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Securing the First Homefront

Written by Scott Oldham

You would think that as law enforcement officers, we would all see reality for what it is, harboring no illusions to the cruelty of it all. You would think that over the years we have spent on the street, we would have learned that horror and tragedy can happen at a moment’s notice—to anyone. Hopefully we have attempted to train and equip ourselves to meet the challenges that may face us each day as we climb in our squad cars.

We all want to feel that we are the absolute kings or queens of our castle and the ultimate protectors of our clan. After all, that is the role we play in our communities, so most certainly that should be our function at home. The problem with this belief, however, is that we are not always within our realm and able to jump to the defense of our loved ones, nor have we left a massive security staff in place to guard the castle in our absence. In essence, we have left our families vulnerable, unless preparations have been made to ensure their safety.

With that in mind, exactly how much thought have you given to what could happen if there were an emergency at home and you were absent? What training have you provided your significant other in regard to self-defense? Are you depending upon the local quick reaction force to come to their rescue if there is a problem, or have you taken time to show them what to do in the face an emergency?

If you are like most officers, there is probably a firearm or two regularly left in the house. Yet how many of us have taken the time to show others in the home how to operate these weapons efficiently in a crisis? Have they simply been told to “point the weapon at the threat and pull the trigger”?

Most American men, and a significant amount of American women, feel that they came straight from the womb with some superhuman ability for combat. We all know this is simply not the case. Most untrained individuals fail miserably when adrenalin is injected into episodes of personal conflict. Some will freeze in the face of adversity, some will ignore the danger, and yet others will overreact and get themselves in deeper trouble than when they started.

As an officer, you have received numerous courses in self-defense, less-lethal weapons and firearms, and have most likely passed little to nothing of this knowledge on to those who depend on you the most for their safety and security.

How have you trained—and yes, it is your responsibility to train them—your significant other or family members to respond if they are faced with an intruder in the home? What course of action has been instilled in them so that they will default to that choice during the crucial moment? Will they yell and scream? Will they fight? Will they surrender? What exactly, if anything, have they been taught?

As law enforcement officers, very rarely do we stop to think of what is going on at home while we are away righting wrongs on the street. We all want to think that our home is a safe place where we can retreat when our jobs are done for the day.

Yet the reality is that home is not always a safe place. Home is still a place where situational awareness must be maintained. Plans and preparations for potential emergencies should be in place with all adults and older children.

Come to grips with the reality that you will not always be there for your family. Come to grips with the thought that there is a significant chance you will not be there with them when the moment comes. It could be something as simple as a minor injury, as heart-stopping as a home invasion, or as potentially catastrophic as a region-wide disaster (such as a major earthquake), but something will eventually happen.

Officers need to realize that their mates are not helpless; they simply lack the training and equipment that has been afforded to the officer as part of the law enforcement profession. Thus, it becomes the officer’s responsibility to provide those same benefits to his family so that they are prepared to survive in the face of any predicament.

Start simple and make this a family project. Take a first aid course with your spouse. First aid has a universal appeal as everyone can see the need for it, and it is easy and cheap—often free—to obtain. Buy a good first aid kit for the home and keep it well stocked; it is worth the cost even if only used once.

Think strongly about sending your loved one to a good firearms training course so that they are prepared to use the weapons that you leave at home with them. Better yet, go to the course with them. Take some vacation time and have some fun with your spouse, while at the same time making sure they have the skills and abilities to protect what you have built together.

Once training is in place, take an inventory of exactly which items and equipment you have in the home and what you need to obtain. Again, start slow. Does your family stock extra food in the house, or are you like many Americans who go to the grocery two to three times a week? Many of us in this generation grew up with grandparents who were children of the Depression.

If you are one of those people, your grandparents’ home was most likely overflowing with food. It may not all have been what you wanted to eat as a child, but the home probably contained at least several weeks worth of edible food for use during a shortage, man-made or otherwise.

Looking at disasters around the globe, can we not conclude that perhaps the same standard that our grandparents used for food storage should apply to our generation? Especially in homes with small children, there should be sufficient food stored for days or weeks of secure, secluded living.

For those in multi-climate locales, do you store good sleeping bags? Extra blankets and cold weather gear? How about medicine? Is there a sufficient amount on hand to deal with even the mildest interruption of supply?

Even if you answer “yes” to the above questions, have you taken the time to sit down with your loved ones and prioritize what they should take if fleeing the home becomes necessary? What do you think would be important for them to take if they were to leave, and where would they go? Such decisions need to be made well ahead of time, not on the spur of the moment.

Perhaps it is time to heed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s advice by having enough food and water on hand for a minimal event and having pre-planned responses to most eventualities that could befall your family. They also suggest that you pre-package emergency supplies in bags and store them in a specific place within your home so that your family can simply grab these emergency kits and run, if or when it becomes necessary.

There is so much to try to anticipate, so much to attempt to plan for. But this is your family we are discussing. This is the life you have chosen to build with your significant other that you are attempting to preserve in the face of adversity, so do not take this topic lightly.
Hopefully it will never happen. Hopefully you and your family will go through your lives without the specter of crisis and catastrophe ever affecting you. But for those unlucky few that will be touched by crime, natural disasters or other unfortunate calamities, preparation is the key. It is your responsibility to make sure that your family is prepared and equipped to survive without your presence.

In the end, it is your responsibility to provide for the safety and security of your own family. Train and equip them for any possible event so that you can go about your work protecting society knowing that your family is safe while you are doing so.

Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the City of Bloomington Police Department where he serves as the tactical team leader. He can be reached at oldhams@bloomington.in.us.

Published in Law and Order, Jan 2010

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