Tactics In Home Security; or, Everybody’s Going To See Your Hoo-ha Anyway


In addition to physical confrontations, symbolic forms of fighting between reality and individual desires are the daily bread of anyone who is alive. The physical violence that the hero … has to deal with is the most dramatic example of something that everyone experiences in daily life: conflict. Conflict with friends, lovers, people who cut you off in traffic. Internal conflict with one’s laziness, weakness and lack of discipline. Conflict between desires and possibilities. Conflict between dreams and closed doors. Conflict between one’s ideals and ones’ behavior. Heraclitus was right when he said that conflict is at the root of all things. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

So I had an “unplanned security drill” yesterday, when my home security system alarmed. Turns out that it was the motion sensor in the ground floor of the garage, which is the same sensor that gave an apparent false alarm a few weeks ago. In both cases, no evidence of any intruder could be found- so I’m making an appt for a technician to come out and adjust the sensitivity of that sensor downward.

I’m unhappy that this occurred during my work rotation, because it resulted me being woken up (after having taken a melatonin) in the middle of the day, and of course my insomniac self was not going to be able to get back to sleep after that brou-ha-ha. But since it did happen, let’s dissect this “drill” for lessons to be learned. It made me think through a number of things that I ought to have thought through earlier so as to be better prepared. Next time I will be better prepared.

The good: My reaction time was surreal. There was no sleep-fuzzled “Whafuck???” moment. I instantly knew exactly where I was, what the cacophony was, what I had to do, and where my gun was. I was immediately fully lucid, whipping the covers off, rolling to my feet, seizing the gun, and whirling toward the door in much less time than it takes to tell. I was very adrenalized but my mind and body were fully functional and ready for anything- including shooting someone to death, if it came to that. No shakes, mental white noise, indecision, none of that. There was fear, which was clinically acknowledged and then placed on the shelf. I was good to go.

The bad: I ran out without my glasses. I wasted a precious two seconds debating and then decided that getting them in hand and unfolded and on my face would require too much time and fumbling, and maybe even putting down the gun momentarily (which was NOT going to happen).

Improvement point: from now on, place glasses UNFOLDED on bedside table and put them on in between “roll to feet” and “seize gun” steps. I really am so much more competent at EVERYTHING when I can see.

Improvement point 2: It is probably worth it to take an extra few seconds while in the reasonably defensible position of the upstairs bedroom to double-check my grip on the gun. I tend to not choke up high enough on the grip- especially with my left hand- when I first pick it up. If I have to shoot, there’s not going to be time to correct the grip at THAT juncture, and it may be enough to ruin the shot. I have a revolver, with only five shots, and I understand that it’s easy and common to panic and empty the gun immediately. I need to keep my cool. Count each bullet and make each bullet count. (Wow. That’s good.)

The good: the cats, for the most part, remained frozen in place and refrained from rocketing around and getting underfoot (or in blind, elderly Teddy’s case, tumbling ass over teakettle down the stairs to land in a broken and dying heap at the bottom, which would have been extremely distracting).

The good: I was in my nightshirt. Why is this good, you ask? I once had a heated debate with a colleague who had heard a suspicious noise in the middle of the night, and got up to scramble into her clothes.

Kitsune: “Are you nuts? You didn’t go for a weapon first? You’d rather meet an attacker clothed and unarmed than naked and holding a weapon???????!!??? What the hell is wrong with you?”   Frustratingly, she didn’t see the logic, and no doubt would make the same choice again.

What’s wrong with our culture (WOMEN in our culture) that they would make that choice? What the bloody fuck do you think having your jeans on is going to do to deter the guy who just broke into your house to rape and murder you????!!!????? Why would you not want to spend those precious seconds- maybe YOUR LAST- looking around for something- anything- you could HIT him with? (This is assuming you are too much of a sheep to have a loaded gun by your bed.) Hell, your nudity might distract him long enough for you to get the first strike.

Everybody’s going to get a look at your hoo-ha anyway after the Bad Guy RAPES you and leaves your nude CORPSE lying on the floor. SHEESH.  Think about this, ladies. Don’t be an idiot. Cast your blushing modesty to the winds and grab a fucking baseball bat and defend yourself.

Needless to say, this was not an issue for me.

The good: Early on, this thought went through my mind: “It’s broad daylight, and I’ve already had a false alarm from that garage sensor. Odds are high that this is a false alarm,” Yet I proceeded as if it was real. I think I would have treated it as even more real had it been the middle of the night and had there not been a recent false alarm…. but still, I took it seriously. It’s stupid to put in a security system and then not take it seriously. You might dismiss something as a false alarm, and the next thing you know, the Bad Guy is standing over your dying body.

The bad: That “middle of the night” thing…. this bugs me to admit, but let’s get real. I work mostly nights, I’m not (usually) scared of the dark or anything, but my sneaking suspicion is that I will be terrified shitless if this same thing happens at 2:30am.

Not being able to see when faced with an opponent/attacker intimidates me. This is a fact well established in my long history of training all sorts of MA.

I like Stephen King, I like Nightmare On Elm Street, I’ve looked up all the sex offenders in my new neighborhood to see what they look like and where they live and exactly what they did. The victim-in-the-dark-house mentality is deeply ingrained in our society. As much as I like to try to be all hardass and One-With-The-Night, if I’m going to be terrified shitless with an alarm going off at 2am, I’d rather face that and prepare for it as best I can instead of living in denial and getting unpleasantly surprised with the extra element of impairment when/if the time comes.

While I’ve been out and about at night alone- even in not-so-good places- and felt comfortable with that, It’s always given me a vulnerable feeling to be in a lit building alone at night- especially in a remote area- because I feel like I’m exposed on a lighted stage while anyone could be lurking in the dark all around and preparing an attack. I feel that if my alarm goes off in the middle of the night, it’s really a better strategic decision to leave the lights off. I know the house, and a theoretical attacker doesn’t. I won’t be able to hear clues to his whereabouts due to the shrieking alarm- but then, he won’t be able to hear me either.

To this end, I had already stashed a flashlight in the drawer of my bedside table. After this incident, though, I think I am going to make a (n Improvement) point of placing my REAL tactical Surefire flashlight on my bedside table (*on* it, not in the drawer) beside my (unfolded) glasses and my gun. 

(Note also that I need to find a local supplier for the expensive exotic lithium batteries that it eats like candy, which I have not managed to do as of my recent move, and have at least one backup set on hand).

The good: When I got downstairs, I MOSTLY had my priorities in order. While it’s rather instinctual to want to go straight to the alarm panel and turn off the shrieking and howling, I ignored it and checked out the side door and door to the basement (the two points from which an attacker seems most likely to emerge) first, brandishing the gun at the ready. Then I scanned the living room, deck door and deck. Then I went into the kitchen and plugged the landline in so that I could take the call from the security company. The position in the kitchen by the phone jack is a decent defensible position.

The bad: I could/should have paid a little better attention to the following areas: the office, bathroom and closet (clustered together), the deck, and the kitchen (as I was rounding the counter.) It is possible for someone to break in via the office window and be either in there or in the bathroom or closet when I get downstairs. I didn’t turn my back to these areas, and I don’t think this was the time to search them thoroughly, but I think I mentally dismissed them as “probably safe” too hastily. Likewise the deck. There are a lot of windows, but there are still places on the deck where a person could stand/kneel and not be visible from inside. Kitchen- it is possible that a person could crouch behind the counter, and I should have swung a wider circle as I rounded the counter and had a scan before just charging in there.

The not-sure: It’s going to be a decision-making point whether to go to the kitchen and plug in the landline to take the call from the security company or not. If I fail to do so promptly, they will send the police. Nobody enjoys hauling the cops out, sirens wailing, for a false alarm (in your nightshirt). If I do so *TOO* promptly, and it turns out to be a real alarm, I will be hurrying to the kitchen and/or talking on the phone instead of focusing on my defense while the Bad Guy is lunging to kill me. I guess I will have to make this decision on the fly depending on how scared I am. In this case, since it was broad daylight and there had been that previous false alarm, I decided that I needed to find out if it was the garage sensor. If it was, it seemed reasonable to scale my Code Red down to Yellow. If it hadn’t been, my Code Red would have increased to

Related: if I decide to not go take the phone call, it becomes another decision point whether to go downstairs at all (this is assuming I’m in bed when the alarm sounds). The bedroom is a defensible position. It would be difficult to get in through the upstairs windows. Any invader would likely have to come up at me via the “Chute Of Death” (ie the enclosed stairwell- thanks Rory Miller), where I could shoot down on him or shoot at him when he appeared in the bedroom doorway.

(Unrelated improvement point: it just occurred to me that as difficult as it would be for an intruder to come in upstairs, I likewise lack any plan for an alternate avenue of escape if there should be a fire blocking my route down the stairs. Need to address that. Should also take one of the two fire extinguishers upstairs and get a third one for the basement, maybe a fourth for the garage.)

Additional not-sure: It will be another decision point whether or not to go to the alarm panel and turn the noise off. In this case, once I found out it was that questionable garage sensor, I elected to do so at that time. If I should decide to simply remain in a more defensible position and let it wail, I won’t be able to hear the Bad Guy. (And vice versa- so I guess it’s even.)

Improvement point: once I found out that the alarm was the garage sensor, I decided to go out and have a look. The alarm company asked if I wanted the police. I said no, but could she call me back in 10 min? She said “Okay, we’ll disregard” and then said that she couldn’t call me back, but that I could call HER back. I capitulated, but in retrospect, this was a suboptimal plan. I should have been more firm about us not “disregarding” so hastily, and made a better plan for the remote yet unpleasant possibility of me getting attacked when I went out to check the garage. I wanted her to call me back in 10 min, and if I failed to answer, call the police. This is apparently not one of my options with this particular security service. But me calling HER back meant of course that I was on hold for twenty minutes. Maybe I should have asked her to stay on the line while I went out to check, and call the police if I didn’t come back on in 10 min. Or, if there was really no better option permissible, simply go ahead and summon the police. Better safe than sorry (dead). It would be really ironic if we “disregarded” the alarm, I got murdered when I went out to check the garage, and my disappearance didn’t get questioned until days later when I failed to show up at work.  I think I will try to address this question with someone at the security company.

The good: I think I handled the search and clear of the garage well. After scanning the two front doors, I went to the back door (which is windowed) and looked in. Then opened the smaller front door and did a dynamic clearing of the room.

The bad: Although the upstairs garage storage room has a door alarm- which didn’t go off- I didn’t even think to glance up there. I should have at least done a brief check of the door. And to make sure nobody was squatting up there on the rear garage deck to pounce on me as I was peering into the glass at the back door. That was dumb. I also should have had a peek behind the retaining wall. I had my back to it while I was examining the garage. That was dumb too.

The good: By this time, I was confident that it had been a false alarm, but I still did a search of the house before going back to bed.

The bad: it could have been a better search. I think that even though I felt confident, I probably should have checked *all* possible hiding places before going back to bed.

The Ugly: Although my brain was too busy and my hyper-vigilance over every tiny sound wouldn’t let me get any significant sleep after this whole thing was over, I did somehow manage to drop off for just long enough to have a dream about confronting an intruder in the house, shooting him and having my gun NOT GO OFF. Thank you for that, subconscious. I can always count on you for a confidence-building rah-rah just when I need it most.

Note: Insights offers a “dynamic room/building clearing” class, which I never found terribly intriguing for a civilian until yesterday- when I found myself having to search my home, gun in hand, looking for a possible intruder. Now I can see why I might need it.

Insights also offers a class on how to make your home more secure. That would be a good one to take as well.