.  Let them go. The police will get them eventually.

But, if you are pushed to the end of this dead end road, you must be ready, willing and able to pull the trigger, again and again until they stop. Please remember that they may be armed too so never place yourself directly in front of the door on your side.  This is also where the inside security cameras come in so handy.  Be sure to have a hidden one viewing the outside door of your safe room.  You can tell if they’ve got weapons, if they’ve stopped, if they’re still there, if they’ve run away, or if they’re lying dead on the floor.  


In the end, like I said at the beginning everything that you do, your education, your preparation, and your execution must be held to the Four Protocols of Action – Detect, Evade, Barricade, Engage.  These protocols come direct from the battlefield and are the same as taught to the world’s military elite and law enforcement agencies.  After all, a battle is a battle, and whether it’s in a cave in Afghanistan or in the upstairs of your own home, the principles do not change and the survival of your team is all that really matters.


Copyright Ernest Emerson 2016

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