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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

How to Safely Answer the Door

Home invasion, the act of forcibly entering a home to commit robbery or other crimes while the occupant is present, is a terrifying and dangerous experience. Unfortunately, federal crime statistics report that this kind of robbery is increasing in popularity and is a common type of robbery. Usually home invasion perpetrators gain entry by posing as legitimate visitors. The key to preventing home invasions is to recognize a potentially dangerous caller, because once the criminal enters the home, it's often too late to do anything about it.

  1. Think before you open the door. Too many of us automatically run to the door and swing it open when someone knocks, especially if we're busy around the house at the time. Get in the habit of pausing to ask yourself whether you're expecting anyone or whether this is a logical time for someone to be visiting.
  2. Use a peephole or security chain when checking who is at the door. If you have some vision, look to see who the visitor is. Look through a peephole or think about installing an inexpensive video camera that can be accessed by your television.

    Make sure your security chain is locked and open the door just a crack. If you don't recognize the person ask them their business and request that they show their identification. If they have a legitimate reason to be on the premises (they work for the utility company or they're a police officer), they'll be happy to show you their ID. If you are still afraid to let them in, tell them to go away and have a friend come over when they are scheduled to return.

  3. While the door is still locked, ask the person for identification. If the person claims to be from, for example, the electric company, and you've not been notified that someone would be coming, call the company to check on him. Even if he shows you identification, it's a good idea to call and check, because identification cards can easily be faked. Look up the number in your phone book; don't call a number that the visitor gives you.
  4. Take your wireless home phone or cell phone to the door with your finger near a speed dial that calls 911 automatically. Be careful that you do not push the number accidentally in the event the visitor is friendly.
  5. Leave the house if you feel uncomfortable after letting someone in. If you've done your best to verify a person's identification but you begin to feel uncomfortable after you've let the visitor in the house, make up an excuse to leave the house and go to a neighbor's home or call the police. If you feel threatened, don't worry about being impolite--run out of the house and call police as quickly as you can.

Teach children to answer the door correctly. Kids are often eager to answer the door, and if you can't be sure they will do it safely and securely, they should be prohibited from doing so.

Security chains are not necessarily all that strong, and will break if the door is hit by someone of sufficient size and strength. They can also be cut using bolt cutters.

Many people who would exercise caution with a male visitor will drop their guard when a woman or girl comes calling. Keep in mind that women have been known to participate in home invasions and other crimes, and they are sometimes used as decoys to gain entrance because people usually feel safer around them.

If someone forces their way in, and you make the decision to fight back, do so right away--it is much safer than waiting. If somebody is going to violently assault you, they will probably want to do so behind the closed door. So fight as soon as they try to force their way in. Be very cautious about making a decision to fight someone; such a decision should not be made lightly. Do not endanger yourself further by attempting to disarm someone wielding a gun or other weapon.

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