The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The World of Iniquus - Action Adventure Romance

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Home Invasions: Information for Writers With Anti-Terrorist Expert Rock Higgins


English: A photo of S&W Mountain Gun M625-6 .45 LC
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona -
This week, I posted an article on FB/Twitter about a recent home invasion, and Rock Higgins and I thought it would be an excellent blog topic.

Although I have written on this subject in my book, Meditations of a Modern Warrior, LINK there is more that can be discussed on this issue and here, Fiona Quinn and I will shed some more light on the subject of home defense.

Fiona -  
Let me say that my remarks are geared towards writers who are trying to write their scenes right, and Rock is the professional who will keep real humans alive and well. To learn more about Rock and his book go to this  LINK 

Let's take a minute first to explain the difference between a burglary and a home invasion.

A Burglary -

* Happens when there is no one home.
English: A door lock broken during an attempte...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Usually happen during the day or when you
   are out of town. (So please don't put your
   fab plans for going to Paris out on social
   networks or make your plans generally
   known - you can share afterwards when
   you have the photos.)
* While some burglaries are done by
   opportunists, typically they are planned and
   the criminal knows quite a bit about you,
   your set up, your schedule, and your
* If you get home and find something off - do
   not go in and investigate it alone. Call the
   police. Maybe you think one of your kids
   just accidentally left the door open.
   Minimally, you can get a neighbor to hang
   outside with your kids and the phone ready
    to dial 911 while you go do a 

Home Invasion - 

* Happens while someone is home. 
* A criminal who is coming into your home
   at night will assume that there is going to be a confrontation.
* Confrontations are to be avoided when possible. So it is important
    to be a HARD TARGET.
* Reason they might choose a home invasion:
   `Their plan may be to get someone to open safes or give pin
   `They plan a rape
   `They plan to inflict harm/kill the people inside

Being a hard v soft target

English: The "YL88 Digital Lock Adjustabl...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Lock your solid-core doors with quality
   locking systems.
* Drill peep holes at your level and the
   children's level so they can see who is
   there, too.
* Lock your windows on all levels of the
   house not just the ground floor.
* Plant thorny bushes under your windows -
   and trim other bushes so that the criminal
   can not use them as a shield to hide behind.
* Motion detection lighting covering the 
   whole yard.
* Dogs 
* Consider a security system especially one
    that includes cameras. But if you can't afford a whole house
    system that is monitored, you can purchase the stickers and yard
    signs to put up. There are also portable alarms, designed for hotel
    stays, that are very inexpensive and can be used where alarms are
    not allowed (a dorm room, and apartment). 

    Remember noise and light make you a hard target. dark and
    quiet make you an easy target.  Link - this link takes you to a
    security store so that you can see the wide range of options. 
    (not an endorsement)
* A safe room set up. 
   `Simply a designated area to retreat to in an emergency. 
   `The children are taught to go there. 
   `The hinges are placed so the door swings out. 
   ` Some things that you might include: 
      A land line phone.
      Fire extinguisher
      Escape rope ladder

Our Home Invasion Stories:


      I was a young boy before my teenage years, my dad worked a shift system. My mom hated the night shift. At certain times when my dad was at work, someone would ring the front door bell or bang on the front door. As my mom went to answer the door, someone would climb over the rear wall and bang on the back door. When my mom went to the back, the front door bell would chime again and so on. This went on for quite some time. The local police were unable to catch whoever it was, and the neighbors never saw anything.

     My mom took to sleeping with a large carving knife under her pillow. My younger brother and I had no idea what was going on. Would I have liked to have been forewarned of events? Yes, definitely. Anyway, one night, my mom had had enough. When the front door bell rang (remember this is in the early hours so no one was coming round for a visit), she went to the front door and waited. When the back door was banged, she waited by the front door with the nib off so the door was open. On the next ring, she threw open the door; with  knife in hand she lunged. The guy had already taken a couple of steps back, and as he was confronted by a screaming woman wielding a blade, he legged it and would have been an Olympic sprint champion according to my mom.

     They never did come back after that and were never caught. When I learned of this story from my parents years later I asked my mom what she would have done that night, ‘I would have killed them’ she said and left it at that.

Are you trained in the weapons you have and are you mentally prepared to kill if it comes to that?

Fiona -

One day, I was home with my four small children when the bell rang. I went to the door and looked through the peep hole to find a man in a phone company uniform. I went to the window and saw that there was a company vehicle parked in front of my house. This was odd because we weren't having an issue with our phone. 
     So I called through the door, "May I help you?"
     "I'm here to fix the phone line..."
      My radar was up - something wasn't right. "We're fine. No issues with the phone. Thank you, anyway."
      He explained to me that it was my husband who had called, and he told me my husband's name. My instinct was that something was not right. I used my cell phone to call hubby to ask him what the issue was with the phone. My husband explained that he had switched our phone service, and we didn't even use that company anymore. My next call was to the police. I yelled through the door that the guy should get off my property, and he started kicking the door in, cursing at me, and ordering me to let him in. I had one of my children go press the panic button on our alarm. With the sirens wailing and whole house flashing red lights, I announced that the police were en route, and I had my gun aimed at the door, one more kick and I would shoot. He sprinted away, and the police congratulated me on not becoming a statistic.

So here I would caution you to  (or if you are writing this into a scene, then apply this to your character) premeditate a strategy. Know the applicable laws in the area you are staying and make decisions. Many of my friends will say, "I'd rather face 12 than be carried by six." My plan: I walk away, and my family is safe.

So Rock, what sparked this whole blog article for us was the story of the home invasion where the mother protected her family by firing at (and missing) the three teens who kicked in her door. Can you talk a little bit about guns and home safety?

English: Picture of a standard 'K Bullet' as m...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Firearms and Home Defense

Fiona has done a great piece on choosing a firearm for a heroine in a novel, and you can see it here: Choosing a handgun link

There is an inordinate amount of literature on firearms for home defense: rifle, shotgun, pistol. With the amount of choices, how do you really decide what is right for you? Well let me say this from the start, stick with a pistol, or a short barreled pump action shotgun at the most. Why? Well the tactics and the training to use a ‘Long’ effectively is 
far more complicated than using a ‘Short’. 

In this post I am going to ask more questions than give advice. This is because I do not know your circumstances. It’s your life, your home, your family. I can help point you in the right direction with questions you can answer.

Before you purchase your firearm get down the range and have a go with a few different types. Your hand size, strength and where you live (I will explain this a little later) all have an effect on the weapon of your choice. Also, take into consideration weak hand drills, that’s your none dominant hand, the weapon should feel comfortable for use in both hands with mechanisms that suit both dominant and none dominant hand firing.

But as you will see you may need to purchase two weapons, one for home defense and one for personal defense while out of the home.

Once you have chosen your weapon and are comfortable firing it on the range, the next step is to plan how you are going to defend your home.

Where you live will have some way to go in your weapon of choice and the rounds you use. Do you live in a block of flats, a house on a street, a semi or detached house? 

What are the walls like in your house, solid brick, plaster board, wooden or other? I ask this because if you live in a block of flats with thin walls, you don’t want a round hitting your next door neighbor while they are reading Virginia is for Mysteries, do you?  LINK

So two firearms: home defense may need .22 or a subsonic frangible round where as a CCW (concealed carry weapon) would employ a standard round for your weapon of choice. Bullet turorial

I have planned homes and night clubs for violent encounters. Why? Most home invasions happen at night and night clubs are dimly lit.

What is the first thing most people do on hearing a noise either outside, downstairs or in another room? You guessed it. They put the light on. This has now put the home owner on an equal footing with the intruder. You must get used to fighting in the dark. In the house it may be pitch black, or there may be ambient light coming in from outside. Either way, this is where the combat must take place, here you have the advantage.

When planning on low light combat, here you will also have to think about any attachments for your weapon:
* Torch (flashlight)? Not a good idea in my book. Remember you want the advantage, giving away your
   position is not having an advantage. 
* Laser dot light? Good if trigger activated, and you are already on target.

Your home must be planned with combat in mind.

* Can you move around your house in the dark without tripping
   over furniture, kids toys, cats or dogs? You should be able to. 

Fiona - Gosh Rock, and here I've been using the kid debris to make us a hard target. There's no way you could steal quietly through the room - and the thousands of lego pieces and marbles are special bonuses.

Rock - Yes,  toys make great noise traps when placed at points of entry. 
* Can your partner or kids move around in the dark to a safe room or escape from the home? 
* Do you have a plan for where you should meet up to count heads 
   in any emergency be it a home invasion or fire? Not next door for
   obvious reasons. 
* What about those who either don’t like guns or live, as I do, 
   where firearms are illegal? Well you are going to have to train in
   other weapons, knives, sticks, batons... Weapons can be placed 
   around the home either as ornaments or as purposefully located 

Fiona - 
Ha! Don't break in at Rock's house. It will go badly for you. Here's hoping you all stay safe and sound. 

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right, presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way are we advocating any position or personal decision.
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. What if someone lives in an apartment?

    1. Randall,

      I'm not sure I understand your question, so I'll say this, and then you can clarify. A home invasion does not mean house. There are precautions you can take in an apartment/dorm room etc. - but you may have to ask permission of your super such as installing peepholes, bolt locks, and secure window locks (can't be undone just by breaking the glass and reaching through). Some you can do without your super such as having the movable door alarm, having a land line phone, and having weapons that you are competent in using on hand.

      Does that help?

    2. I guess it was pretty vague. I meant that a lot of the things listed aren't possible in an apartment. Any apartment I've ever lived in that I was old enough to remember had peepholes already installed on the door.

      I have two other questions, one which your response prompted:

      1. The one you inspired first. How does having a land-line help more than a cell phone?

      2. If there are multiple people are in the residence, and only some can get out, is it better to get out and run for help? I know a lot of people would have trouble doing this, in particular parents leaving kids.

    3. Hey Randall,

      1. Why a land line?
      * You know where it is - it won't be lost.
      * You don't have to worry about it being charged
      * You don't have to worry about the call being dropped
      * You don't have to worry about having enough bars
      * The 911 operator will immediately know where you are and can get someone headed your way. So even if you dial and don't speak, help will come.

      As to your second question - I was always taught whoever can get out should get out. In a home invasion one partner was predesignated to hold off the intruder(s) while the other saved the kids. Once the kids are out they should run to their "safe house" someplace predesignated and get help. Even if a mom has to leave her kids - the kids have a better chance of surviving with professional help/intervention.

      I remember a home invasion up the street from a friend. The whole family parents and 2 sweet little girls were bludgeoned to death. The mother had an opportunity to escape and maybe even escape with one daughter, but she did not take the chance - she followed the captors instructions. Now, if the criminals knew help was on the way would they stay? Would they hurt the rest worse? Who knows. This is a wild card and all you can do is your best in the moment. Each event is different and no one should second guess your instincts - they weren't there.

      But the advance plan I was taught is escape and get trained/equipped help.

      Now I'm going to contact Rock and have him tell us what he teaches his families :)

      I always love your questions - thanks Randall.


  2. Hi Randall

    Apartments, houses, mobile homes, it doesn't matter you have to work with a plan for where you live. But as you asked about apartments we will stick to that.
    Well Fiona pretty much covered the mobile phones but also with the landline issue, either have an extension in every room or have a cordless landline that you can move about with. Again here check that you get reception in all areas of the house and that the phone always sits in its carriage and is on charge.

    Security is all about ever decreasing circles, the more circles (obstacles) you can put between you and an enemy (will clarify that a some later time) the less likely you will be a target.

    without knowing the specifics of the apartment or the building I will go over some general points.

    There are two areas that need to be looked at, from the point of the apartment building itself and the apartment from your point of view.

    Is the apartment block secure with:
    Electronic / key code / key for the apartment building entry door?
    Does the apartment block have a night porter / concierge / security in main foyer?
    Is there CCTV coverage on the apartment building front door / foyer / in lifts / on fire exits?
    What type and where are the fire escapes situated?
    What security procedures are in place from the building owners (should be checked prior to living there)

    If the apartment block is open access with lifts and stairs open to the public from the street then that is the first line of defence already none existent. Different problem here is you may now have threats when moving directly from your apartment to the stairwells and lifts and to the street level (Different subject matter.)

    Is the apartment front door outside on a walkway or inside in a corridor?
    Not only good locks on the door but one with no letter box and if the threat is great you can also get fire resistant doors and glass. You can also get good door jams that can be bolted into the floor for use when closed at night.

    Defend and secure or defend and escape are the two main objectives, not in that order as it depends on the tactical situation at that specific time. Bear in mind that defend may also mean going on the offensive.

    Is there a defensible room for all family members (Safe room) what you in the States call a Panic Room?
    Is the door to the safe room strong enough to withstand a battering, fire (again) and what are the hinges like?
    Thinking about firearms, what are your walls like and what cover in your safe room do you have?
    How long can you stay in your safe room? remember it will be a room that is also used for everyday living so packing it out with kit to survive for long periods is a no no. You are not going to be there that long before LE arrive, again though depends on the situation at the time.

    If you are in a high rise block and living high up, getting out of the apartment may be difficult if you only have a front door, so does your apartment have a rear or side door leading out?

    Your safe room also may have to be the one that you escape from so fire escapes and fully opening windows for egress are a must.

    For living on lower levels escaping out of windows to the ground may be easier if you are prepared, do your windows open fully so an adult can get out?

    If your fire escape is not at a rear or side window but down the hallway then the window may be your only option.
    Now dropping from a second floor or higher may prove damaging when hitting the ground (obviously) so do you have a knotted climbing rope in place and secured? As part of my job we carry a RESCUEMATIC. It is really used in case of fire but the idea is to get us out of the building. It is a wire harness that is secured to a wall and the weight of the person being lowered to the ground is countered to by internal mechanisms. Only good for about 5 floors up but ideal in that situation.
    Can all family members climb down the rope, have you practiced?

    Hope that covers some basics.


  3. Hi Randall

    a couple of tips for an apartment.

    A trembler device for your entry / exit doors. ones that sound like a dog barking are good and just hang on the door handle or a fitted clasp if there is no door handle.

    A nightingale floor. OK so it only works with a wooden floor which in an apartment block is most likely , you could do some or parts of the floor.

    Alternatively how about applying the same concept to you internal doors.Tight fitting wooden internal doors that use a latch system not a modern handle that turns quietly. The latches are also tight so make a loud noise when lifted up and hit the top part of the clasp and being tight they also creek loudly. All internal doors are closed at night apart from the master bedroom door, which is left ajar.

  4. In my 20 years of security experience I`ve found that the OnGARD security door brace is the best way to keep the bad guys on the outside of the home.

  5. Wow, Fiona, what a story! I had no idea you had been through this. You were amazing and brave (Brava!) but then of course, you were a mom and God Help anyone who came through that door and after your kids. Thank you for sharing this story.