in: Homeownership, Lifestyle, Podcast

• Last updated: October 1, 2021

Podcast #631: How to Prevent and Survive a Home Invasion

You’re lying in bed at night and hear a noise downstairs. Is there someone in your house, and if there is, do you know what to do?

While we’d like to think we’d rise to the occasion and readily dispatch with the bad guys, my guest today argues that without preparation and training, you’re likely to flounder, and that you should have put more thought into how to keep the invader out of your house in the first place.

His name is Dave Young, and he’s a security expert and the author of How to Defend Your Family and Home: Outsmart an Invader, Secure Your Home, Prevent a Burglary and Protect Your Loved Ones from Any Threat. We begin our conversation with how Dave got involved with security training, the intensive field research he did for his book, and the basic equation criminals use in deciding whether or not to make your house a target. We then delve into how to tweak that equation in your favor, beginning with casing your house like a criminal would; we go over the vulnerabilities to look for as you walk the perimeter of your property, and the actionable changes to make to deter would-be home invaders. Dave then walks us through what to do if someone does invade your home, including the criteria to use in picking a place to hide, choosing a weapon to fight back, and selecting an engagement point to confront the intruder. We also get into the importance of firearm training, if you decide to own a gun for self-defense. We end our conversation with an oft-overlooked part of surviving a home invasion: the months and years of psychological and judicial aftermath. 

If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.

Show Highlights

  • Dave’s experience with a home invasion and burglary 
  • The most common scenarios of home invasions 
  • The bad guy equation to discouraging crime 
  • How and why to case your house like a criminal 
  • Using your landscaping in your favor 
  • The lowdown on paid security systems 
  • Being situationally aware in your neighborhood 
  • Yet another reason to be mindful of your social media posts 
  • Choosing good escape routes for every room in your house 
  • Criteria for picking an improvised weapon 
  • The importance of firearm safety 
  • What happens after a home invasion? Why is it so important to talk about?

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Dave Young's book cover how to defend your family and home.

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Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. You’re lying in bed at night and you hear a noise downstairs. There’s someone in your house, and if there is, do you know what to do? While we’d like to think we’d rise to the occasion and readily dispatch with the bad guys, my guest today argues that without preparation and training, you’re likely to flounder and that you should have put more thought into how to keep the invader out of your house in the first place. His name is Dave Young, and he’s a security expert and the author of How to Defend Your Family and Home: Outsmart an Invader, Secure Your Home, Prevent a Burglary and Protect Your Loved Ones from Any Threat.

We begin our conversation with how Dave got involved with security training, the intensive field research he did for his book, and the basic equation criminals use deciding whether or not to make your house a target. We then delve into how to tweak that equation to your favor, beginning with casing your house like a criminal would. We go over the vulnerabilities to look for as you walk the perimeter of your property and the actual changes you can make to deter would-be home invaders. Dave then walks us through what to do if someone does invade your home, including the criteria to use in picking a place to hide, choosing a weapon to fight back, and selecting an engagement point to confront the intruder. We also get into the importance of firearm training if you decide to own a gun for self-defense. And we end our conversation with the oft-overlooked part of surviving a home invasion, the months and years of psychological and judicial aftermath. After the show is over, check at our show notes at

Alright. Dave Young, welcome to the show.

Dave Young: Thanks for having me, Brett.

Brett McKay: So a couple of years ago, you published a book, How to Defend Your Family and Home. It’s about home security, self-defense, how to protect yourself from home invasion and burglaries. But before we talk about that, let’s talk about your background. You have a career, just created a career for yourself doing self-defense and being a security consultant. How did that happen?

Dave Young: I’ve been actually pretty blessed looking at it now, going back and looking at it then, but when it was actually happening, I probably didn’t think it was too much of a blessing. I grew up in the opposite side of the tracks, as most people say. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. We moved from Brooklyn to Hialeah, Florida. When I was six, I come back from my first day of school and my dad left. So my mom raised my brother and I, and we lived off food stamps. My mom got involved in drugs at a very young age. She died at a young age of 36, from a brain hemorrhage, so I grew up in the gangs. If you don’t like your house, you go out and you find another home you feel safe in, so all the things they tell you not to do, I did some of them. But I was blessed enough to not get too far off the guided path, and I became a corrections officer, a police officer first. Then I had 10 years active duty in the Marine Corps. I had six years in the reserves, several deployment tours during that time.

And I guess the same reason most people get into the self-defense or security or police field is you wanna help yourself to never feel the way you do when you were younger, and you realize that there’s a lot of people out there that are in those same situations that don’t know where to go for help. So I think that was a decision I made at a young age that when it came time and experience is what you get five minutes after you have it, I think you can use a lot of life experiences to really be positive stories for others that are in the same similar situations.

Brett McKay: And a lot of your work, you do teach self-defense, but a lot of your work is consulting companies, organizations on how to prevent conflict before it even happens.

Dave Young: Well, I have over 30-plus years of training and experience as a corrections officer, police officer, Marine. And right when I got out of the Marine Corps from active duty, I didn’t retire. I got another 10 years active duty as a staff sergeant. I took over as Director of Training for several companies in the non-lethal weapons industry. And then that just grew into, not only training police, law enforcement and military, I was blessed to start a company, co-found a company with one of my mentors, Gary Klugiewicz, and we started a company called Vistelar. We cover the entire spectrum of human conflict from that first word that’s spoken, which is where conflict is usually given birth at, all the way up to the weapons that you use to defend yourself. So about five years ago, when that book first became an idea, I got approached by a company to write a book. They saw some videos I did on YouTube on surviving a home invasion, talking about the aftermath. So I wanted to do some research, so we looked at 100 different home invasion situations and cases, and most of them, the people that were in the house didn’t survive those things.

You can always look at statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Report or the National Bureau of Criminal Statistics, in what’s a robbery, what’s a burglary, what’s a home invasion. And I saw that home invasions took on three different platforms. You’re either sleeping in your home, get up in the middle of the night to get something to drink, and you find out that somebody’s in your home and they don’t wanna leave and they take you hostage. You have other family members there, that just gets nastier. Or you come home early from a vacation and find out there’s somebody already in your home. Or the worst one is you’ve had somebody casing your home and other houses on the street, and you’ve been blind on what to look for, how to identify it, could it happen to me? ‘Cause most people, I’ve found in the United States, they live in the world that “It won’t happen to me.” One of my mentors, Coach Bob Lindsay said, “You can be an if-then thinker or a when-then thinker. But I’d rather be a when-then thinker ’cause if-then thinkers don’t get a chance to think too far long down the pike. So it’s not a question of “If it will happen to you,” it’s a question of “When?” and “Do you wanna be ready for it?” So all these situations with home invasions took on a different direction.

The bottom line is, if you prepare for it from the very beginning, all the way to the end, then you’ll be better prepared no matter how it happens. But if you live in the world that “It won’t happen to me,” some people think throwing a lock on their door or turning the porch lights off in the day time, those are all little things you can do. But if someone’s really casing your house, you should have some strategies to identify it, so that’s what we focused on after we interviewed all those people. So it took a whole year to gather the information, and then when we wrote the book, we wanted it to be 10 chapters, specifically focused on what to do before it happens, what kind of visual deterrents, physical deterrents, what locks are better than these deadbolts? I was pretty lucky earlier in my career to host a show for National Geographic called the Crash Test Human. Definitely not something you put in a resume, but we got to break through doors, and I got to show where hinges and deadbolts and door frames and how they interact with each other. And that just added to the information that we can provide for how do you prepare for someone who’s breaking into your home, where it’s supposed to be the last great safe place in America, is your home?

Brett McKay: Let’s talk about that. I wanna go back to that point about home invasions and burglaries. How does the police differentiate between the two or do they?

Dave Young: Well, some do and some don’t. The burglary is a person breaks into your home with the intent to steal, and they steal and they leave, and then it could be robbery with assault if there’s people home. And I view as anyone that comes into my home for whatever reason, if it’s not a wanted guest, then it’s an invasion. Now, whether you didn’t intend to do that in your heart, the result is I’m experiencing that with me and my family here. And if you have a family, it’s probably scarier than if you’re by yourself. You always hear or I always hear those Monday morning quarterbacks, “I’d shoot ’em,” but yet they keep their gun in a safe. They don’t have any access to it. Or we can have this conversation for years where most people have a firearm for the emotional security it provides, like a teddy bear when you’re a kid, rather than the physical protection it’s supposed to serve you when your life depends on it the most.

So I experienced one. I was 14 years old, we were living in government housing. My brother was playing in the other room. My mom, unfortunately, was doing drugs in the back room. The door bursts open, two guys run in the house with their faces covered, with pistols in their hand, grab us by our hair, drag us down the hallway, kick my mother in the face, have us face down on the floor, point a gun to her head, asking where the money is at. And the knuckleheads broke into the wrong home. They should have broken into the apartment next to us. They were looking for drugs and a money of stash that was supposed to be at this location. When you’re 14, you don’t do nothing but put your nose in the rug and cry and pray softly and loudly and wet yourself. So that’s not a plan to have for everybody. Luckily, they started yelling at each other. They said this was the wrong house. They ran out the door and left. My mother couldn’t pick up the phone and call the cops ’cause she had drugs in the house, so we picked up the pieces, and I don’t think I slept well until I left that apartment building when I was 17.

So I think people wanna know what to do to keep themselves safe, but there’s a lot of people that are afraid to know. And I think that if you take the necessary steps and precautions, you, first of all, keep yourself emotionally safe, ’cause I sleep very well in my home. My wife and I have a little joke that if she wakes up and says, “Can you get me some water?” I don’t wake up. But if she says, “Hey, I hear a noise,” I’m awake before she is. So I have a peace of mind that I’m not worried about these things. Could they happen? Yes, but if they are, you’re prepared for ’em. I think when we wrote the book, it was to give people a plan, and I don’t think there is a separation between what determines whether it’s a home invasion or a burglary. The fact is if there’s unwanted people in your home, you don’t want them there.

Brett McKay: Are there some types of homes or neighborhoods that are more likely to get broken into than others?

Dave Young: I don’t think there’s a certain neighborhood or a certain house. I think all houses have a certain level of vulnerability. And if you can identify what that is and do some things with landscaping and lights and locks and signs and create a visual deterrent, there’s a bad guy equation, and it’s called… If you raise their effort and lower the reward, you discourage the crime. But if you lower their effort and increase the reward, you encourage the crime. So I think if you look at that equation, look at your own home right now, there’s some general things you could probably do to take you off that “I wanna break into that house” list, if that makes sense.

Brett McKay: And we’ll get into some of these things, these deterrents you talk about in the book, a few of them. But before we do, I wanna do some more of the analysis, give us an idea of home invasions, what they look like. In your research, when do home invasions usually occur? Are they usually at night, during the day, what have you found?

Dave Young: Well, the typical home invasion is usually done at night when there’s less people in the front of the neighborhood to watch the person come up to the home, whether it’s they’re driving a car or they’re popping the hood in front of your home, and they’re usually done in teams, two or more. I didn’t see any research when it was done by just one person. Usually, there was one that created a distraction at the front door. If you let them in the home, that’s great. Then another person came in the back of the home. Very few in the movies where they’re gonna kick the front door open when the whole family’s watching TV or eating in the kitchen. People that commit crimes don’t wanna get caught, so in their mind they’re gonna do this thing where there’s a least amount of witnesses that are in the area to watch it to take place.

Brett McKay: Alright, that makes sense. Alright, so let’s talk about what criminals are looking for. So you talked about that equation, they’re looking for something that’s an easy target, where they won’t get caught. And so one thing you recommend when a person’s beginning their own assessment of their home and family security, is to basically case your house like a criminal and look for weaknesses in your house. So let’s put on our criminal cap here, what are you looking for in a house for vulnerabilities and weaknesses?

Dave Young: Well, I think the first thing is you start with the outside of your home, and you identify blind spots and shadows. The way to do this is have a friend or a spouse stand at the front door and the door frame looking out of the house, and you stand behind certain trees and bushes and I guess figures that you have in your yard, and ask the person, can they see you? And when you start finding places that people can see you but you can’t see them, you identify blind spots. If you walk around the whole perimeter of your home, if you’re living in a home, I do the perimeter walk twice a month. When we first moved into the neighborhood, in the backyard, there was a tree, not in our backyard, but in another yard. But if you stood behind that tree, you could see right into our shower. There was also cigarette butts, some pizza crusts, some beer cans that were fresh, that you could tell somebody is standing there watching something.

So to first walk around your property and see if you can identify any of these blind spots and shadows. If there’s bushes, trim ’em and thin ’em. Try to keep the bushes away from the home as possible. Thin them out, put the lights behind them. You wanna create a place that if someone is on your yard, it would be seen by the neighbors, not only the people in the house, because that is a visual deterrent. Signs are visual deterrents. When you do the perimeter on the outside of the home, you want a person to see that it’s protected by a security company or a dog before they decide to come on the property.

If you’re riding a bike in the neighborhood and you’re looking at three houses, and you see one house doesn’t have anything, one house has a sign on the front yard that says “Secured by ADT” and another one has a sign in the yard saying “Beware of Dog,” which house would you wanna look at a little bit more closely? Probably the one that doesn’t have anything. So there is a certain value for a visual deterrent. Once you get the visual to turn some place, then look at what’s in your house and what kind of shadows are your lights creating. Most people think of a square, and at the corner of each square, they put two lights that branch out. But they don’t realize that they’re creating blind spots where someone can walk in from the street all the way up to your house and not be seen at night. So you wanna criss-cross your lights. You wanna possibly have some lights shining on the corners of the house, not away from the corners of the house, so light positioning plays an important role.

So you want signs, you want lights, you wanna trim the bushes, you wanna have a clean yard, and don’t do something silly like put “Beware of Dog” and don’t have a dog dish or even a chain on a tree. ‘Cause bad guys have a certain level of intelligence, and you wanna create a visual deterrent that is gonna take some effort when you make the decision to go into that home, to step on the property first. When you’re also walking around your home, you wanna open up the back doors. I open up the back doors and take my thumb and run it along the strike plate to see if there’s any cuts or wedges in it from a screwdriver. If there are any marks, you can cover it with clear nail polish, and then go back and check and see if there’s any more tool marks on it. Most of the time, people would try to break into your house without getting caught before they decide to burst in the house. Check the screens, latches and locks. Do you have drapes? It’s kinda like you spend a lot of money buying some really cool things, leave it on the back seat of your car, wouldn’t it be safe from the trunk so it couldn’t be seen?

So you want drapes or blinds on your windows, so if someone was standing outside, they couldn’t see what you had in the home. You wanna reduce their curiosity. You wanna take away any mental images of temptation that, “Hey, I want that,” or “I don’t know what that is. I wanna learn more about it.” So you wanna really control what a person sees when they look at your home. During the day time, I want them to see a clean house. I want them to see signs, little stickers on the window, and I wanna have my windows closed, so they can’t see what’s on the other side. We know now in today’s society, a lot more people are staying home. So are burglaries happening? They’re probably not happening as many times now as they were before this same time last year. But nonetheless, people get restless. Whenever people lose food, water, shelter, clothing or an ear to listen to, they go out and take it from somewhere else.

So that first thing you wanna do is create that visual deterrent, and then as you get closer to the house, you’re looking for any signs of forced entry or breakage into the home, screens, latch, locks, footprints around the beds, near the windows. There’s some things you can do by sprinkling a little baking soda or talcum powder on the ledge. You’ll even see birds are standing on there. There’s just little things you can do to create a visual deterrent that raise that effort and lower that reward on the outside of the home, and signs and posters and lights are the best options to have.

Brett McKay: Well, let’s talk about home security and security systems in particular, and you said there’s a role for that. But to say this statistically, a lot of homes today, very few of them or very few of the homes have home security systems in place.

Dave Young: Security systems are designed to give you a particular level of comfort within your budget. Most people never think about going out and getting a security alarm until their house is broken into or their neighbor’s house is broken into. That’s why you’ll notice as soon as you get your house broken into, you’ll be called by all kinds of security companies, ’cause once that hits a public record in the neighborhood, that’s how they get their leads, from a lot of places. So for me, myself, I look at security as layers, and the more layers you have of security, starting off with visual, then possibly auditorial, then physical, those give you layers of deterrence. Security, physical security starts with signs, and then I would have something that gives me an alert or detection that someone’s breached the door or a window. Whether you’re away, I get an alert on my phone. If I’m home, I hear the alert from my phone near the bed. But I have a security system, and it just gives me a certain level of safety, and I sleep a little bit better at night ’cause there’s something else listening for me and watching for me while I’m sleeping. That’s how I would look at security systems.

Brett McKay: What are your thoughts about security cameras like the ring doorbell camera?

Dave Young: Oh, they’re great.

Brett McKay: Yeah.

Dave Young: Anything that gives you a visual identifier of who is on your property is priceless. Because cameras record the event to give the clues to the police to go out and catch the person that looks like the person who broke into your home. Without the visual… I have video surveillance, and I’m not bashful with letting people know by signs on the property that we have video surveillance on the premise.

Brett McKay: Right. So again, it’s another layer of deterrence, and even if it doesn’t deter them, it allows you to get evidence to prosecute if you need to do that.

Dave Young: Yeah, because anything that you’re gonna have for a security system is only gonna add to your case. It’s just gonna help provide more evidence that they were there, whether it’s a full facial image or a partial, especially if they can match prints. You’re just doing whatever you can as a homeowner to provide additional evidence to the police.

Brett McKay: Alright, so let’s do a recap of what we’ve talked about so far. So your main priority to prevent home invasions, just make your house a harder target. And that’s basically the… It sounds like the main thing is, you do these visual things where you say, “Okay, we’ve got security, we’ve got a dog, trespassers would be arrested,” that can be a deterrent, but another layer is making it hard for the criminal to hide. You want basically the criminal to be seen at all times, so you can do that by adding lights at night around your house, trimming your landscape, so that there really isn’t a good place to hide, and then also being aware of lights inside your home as well. Another thing you talked about too in the book is, besides these preventative measures, these things you do to make your house less of a target, it also requires you to be situationally aware of the people around in your neighborhood. You can’t just turn your… You know, you can’t just focus inward. You also have to keep your eyes focused outward and see who is walking around in your neighborhood and being familiar with the people in your neighborhood as well.

Dave Young: Yes, if you’re a homeowner, I encourage you to knock on the door of your neighbors and introduce yourself and at least see who they are and what they look like. During the times of extreme emergencies, you might need their assistance to call for you or come to your aid. So I introduce myself to the neighbors on the right and left side of me, behind my house and right across the street. And over the many years of me being here, the neighbors across the street had to run into my home, ’cause somebody broke into theirs. And the elderly lady who lived off to the left of me had a burglar in her home that I was able to see lights moving on inside the house, and I was able to go in and take her out safely and call the police. So I think you wanna know who’s in your neighborhood, and it starts by just taking brain pictures. I run in the mornings and now with the heat, I run at night. But when you walk out the front door, don’t just walk with the front door on your phone to your car, in your car to work. Step out on the front steps and look and see what cars are parked in your neighborhood. Any bodies in those cars?

We had a situation where I went running one morning, and as I walked out of the front of the house and I did some stretching, I looked off to the right, and they were just building up some homes, there was a car parked in the back. And as I looked at the car, I realized that there was a body slumped over and the guy went into diabetic shock. But where he was parked drew alert for me, because I don’t want anybody… I have a family to protect, and I don’t want anybody sitting in the car casing the neighborhood or just waiting for someone to leave and then come in my home when I have my family there. So you really do wanna keep your head up, keep your head up, and your eyes open, your ears open to who’s walking dogs, riding bikes, doing the power walks, because people who are gonna case your area are gonna blend in with the neighborhood first. And if you can just be friendly and wave and smile and say “Hello” and “Good morning” and get to know who’s in your neighborhood, you could probably deter something from happening into your home.

Brett McKay: Another thing you talk about that people usually don’t think about when it comes to home security, is being aware of what are you putting outside of your house, so like your garbage, and that’s something that criminals use to figure out if you’re a target or not.

Dave Young: Right. It starts with the mail. Don’t let your mailbox be overflowed with mail. And then as you do your property walks, we told you about cigarette buds, but your trash, I tie my trash off in a certain way. And trash goes out at a certain day during the week, but it doesn’t hurt that if you throw garbage in there on Monday, that if you’re around your trash can on Tuesday, I just open up the lid to see if anyone’s went through my trash. I always put it tie-end down, so if someone has to grab it and lift it up and turn it right side up. So, creating work is just easy. I throw the garbage in the garbage can, but I throw it a certain way, so I could go back and look and see if anyone had been in my garbage.

Brett McKay: And one thing that I started doing while that could go is, if I’m throwing documents out like bank statements, whatever, I shred it first. It’s sort of my info security.

Dave Young: Absolutely. Anything that you can do to wipe the identity of who’s living in the home. You ask me, is there a certain time of day that people get burglarized or have home invasions? Well, most of your crime rates go up after the holidays, ’cause everybody throws all their garbage out with their TVs and their iPads and their laptop boxes in the front yard. Those things you wanna cut up and you wanna maybe wait a couple of days to throw ’em out. Throw ’em out maybe half one week and the other half the other week. The reason why people go through garbage is look for receipts, to see if there’s any high-value items that you might have purchased. And there’s a lot of information that now, people can shop from their own home. People put so much stuff on social media. I’m sure you’ve heard this story before, but it’s gonna happen to somebody again. I had a friend that goes to Vegas. He won $30,000 in Vegas. Took pictures of the $30,000. The next day, his house was broken into and guess what was taken.

Brett McKay: What was it, $30,000?

Dave Young: The $30,000, in the same envelope that he showed it on Facebook. You know, you really do have to watch what you put on social media, because as people flash through profiles and they see something flashy, it’ll draw attention to it. So, you wanna manage what you’re putting on social media just as much as what you’re throwing outside. We live in a society now that if you buy a new car, you go out and take all these pictures in front of it, and show it to all your friends, but also your non-friends are seeing it too.

Brett McKay: Right.

Dave Young: I guess we just don’t think about it when we get through the excitement of bought a brand new diamond ring for your wife and you take a picture of it in your home, and you forgot you took the picture in front of your house, which had the address.

Brett McKay: Okay, yeah.

Dave Young: So people just aren’t thinking about celebrations, and I’m happy, I laugh, I live, I celebrate with my friends. You just try not to let anybody outside that close-friend network see what you’re doing.

Brett McKay: Yeah, and related to that, just being mindful of what you post on social media, another tip I’ve heard is like, don’t post while you’re on vacation, ’cause you’re basically just saying, “Hey, I’m away from my house and you can rob me.”

Dave Young: Yes. Yes, yes. And every one of your friends has had somebody sneak in through another friend into their network. By liking them, they get to see things about you and learn things about you that you probably don’t want anybody else to know. People post when they’re sick, when they’re in the hospital, when they’re on vacation, when they’re traveling out of town, how long they’re gonna be out of the country. And those are great for your friends to know, but not everybody on social media is your friend.

Brett McKay: No, exactly. So that’s another thing to think about, being mindful of what you’re posting on social media as a preventative measure. Alright, so we’ve talked about some things we can deter, and hopefully, reduce the risk of being a target for a home invasion, but we also had to have a plan for if that home invasion still happens. So I know the plan is gonna be different for every house, for every family, ’cause every house, every family is different, but roughly speaking, what does a plan for a home invasion look like?

Dave Young: You know, a couple of years ago, we started looking at everybody’s program for active shooter, ’cause that’s what you almost have to look at for a home invasion is an active shooter situation. A person enters your residence with a weapon with the intent to kill, find you, locate you, keep you as a hostage, and we believe that you should follow a certain model. So the first thing is, we want you to have a plan of an escape. You should have an escape route for every room in your home, and this escape route needs to be within the reality of the world that you live in, which means if you are 250 pounds, and your escape route is a 2 x 4 window, that’s five feet above the ground that you can’t get to, that’s probably not a logical escape route.

That your escape routes need to be practiced, and every escape route has to give the answers to three basic questions. Can I get out of the room that I’m in? How do I get out of the room that I’m in? And where do I go once I’m out of the room that I’m in? So you have to have an assembly point. With the kids, it’s easy to play hide and seek. I would get the kids scattered throughout the house, I’d sit ’em down and I’d say, “Listen, there might come a time that you have to leave the house, because bad people came in the house, and you’re gonna have to listen to your mom or I. If we were to say it’s time to go, I want you to know that that means, that the youngest grabs the youngest, and you’re gonna get out of the house. If you’re in the bedroom, this is how you get out of the window. If you’re in the living room, this is how you get out of the back door.”

And you never wanna have an escape route as the way you came into a room. So, it should always be another way out. Now, that’s just a rule of thumb. Let’s face it, if you’re in a bedroom, you have the bedroom door, but you may have some windows, and you’re gonna have to teach the kids to open up the windows. We wouldn’t recommend you break the windows, ’cause not only does it cause more alarm to where you are, it also creates other dangers trying to climb out of a window with broken shards of glass, but you should have escape routes. And this is where knowing your neighbors play an important role. One of the persons I talked to when I was writing the book is that they had a home invasion, and two of the teenagers ran out the back of the door, one went left, one went right. The one that went left jumped into a family that had a dog and got bit up pretty bad, and the ones that went right ended up being safe. So, you wanna know where to go when you get out of your home. For me, when we get out of our house, we go to a big tree that’s located in the corner of the yard, so we can still see who’s coming in and out of the house. So all the family members, when you escape, are gonna go to one place to get accountability, in the perfect world.

In the reality, they’re all gonna go to the wind, and you have to trust them that they’re gonna go to a neighbor’s house, they know how to call the cops, they know what to say. That should be all part of that escape route, is knowing how to get out of that room. If you can’t escape, and you have to pick a place to hide, you have to kinda ask yourself this general question. So every place to hide has a criteria, can you see danger coming, can you escape from danger, and can you defend from that position? If you can’t answer yes to those three questions, then you only really picked the place you’re gonna die, you didn’t pick the place you’re gonna go to survive. So you have to be able to escape from it, see danger coming, and defend from that position.

If you can’t find a safe place to go that fits that criteria, you’re probably safer to create the illusion that you’re not in the room. What I mean by that is, take a single level home, three bedrooms in opposite sides of the house. If a person comes into your home, and they’re trying to get you, there’s two or three people with them, they’re trying to find all the family members as quick as possible, they’re gonna run into rooms very quickly, they’re gonna look into common places where people could be, if they don’t see ’em in the room. Look in the closets, they’re gonna look behind the door, they’re gonna look under the bed, they’re gonna look in the laundry basket. So if you wanted to create the illusion that you were gone, you would maybe open the window, break that window and then hide in a place that is not one of those three or four places that we mentioned. So, as they come into the room, they look and they see the window is broken, they’ll probably look at the window, and you’ve created the illusion that you left the room. That is probably a little bit safer than just hiding in the closet or underneath a bed.

So, we first want you to escape. If you can’t escape, then you’re gonna have to pick your engagement points, and this is pretty scary for others. Just because I have a firearm, I have been in combat before, I teach people about firearms, how to survive real world threats, it doesn’t mean I want to have them. You wanna try to avoid them. So, if you don’t have weapons, you’re gonna have to pick weapons of opportunity that you have in your home. If you’re gonna pick to defend, ’cause you can’t escape, you can’t go to a safe place, then your only other option is to barricade and defend. So it’s escape, barricade, and defend is the philosophy. And when you pick this place to go in your house, and if you have no weapons, weapons have a criteria. If I’m gonna pick a weapon to defend myself, the first question I wanna ask is, “Does this weapon give me… What distance from the threat does this weapon allow me the opportunity to protect myself?” So if I have a knife, I gotta get closer. If I have a stick, I can be farther, but if I have an aerosol can with a lighter, I can get a little bit farther, so what is the distance from the threat?

Number two, how much effort do I have to use to put into using this weapon? You know, we’ve all seen the movies, the horror movies where there’s noise outside, the man goes in the home, stands at the front door, and he’s got slippers in his hand. What are you really gonna do with a pair of slippers? But also you have to pick a weapon that’s not gonna take all your energy and effort to use it, so if I had my choice between a bat, which does give me greater distance, or something sharp, which slashing and puncturing takes less effort, I would more likely probably pick the object that’s sharp rather than the bat. So, what distance do I have, and then what kinda effort do I have to put into it? And then the third question to ask is, what are you really trying to do? Are you trying to blind them, cripple them, bludgeon them, knock ’em out, make ’em unconscious, or are you gonna have to take a life? ‘Cause the opposite of saving a life sometimes is taking one, and are you ready to do that? Are you emotionally prepared for that? Are you mentally conditioned for that? Can you physically see yourself going through that?

I can’t tell you how many times I ask this question around the country, when we teach our active shooter program, I’d say, “How many of you, if there was a kid on a floor, whether you know him or not, and there’s a person standing in front of you, and you’re both on the floor, that you would throw yourself over that child to keep them safe and let that person shoot you versus them?” I raise my hand ’cause I’m included too, but I always ask ’em, “What if you could create a location that you engage the shooter at the door in a small narrow hallway, in the stairwell?” If you can pick the engagement point, now you went from 100% surely dying to maybe now you have a 50-50 chance of survival. So, if you can’t escape and you can’t barricade, get into a location, you can see danger, defend from danger, escape from danger, and you’re gonna pick your defense points, you’re gonna have to engage the threat, and you’re gonna have to pick weapons that are gonna allow you to engage safely.

So small narrow hallways are gonna be a better place to engage ’em. Don’t let ’em come in the room, get ’em at the door. So you’re gonna have to go through your home, identify these safe places to go, and then also identify your engagement points, and you pick the term of engaging on your terms. Are you truly gonna put a plan together to keep yourself safe, or are you just gonna hope for the best? And hope is great, but I’d rather have some training behind my hope than just blind faith.

Brett McKay: Oh, and in regards to firearms, you said earlier that a lot of people buy a firearm ’cause it makes them… It’s like a security blanket. Makes them feel safe. But you said, if you don’t train, the firearm can actually become a liability, become even more dangerous. If you decide to have a fire for home security, how do you recommend folks train, so they’re actually prepared for home invasion?

Dave Young: Well, there’s a lot of good people out there that do firearm safety, and I think first you have to make the emotional commitment with yourself and your family. So, being a Marine, I’ve always had weapons in my home, but I’ve never had an accidental discharge. My kids didn’t play cops and robbers and point guns at everybody. There’s a certain level of responsibility that they have to be taught at a young age to respect the firearm and respect life. So you have to make that commitment as a family. If you’re gonna bring the gun in the home, first have the emotional commitment and understanding that you’re gonna have to learn the things that keep you safe.

And then when I made that decision, I looked at different ballistics, and we settled with the nine millimeter, for a variety of reasons, penetration, ballistics, recoil, the amount of rounds you can get in a magazine. But more importantly, there’s a lot of different technology out now, so I use frangible ammo in my home, so if you get into a gunfight in the living room, the bullet doesn’t travel three bedrooms down. You have to teach the kids to get very low in the home. You have to do some practice and training, that if my wife’s in the kitchen with the firearm and we’re all getting out of the house, how do we move towards her location and get as low as we can so anything that she has to engage is gonna be above her waist and we’re all gonna be moving towards her below the waist?

So there is some training and planning and the emotional commitment, and then you have to go do the firearm safety training. Nothing replaces trigger time. There’s Airsoft, there’s a whole bunch of safe ways of doing training in the home. But you know, I see people that say they carry firearms, but yet when I go over and visit them, it’s locked up in their bedroom. Doesn’t really do ’em no good if they’re taking a nap in the living room and something happens. So, once you make the commitment to have a weapon in the home, now you’re gonna have to make the commitment and training to where you’re gonna place the weapon. And if I’m gonna have a weapon in the home, it’s gonna be in a lock box, it’s gonna be close by, it’s gonna be easily accessible, wife’s gonna know the password, kids are gonna know the password. My kids are gonna know how to safely handle the weapon in case I’m involved in a physical altercation and I tell them to go get the gun.

You wanna create a plan. This can’t just be, “I have a gun in my home, so my home is safe.” You make the emotional commitment, you do the preparation of safety and training, you do the first aid training for handling gunshots. ‘Cause if you’re in a gun fight, someone’s gonna get shot and you wanna be able to render aid to yourself at least. And you have to go to the range. And I think if you’re going to the range and you’re engaging in threats, eight to 18 feet is probably good for home defense. Anything over 18 feet, probably you don’t need to really engage it, unless you have to. And in a gun fight in your home, you’re not hunting the threat, you’re letting the threat come to you. So, by knowing the engagement points and knowing where dry wall you can shoot from and doors, are they hollow core, are they solid, those are all… Knowing the lay of the land is gonna give you the best opportunity for survival, if you do end up using a firearm in your home for protection.

Brett McKay: I remember I talked to one firearms instructor, ’cause he’s big on, you have to train the way you are preparing for, like the way reality is gonna be. And so, one thing he did, like, every now and then, like a week, he’d tell his wife, “I want you to set an alarm randomly during the night. I don’t know what night it’s gonna be, I don’t know what time it’s gonna be, and I’m gonna… ” He basically practiced dry fire, like getting used to getting woken up in the middle of the night and getting to your firearm. And I thought about that, I was like, “Yeah, if that happened to me, I don’t know how I would do.” Like the first time someone broke in my house and I had to find a fire… I don’t know if I’d do very well if I didn’t practice that.

Dave Young: No, you do have to practice, because when you’re scared a variety of impulses take over, and if you’re not programming your mind on what impulses you need to filter, it just delays your response and you really wanna respond not react in these situations. So you are gonna have to train, because when you’re scared, you’re gonna freeze, and that’s the worst thing you can do when you’re preparing to protect your own life, is to freeze.

Brett McKay: Alright/ So we talked about deterring criminals, we talked about what to do in the events, you’re gonna basically do a plan for active shooter situations, have a plan for escaping, have a plan for hiding and have a plan for engaging the criminal fighting back, if you have to. If you’re gonna do firearms, make sure you get training, make sure you practice. One thing I thought that was interesting in your book, is you talk about what happens after a home invasion. ‘Cause I feel like a lot of self-defense books, blogs, whatever, they never talk about after the event. But you have a whole section on that. Why do you think that was necessary to talk about?

Dave Young: Well, you know, my home invasion happened when I was 14, and there are certain things that happened to me during the day that I still can go back to that feeling. And the emotional scars of whether it’s PTSD, whether it’s emotional stress, whether it’s abuse, whatever the emotional trauma that you have felt over in your life, you’re gonna always have it unless you address it. And I can’t think of the most scariest thing is a person to have their home invaded. I mean, most people will move from their location within six months of having their house broken into, if they live in apartments, they just don’t wanna be there, they can’t sleep in that house anymore, someone’s been in their home, been on their bed, moved their sheets, ate their food, they feel violated. So, I wanted to make sure that people knew that you have to emotionally protect yourself just as much as you have to do physically, that means, you need to get to small groups, family counseling, find a pastor that will sit and listen, most of them do a great job with that. There’s other peer groups that you can get involved in.

But to just chock this up that it’s no big deal, that’s just crazy, you’ll never move past it. It’ll affect relationships. Your trust factor goes way low, ’cause everyone you think you talk to you think is lying to you, it will affect your relationships with your family, with your kids, with your jobs. It’ll change your personality. So, I wanted to make sure that if anyone was surviving something like that, I had nobody to talk to except the kids in the street, we just talked about how we find these people and beat them up, if we ever did. But I’m 57 now, and I still think about it when I was 14. So I wanted people to know they have to go get help, they have to talk to people that will listen, there’s professional help out there.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we do as good a job as we should. For big organizations that experience active shooter, these people are gonna be traumatized, and if you’re a survivor, it just means you physically kept yourself alive during that moment, now you have a whole bunch of years of horror you’re gonna have to address and focus on. I wanted to make sure people knew that they had to identify with it, first with themselves, come to the acceptance that there was nothing they could have done to maybe prevent it. Now that it’s over, they survived it, they should be given themselves thumbs up, and now saying, I can do this, I can survive this, I will survive. But if they don’t believe it in their heart, it can just tear them up and ruin them. I’ve seen good people physically survive bad situations and have been emotionally scarred for their entire life.

Brett McKay: And besides the emotional trauma of the attack, another thing the people forget about is after the home invasion happens, the state’s gonna prosecute this person, and you’re gonna be involved in that, so it might be months or years that you’re still dealing with this in some sort of way.

Dave Young: Yeah, there was one case we interviewed that a guy was found and he was found with six drivers license in his possession in the car that he had. Him and another person broke into six other homes. It didn’t go to court until like five years later. Criminally they were adjudicated pretty quickly, but then the civil cases came in, and the lawsuits came in, and civil lawsuits can last 7, 10, 15 years. So, even though you might have survived it on July 1st, you’re gonna be having dreams and recollections of what was happening and having to tell your story over and over again, for the next three to five years. So you have to take that time to really come to terms with it, that you did the best you could and you should pat yourself on the back, but people choose not to pat themselves on the back and they act like it don’t matter, and they get worse.

Brett McKay: Well, Dave, this has been a great conversation, where people go to learn more about the book and the rest of your work you do?

Dave Young: Well, the company I founded for the non-escalation, de-escalation is called Vistelar, that’s www.V-I-S-T-E-L-A-R, We have several books on managing conflict. We cover everything from words to weapons in our training. The last five years, we probably expanded our training outside of the law enforcement military police to education, healthcare, the hospitality industry, customer service. We’re seeing more and more verbal altercations escalate in a physical violence, so we’re trying to do our best to help people manage themselves emotionally, represent themselves physically and keep themselves safe mentally and emotionally. So, they can get a hold of me at the website, or you can just write me at [email protected] and I’ll be glad, answering any questions that they have.

Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Dave Young, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Dave Young: Hey, thanks a lot for having me, Brett.

Brett McKay: My guest today was Dave Young, he’s the author of the book, “How to defend your family and home,” it’s available on You can find out more information about his work at his company’s website, that’s, also check it at our show note where you’ll find links to resources, where you can delve deeper into this topic.

Well, that wraps up another addition of the AOM and podcast, check it at our website at, where you can find our podcast archives, as well as thousands of articles rewritten over the years about pretty much anything you could think of, and if you’d like to enjoy ad free episodes of the AOM podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium, head over to, sign up, use code MANLINESS to check out for a free month trial, once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS and you start join ad free episodes of the AOM podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us review on Apple podcast or Stitcher, it helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you, please consider sharing the show with a friend or a family member, who you think will get something out of it. As always, thank for the continuing support. Until next time. It’s Brett McKay, reminding all who’re listening to AOM podcast to put what you’ve heard into action.


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