CRASH!! I sat bolt upright in bed. There was a smashing, clattering noise from my living room. I heard another thump, a scuffling sound, and then silence. Wide awake and hyperventilating, I knew immediate action was necessary before the crazed machete-wielding intruder in the next room could finish the job.
Sliding quickly to the floor, I obtained my bedside pistol from its secure hiding place, grabbed the fanny pack containing spare magazines and a flashlight, then cautiously padded to the bedroom door. I slipped into the short hallway leading to the living room, said an abbreviated prayer, crouched, and flipped on the light switch.
There, in the middle of the living room, was our dog blinking in surprise at the sudden brightness. She presided over a large pile of trash from the kitchen wastebasket, a piece of moldy spaghetti dangling from her mouth. She looked at me quizzically, as if to say, “Hey boss. Just havin’ a snack.”
I put the safety back on my pistol after momentarily pondering where I could hide her body.
Hearing a noise inside your home at night is perhaps the single most common tactical emergency that most people will encounter during their lifetime. Given the 110% likelihood that you will personally experience a possible “intruder” during sleep hours, I thought we should discuss a few points on how to respond to those big midnight frights.
Above all else, when an unusual sound is heard inside your home, you have an important choice to make: offense or defense. Most of us automatically choose to go on the offensive in order to make that darned burglar sorry he ever chose our house for his nightly work. But in many circumstances, that might not be the best idea.
If everyone in your household can quickly gather in your bedroom or is already in a position of relative safety, common sense suggests that you stay put and protect the “ground” that you already own. Experience from several thousand years of warfare has found that an attacking force generally needs to outnumber a defending force by a ratio of three to one for a reasonable chance of success. Therefore, unless three of you move to investigate, the odds aren’t good for the intruder. Also keep in mind that if something happens to you, a major part of your home’s protective force is gone.
If you are absolutely sure that someone is in your house and there aren’t other family members in danger, grab your weapons, hunker down behind a bed or substantial piece of furniture, and have someone dial 911 (preferably your bedmate, tonight playing the role of “sexy communications officer”).
In the meantime, loudly challenge the intruder using your best Wrath of God voice and announce that you are armed. The person on the phone should be keeping an open line to law enforcement so that responding officers know you are armed and there will likely be a recording of your actions in attempting to warn off the intruder.
At this point, if the bad guy continues toward your position, take appropriate and necessary action—repeat as necessary.
Of course, most incidents never reach this point.
Typically, the situation is ambiguous enough that you’d feel silly invoking a major law enforcement response for what might simply be the sound of grandmother’s fern falling off the windowsill. Since realistically we’ll be investigating most of these instances, keep a few things in mind.
Use lights to your advantage. Most homes have light switches positioned so that you can illuminate the areas ahead as you leave the sleeping quarters. While you should still be carrying a high-intensity flashlight, use of overhead lights prevents nasty little surprises such as a bad guy hiding behind the credenza.
Verbally identifying yourself isn’t a bad idea, either. If someone intended to harm you, they would probably do so immediately upon entering the premises, whereas burglars typically want to escape whenever possible. Therefore, announcing your presence will likely cause them to flee.
Don’t worry about giving up the element of surprise. Our ultimate goal is to stay safe rather than capture or engage in gunplay. Remember that even if you’re very good with weapons, sometimes the other guy gets lucky.
When clearing an area of intruders, speed isn’t important, because it is a matter of careful and thorough checking rather than a hostage-rescue mission. If you don’t have a good working knowledge of slicing the pie, fatal funnel, and other standard room-clearing concepts, you might not want to check the house on your own anyway.
Someone inside your house might not be a criminal. I’ve handled several instances where drunken friends, neighbors or even strangers have entered residences while under the impression they had made it to their own home. If you have teenagers, there is the distinct possibility that someone is sneaking in or out. The bottom line is you shouldn’t automatically assume that the person standing in the middle of your living room is a threat. Be sure of your target before taking any irrevocable actions.
Think about what happens if you do capture someone. Arguably the best position for a prisoner is arms and legs spread as they lie face down on the floor. Never attempt to search or otherwise secure someone unless you have ample help. Stay behind cover and give loud, direct commands while also relaying information to your backup person or even an imaginary partner. If the bad guy decides to leave, let him go. You won.
There are probably a few more points to cover, but I just heard the unmistakable sound of someone eating moldy bread in the foyer.