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Environmental Preparation: Dwellings

There are three areas of self-protection. Physical, mental, and environmental.

Physical refers to your fitness level, strengths, and challenges. This is the area that includes self-defense moves and fight training.

Mental refers to your actual ability to act under stress. This is the challenging part of self protection, and PSP focuses lots of attention on developing this area.

Environmental is a largely passive area of self prepare environmentally--then it is done! This post will focus on environmental preparation. In the home, specifically.

PSP, while a comprehensive self-protection system, tends to address areas where fear already exists. Everyone, including me, has a "fear spot" that causes some degree of anxiety and discomfort on a regular basis. If this is due to a personal assault scenario, we tend to feel helpless. Depictions of atrocities and horrific assaults are considered entertaining, so they are brought into our homes via TV and the daily news on a regular basis. These powerful visual images leave a lasting impression. "That could happen to me!" our subconscious tells us--all the time! We are afraid, and the fear is real. Some prudent preparation is necessary to simply be safer, and there are simple steps that we can take that dramatically increase our overall safety. So...let's look for solutions!

The two, biggest deterrents to burglary or break-ins are: the presence of a dog, and your exterior lighting. Let me explain:

A dog, no matter its size, is very hard to sneak up on. Intruders want a stealthy entry, and your dog is your bodyguard. A large dog is often a capable fighter, but that (in a break-in situation) is not the real advantage. Consider your dog a motion sensing alarm with a sense of smell 2,000 times better than yours! The threat of the noise and chaos associated with this "minion" protecting your house is, most often, enough to have someone pick a different target...and if you have a healthy, larger dog...he or she may attack an intruder without thought or hesitation. So, if you are so inclined, adopt a dog! A puppy is cute, but older dogs are equally loyal, and are at higher risk of being euthanized.

Exterior lighting, particularly around entrances and walkways, deter those that would like to "case" a house for soft entry points. Motion sensing flood lights at the corners of your house are an amazing tool in your self-protection kit. Imagine sneaking your way onto someone's lawn, spotting your potential point of entry, only to have yourself and the entire side of the house suddenly bathed in light as you approach. If you picture yourself on the other side of these lights, you can see how it would change your plan.

These two measures, when applied, can deter much unwanted "activity." Let's go a bit further, however.

What if your fear is home invasion? There is a product called Door Armor. This easy to install reinforcement makes your exterior doors impossible to kick in. If you are sensible about locking your doors and using your peephole, this product can increase your peace of mind.

What if your fear is a "bump in the night?" You can easily create a "safe room" in your home by installing an exterior door on one room, and install Door Armor as well. With a solid dead bolt, this room will become virtually impenetrable from the inside of your house, and can give you time to call 911. If you have a dedicated, pre-paid cell phone in the room, you simply have to close the door and lock it. Maybe keep a key fob from your vehicle in the room so you could press the "panic button" and set off your car alarm from inside (if your vehicle is in the proximity) or keep a personal alarm in the room that you can activate, and toss out a window. Weapons, if you own them, may be kept in the room as well.

Note: If you have very young children, you may want to make their room the safe room. You simply have to get to them, then lock the door. (of course weapons need to be handled and stored with great care in a home that includes curious little minds)

The following are more, general safety steps I highly recommend:

Fix broken windows immediately. Repair any inoperable locks on windows and doors...and use them! (intruders rarely "break" in--they enter through unsecured windows or doors) Basement windows need to be small enough that a person cannot slip through them. A carpenter can fix this very easily with decorative trim or other measures. Basement doors should be secured and in good repair. Shrubbery around windows and doors should be trimmed so that they cannot easily conceal a person.

This may sound excessive to some, but once it is done? It is simply "there." You can convert your house from a soft target to a hard target, and a casual observer would never know the difference.

If you rent, please talk to your landlord about re-keying the locks. Some landlords do this as a matter of course, because there is no telling how many people copied and distributed keys to the dwelling before you moved in.

Be creative with your safety "What if..." plans, but do not obsess! Once you begin looking for solutions, you may find that you are more than capable of taking charge of your surroundings. Just be sure that you are reasonably secure in your home.

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