Home Defense: Limitations of the Safe Room Strategy

There is much ado regarding the term “safe room” pertaining to home defense.  The concept of the safe room is that a household will designate a particular room, be it the master bedroom or perhaps a different room, in which to gather and secure during a home invasion.  The theory here is that this designated space will also be equipped with perhaps more highly secure-able doors, and certainly will have available defensive weaponry and a means of communication for dialing the authorities.  All of this is an excellent idea.  You should have a designated safe room and a family defense plan in which you address how you will go about getting everyone in your household into that room in the event of a home invasion.  The only particular problem with the entire safe room concept is simply this:  during a home invasion you may not have time to get yourself and your loved ones to that designated space.  This is the inherent limitation.

Every single time I write or speak about the subject of home invasions there is a particular theme that I reiterate:  they happen much faster than most people realize.  It is a rapidly transpiring event.  By design, an actual home invasion is going to happen quickly because the criminals perpetrating it are intent on overwhelming their victims through shock and awe.  Such home invasions are especially dangerous.  Most breaches of the home statistically are more routine burglaries, most of which are timed to avoid anyone being in the home.  Sometimes such burglaries get deadly when a thief stumbles upon a homeowner that was not supposed to be there.  Home invasions, however, specifically intend to invade an occupied residence.

The use of a safe room is generally geared to withstand one of these more violent home invasions.  These often happen if the invaders have a specific target in mind, such as valuables they know to be in the house, or perhaps the people in the home themselves, and many home invasions also happen when the invaders get the wrong address (intellect is often rare among such members of society).  A significant number of home invasions that are very violent in nature happen when a group of thugs raid a house that they think is a stash house for narcotics, and then they get the wrong house.  Needless to say, when they burst through the door to take narcotics they are anticipating taking it from other drug dealers and they are expecting a fight, one which they plan to win through numbers and violence of action.  Remember this: numbers and violence of action.

Every year we see events in which four, five, or six armed home invaders burst through a door.  Not a good situation.  While it would be ideal to get yourself and your loved ones to the safe room, don your body armor and be holding your AR15, can this be counted on?  Obviously, your security measures of strengthening your doors and giving yourself warning with alarm systems of various kinds comes into play here.  If you have a standard exterior door there is a good likelihood that it is a one-kick-door.  One solid kick and most residential exterior doors will break at the strike plate.  If you secure your door with reinforced strike plates and deep anchor screws you can get more.  Securing a door with a security bar also does wonders, making a one-kick door a multi-kick door.  Nothing you do, short of installing a door like you see on a bank vault, will hold for very long, but reinforce your doors so they hold for longer than one kick.

Even so, a determined group of invaders may get through your door well before you can have your family in the safe room.  What does this mean?  It means that once again we come back to a principle I always espouse: the handgun is the gun of the civilian defender.  If home invaders get through that door before you have time to herd everyone into the safe room you are going to fight that fight and protect your family with the pistol that you are wearing.  Do you wear a handgun at home?  I am a believer in home carry, I carry a gun all day, while out and about or at home, and if you carry a gun in public I suggest you home carry too.

Many people find home carry inconvenient and this is understandable.  For myself, I make the commitment to carry a gun and I simply wear a gun all of my waking hours except when I need to be disarmed for legal reasons.  I find it actually less convenient to have to put a gun on and off when home or going out, so for me I just carry all the time.  Therefore, my first line of defense even at home is my carry gun.  If you don’t home carry the next best thing is to stage handguns in quick-access safes where they are strategically accessible.  You should have a handgun available at least on every floor of the house.  Still, I suggest home carry, because if your door bursts open and you have home invaders standing between you and where the gun is this may be an issue.  The layout of your house may have a lot to do with it, of course, so if you don’t carry at home and you stage handguns put some thought into it.

All homes will have a different layout so you need to plan your own action before any such event occurs.  Make sure everyone in the household know what to do if there is a home invasion.  This discussion should be had no different than a fire plan.  If there is a fire, what will we do?  If there is a home invasion, what will we do?  Older children should be involved in this plan and your spouse should know what to do.  If such an event happens when people are scattered throughout the home things are going to be more complicated.  Perhaps the plan is that your spouse or an older child immediately ushers everyone onto the safe room while you take up a position to defend the door with gunfire in case there is no time to get everyone to the safe room.  If there is time you could cover the door while everyone flees to the safe room at which point you follow.  If things happen too quickly and invaders make it into the home before everyone can make it to the designated room then you will need to fight in the situation you are dealt.

The safe room is a sound plan that all households should have in place but understand the limitations and the reality that there simply may not be time to get everyone there.  Be prepared to fight with what you have on you, preferably, or stage handguns wisely so that they will be accessible.  It is sad that such things need to be considered, but that is the world in which we live, so consider these things beforehand so that you can protect all that you love should you face such a situation.

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