“Home invasions are fast, furious and brutal,” Tactical tipper and fitness-oriented gun guru Jeff Anderson warns in a comment at his blog, full-contact.military.com. “At the onset and the initial chaos of an intruder’s entry may be the only chance you have to respond.” True dat. So why is Anderson so fixated on safe rooms for his post 5 Tactical Tips to Survive a Home Invasion? “Designate a ‘safe room’ in your home where every one can go to at the same time” is Tip 2. “Do not, under any circumstances, leave the safe room” is a curious Tip 3. Anderson considers staying put so vital it’s also Tip 5: “Stay in the safe room until the police arrive, no matter how long it takes.” I’ve got issues with that . . .
Safe rooms are a nice idea. In theory. In practice, they have insurmountable tactical limitations . . . and severe dangers. Here are three reasons why safe rooms aren’t so safe:
1. Getting to a safe room (singular) is problematic
For some reason, home defense planners focus on BITN (Bump in the Night) scenarios. Maybe that’s because it’s the easiest nightmare for which to plan. Everyone’s in a known location, geographically clustered. But, as John Lennon said before he was shot to death, life is what happens when you’re making other plans.
Although the FBI doesn’t gather home invasion stats (there’s no such crime category per se), I bet at least half of in-home attacks occur during non-sleeping hours. The Petit family massacre is only the most grisly anecdotal evidence that bad things can happen in bright light, too. What then? Mom’s in the kitchen, one kid’s in the living room, another’s in their bedroom, you’re padding around somewhere, the kids may have friends over. Who goes where when and how and what do they do when they get there?
If your safe room is upstairs and everyone’s everywhere, what are the chances that everyone will converge at the same place at relatively the same time—especially if the safe room’s tucked away off the master bedroom (as it tends to be)? Practically nil. You need at least one safe room per level that’s central to all possible locations. And a plan for what to do when you get there, if you go there.
2. A safe room encourages dangerous thinking
Unless you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on your safe room, it’s not so safe. For example, how many people put rifle grade ballistic plates into the walls surrounding their safe room? And even if you have an impregnable redoubt, it may be completely compromised by your inexperience, a stupid mistake or a weapons failure. Then what? Then you have all you “assets” in one place, where they’re easier to assault, rape, torture or kill.
For another, the “correct” response to a home invasion is situation-dependent. Would you want one of your kids to run past an invader to get to a safe room? I don’t think so. In some situations, running away from the house to get help (call the cops from a neighbor’s or a cell phone) would be a life-saver. In others, it could be fatal (running into an unseen accomplice).
Sometimes the only effective reaction to a home invasion would be offensive (an attack with a weapon at hand) rather than defensive (running to the safe room). Tactically, teaching your family that the safe room is safe is not safe. They need to be able to think for themselves, as well as for each other. No child left behind is not just George Bush’s master plan to emasculate the teachers’ unions.
3. Your home defense weapon may fail
With a proper home defense weapon, a safe room can be a life-saving fortress. You’ve got all your family behind you. When the bad guys come a knockin’, the shotgun be a rocking. But you aren’t going to get many chances at this. If you miss when you shoot, or fail to fire (shit happens when you’re stressed), or can’t manage to reload for BG No. 2, you’re in deep trouble.
Most safe rooms are equipped with a single entrance and exit. If you run out of firepower, you’re corralled, sitting duck style. In fact, you’re probably drawing fire to your huddled mass of genetic inheritors and friends. Also, most safe rooms only have enough space for one person to shoot. Where’s the fun in that? Seriously, two guns are better than one, and two guns are better still when there’s some space between them.
Like so many home defense tools (cough Smith & Wesson Governor), the safe room offers an illusion of invincibility. While all home defense tools can be helpful, your ability to continue breathing before, during and after a home invasion depends on understanding that your mind is the ultimate weapon in any fight to survive. Think outside the box. Think outside the room. And teach everyone in your family to do the same.