Imagine you and your family are asleep in your home and at 2am you hear a downstairs glass window breaking. You hear voices laughing and cursing, saying that they are going to F-Up you and your family. Based on the historical length of violent encounters, you know that this whole violent situation will likely be over in 1 to 3 minutes.
This is not a pleasant scenario, but I am setting the stage for you to do a mental exercise. I will not give you solutions; rather you will. As Gavin DeBecker describes in his must-read book, “The Gift of Fear” you already have within you much more knowledge than you might first think. Join me as I lead you along a train of thought and as you consider my ideas, I ask that you challenge them, all of them; you are in charge. From these ideas and your own, I challenge you to develop potential solutions.
Who Shall Protect Us? A professional team of warriors would be a good choice, perhaps a military Special Forces group, a team of private “security” contractors or perhaps your city’s SWAT  team. These men with their High Speed Low Drag (HSLD) gear, training and mentality would be an excellent choice. They will happily respond if your situation warrants it; how close in distance and time do you think they are to your home? Let’s assume they have just been executing search warrants and are all geared up, mobile and ready to go. In another stroke of good luck, they are working only five minutes away from your home! Yeah! Let’s keep this as one of our options!
Another choice would be your local government law enforcement responders, a group of men and women that shoot an average of 200 qualification shots with their pistols each year, do not know what you or your family looks like, are not friends with your dog, have never been inside your home or studied its layout and are at least 2+ minutes away. (Contact your local law enforcement agency and inquire about their average response time to emergencies, it is probably at least double what I assumed above.)
Most of these nice folks have received between 20 and 160 hours of training on dealing with emergencies like yours, and 2% or so regularly practice martial arts, paintballing, shooting and tactical maneuvers; perhaps they will be the ones that respond. These people will also collect evidence and write a report of what happened, including detailed descriptions of your family’s blood splatter patterns. Consider how much time an average cop spends gathering evidence and writing reports compared to actively using their hands and tools to counter active and dynamic violence. I do not aim to disparage cops, I do however suggest that we remove our romantic movie-based views of them and consider what their true capabilities are.
A third choice would be for you and your spouse to respond tactically to the situation. What good can you do though? You don’t have a police uniform or a star or shield to pin on your chest or access to criminal record checks. You have not been to a 6-month police academy. What could you possibly do? You are helpless, right?
Perhaps you are helpless, but I suggest that you are not. I propose that if you and your spouse spend even an hour each week developing your skills, within one year, You will be the best of the three options above. Depending on how much preparation you and yours are willing to do, this will require a lifestyle change.
What kind of “training” can you do without a level 1-alpha security clearance? What can you do to prepare? Following are some suggestions, not all are necessary and the list can be as big as your imagination allows. I suggest making all of these fun! If you are having fun doing them, you are more likely to continue and will think of your training as fun recreation rather than a chore.
Take your spouse on a date to play paintball every few months! Spending an hour learning from the school of hard balls to use concealment to observe and record in your subconscious your adversary’s movements and pre-motion indicators along with many other tactical skills will be of great value.
Take classes in hand-to-hand fighting. It is prudent to evaluate your personality before beginning. If you habitually start diets and don’t stick to them or join gyms on New Year’s Day with big plans for the year, then drop out by the end of January; perhaps you don’t have “ideal” self-discipline. Yes, this is a weakness, and one that I share with you. Until we fix this weakness, we should be realistic in our training. Studying Taekwondo or Judo might not be the best option for a person lacking in discipline. These take many years of dedicated study to turn one into a tough guy. Mixed martial arts, boxing, and many other styles dispense with the “extras” and focus on fighting immediately. Hiring a private tutor for a monthly or twice-monthly lesson who is an active or retired MMA  fighter that is able to communicate well with you and your spouse and comprehends your goals might be an excellent option. To be competent, you will absolutely need to practice on your own.
Watch some felony fights on YouTube and search for real street fighting videos. These show how things really happen in a real fight. Use these graphic and perhaps upsetting videos to make up your own scenarios, “What if I walk into a gas station and a drunk guy shoves me in my chest and I fly backwards and hit the store shelves, what could I do?” If someone has your spouse in a headlock, what exactly would be a good way to respond? Consider many scenarios and think about responses.
Learn the defensive tactics that cops and security personnel use. If you have someone “proned out” at gunpoint and police are 20 minutes away, how should your spouse handcuff and search the man for weapons? If you are alone and have someone proned out and police are nearby, should you approach them to handcuff them? How do you put someone in a position of disadvantage to search them and handcuff them?
Investigate personal protection dogs. Contact an expert like Ridgeback for advice on solutions for all budgets. Dogs can serve not only as protectors in a fight, but more importantly can help prevent the fight from ever happening.
When you and your spouse dine out, select restaurants that allow you to “people watch.” Come up with your own secret codes for evaluating people. Perhaps “nice lady” means a person that a criminal would likely target for robbery, so when you see an affluent woman in furs with a thousand dollar purse walking with a slouch and ear buds in her ears you can say to your spouse, “She looks like a nice lady.” Look for “victims” through the lens of a predator and look for predators with the lens of an astute observer. Doing so will help you learn not to be a victim or appear to be potential one.
Read Terry Vaughan’s entertaining book on reading body language, “A Dad’s Guide to Screening Your Daughter’s Boyfriends.” Read “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker and “On Killing” or “On Combat” by David Grossman. Play poker with friends or at local tournaments, focusing on improving your ability to read the subtle “tells” of others. This important skill set can help keep you safe.
Find local IDPA  and USPA  matches and compete frequently. While the stress of a timer and a handful of observers does not exactly replicate the stress of a home invasion robbery, it is a good substitute. Be humble at these matches and identify the nice folks that shoot well. Ask them to watch you and give you tips.
Find a good shooting instructor and learn some basics of tactical shooting. Be careful in selecting an instructor, of the more than 100,000 instructors in the US, few are “excellent.” 3 Hours of private instruction with Gabe Suarez, Clint Smith or another Top-25 Shooting Instructor will cost the same as a 40-hour class at a certificate-mill academy, but some believe that you get more bang for your buck. Admittedly, I am biased, and do agree. J
Use your local instructor for a 1 or 2 hour tune-up every few months, and if your budget allows, use your shooting instructor much like a personal trainer in a gym. They will be able to guide you through great drills and help ensure that you are doing things properly.
Visit your local shooting range and practice shooting as much as possible. Buy a Dillon reloading machine to make this practice much less expensive. Set a goal of 500 or 1,000 or 4,000 rounds per month of practice.
Dry practice at home! You can practice the most important fundamentals without live ammo. Your draw stroke, front sight focus and trigger press can be practiced safely thousands of times. Many Top 25 instructors suggest that 90% of one’s practice be dry practice.
Take the NRA’s  Personal Protection Inside the Home and Personal Protection Outside the Home or other similar courses.
Practice safety drills with your family. Make this a fun exercise and include your children. Make your practice age appropriate, but I suggest you push the envelope to make it as realistic as possible as you and your family play your, “Defending Our Castle” game. Does everyone know where the safe room is? Does everyone know the 4 keys to punch to call 911 on your cell phones? What other tactics are appropriate to teach and practice? Perhaps you might also play a game rehearsing roles of each family member if you witness a serious vehicle collision right in front of you or if your house catches fire. It is important not to frighten your family into thinking that a violent threat is imminent.
If you have a friend that is a cop, go over scenarios with them, keeping in mind that your goals are not identical. Good cops will happily share tactics with you if you are a normal peaceful person. If you have a friend that just returned from a war zone and has experience performing violent home invasions, ask them to help with your defensive plan.
Play a sport at least twice-monthly that requires fast reading of your opponent’s body movements. Basketball, boxing, soccer and many other sports will help you not only in understanding and predicting body movements in others but are also a great way to stay fit.
Send a Christmas card to the patrol division of your local law enforcement station, they will probably put it on their bulletin board. Have it include a picture of you and your family in front of your home with the caption, “Happy Holidays from the Doe family at 1234 Elm Street.”
Build a few gear bags or gear vests. If you shoot one intruder and the other is being held at gunpoint by your spouse, do you have a way of securing the intruder with handcuffs, zip ties or duct tape? Would a flashlight and maybe your old cell phone (charged) be handy? (Remember, cell phones without active plans still work for 911.) What else should be in the bag? Pepper spray, an extra car key, a key to your neighbor’s house…?
Evaluate your neighbor’s mentality and coordinate with them appropriately. If they have their heads buried deeply in the sand, at least hint that if anyone ever starts a neighborhood watch program, your family would enjoy being involved. If they are more savvy and trusted, perhaps they would allow you to hide a laminated simple floor plan of your house in the middle of a magazine hidden on their property. Might you do the same for them? Might this be of use to a responding cop, “There is a floor plan of our house under the South end of the camper shell at 1254 Elm Street.”
Learn about use of force standards and relevant laws. Recognize that you will be sued if you ever shoot someone, even if you were absolutely justified in doing so. Recognize that it will cost tens of thousands of dollars for you to “win” and get rid of the ridiculous lawsuit. Consider that you are not only morally better off, but also financially better off if you can solve problems peacefully without seriously harming anyone.
Multi-tasking practice is a great way to improve your skills. Why not practice your draw stroke while sitting on the toilet, and perhaps throw a few punches and do a few parries. Each time you walk through your house alone, pretend a bad guy is playing hide and seek and is hidden somewhere. Use your imagination to develop drills, perhaps connecting them to tasks that you will do anyway. Perhaps each time you urinate you practice American Kenpo inward and outward blocks five times. While brushing your teeth with your strong hand, practice eye gouging moves with your weak hand. What else?
I hope the above ideas have helped get your brain wheels get turning. I hope you have already decided that some of the ideas are really dumb and are not right for you and yours. I also hope some of the ideas will serve as a foundation on which you can improve and implement. Every single idea has pros and cons, and it is up to you to weigh them. I will make the bold and controversial suggestion that if you train better than cops and know your equipment, know your home and your family better than cops, that you are pretty darn capable!
Objections? I promise that if you show this article to a police officer friend, they will advise that most of it is ridiculous and that you should not try to “play cop” and handcuff and search people; after all you are not as highly trained and practiced as they are, are you? They will likely advise that you plan to call 911 and let the professionals do their job.
I will not argue with those that disagree, I was once a cop and would have taken their side knowing what I knew then. I still recommend that one of your first steps in a violent emergency should be to call “911 SEND!” My suggestion is not that you eliminate government law enforcement’s response, I only suggest that you prepare to handle the situation until the cops arrive.
About The Author: Shepard Humphries is a former Police Officer, having served in Investigations, Patrol and SWAT as a sniper team leader. Shepard resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he operates several small businesses including an executive protection and security consultation firm and two firearms related businesses, the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience  and Counter Violence Institute. He provides shooting instruction, consultation and public speaking services in Jackson and elsewhere.