Home invasions have spiked in Durban in recent weeks, and fortunately in most cases residents have escaped unharmed or sustained only minor injuries. But it’s important to think ahead of time how you would handle ending up face-to-face with what is probably high up on your list of ‘worst nightmare’ scenarios – a gang of armed intruders inside your home.
Blue Security managing director Henk van Bemmelen, who has worked in the security industry for more than 20 years, has some sound advice to survive a home invasion. It could make the difference between an already violent encounter turning really nasty, resulting in injury or tragedy, and your family managing to escape physically if not psychologically unscathed.
1. Probably one of the best defences against crime is to live by the simple rules of a “security conscious” lifestyle. Take basic precautions like keeping doors locked during the day and at night. You would be surprised at how many times armed robbers simply walk into a house or an apartment where doors have been left wide-open or unlocked.
2. Prevention and detection are key. Make sure intruders cannot get into your home or onto your property, and that if they do you have an early warning system. Use layers of security and switch on the electric fence and external beams when the family is at home, while making sure burglar bars are secure and point to point window beams and contacts are all in top shape.
3. Criminals tend to be brazen and will try to work their way through these layers of security, but these buy you time in an emergency to run and lock your family in a ‘safe room’ such as a bathroom in your home. Equip this room with a plastic bag (to protect against steam damage) containing a spare panic remote and a charged cellphone with airtime. Regularly test these devices.
4. The main bedroom is not a wise choice for the ‘safe room’ to escape to because criminals tend to believe, mistakenly, that every home has a safe and they often attempt to bash down the bedroom door to gain entry. This could result in a potentially dangerous face-to-face encounter.
5. If you come face-to-face with an armed intruder in your home, try to stay calm. Speak slowly and avoid any swift movement. Keep your hands in sight so that the intruders do not become nervous or think you are attempting to wield a hidden weapon.
6. Avoid eye contact and do not resist their demands to hand over valuables. Fighting back raises the risk of injury or tragedy, but if you co-operate with their requests it’s far less likely that you or your family will be harmed.
7. Criminals are acutely conscious that your security company’s armed response officers are just minutes away if the alarm has gone off, and they will race against the clock to grab your valuables. Any attempts to slow them down or to fight back could make them nervous or frustrate them and lead to violence. Research by criminologists has shown that where intruders spend a longer period of time on the property with victims the chance of violent injury escalates.
Unfortunately we live in a society where crime is rife and criminals are constantly upping their modus operandi to thwart home security measures. But local security companies and residents are also heightening their home security awareness, and working together more than ever before, according to van Bemmelen.
So instead of merely stressing out about crime, get involved with your neighbourhood watch and network with neighbours. Share crime intelligence about suspicious vehicles and individuals lurking in the streets before they get a chance to strike in their next home invasion.