DVD review: Empowered Citizen Vol. 1 – Personal Safety in the Home.

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This DVD from the Personal Defense Network features Kelly Muir, the developer of the Wrong Woman self defense program, and Rob Pincus, developer of the Combat Focus shooting program, teaching you how to protect yourself in your home!

DVD review: Empowered Citizen Vol. 1 – Personal Safety in the Home
Presented by Kelly Muir and Rob Pincus

This is this first DVD in a new sub-series within PDN’s Personal Firearm Defense series, titled “Empowered Citizen”. It deals with some of the options you might have to protect yourself, including things other than guns, when faced with a threat against your well-being.

Personal Safety in the Home isn’t a “how to harden your house against intruders” video; instead, it starts at the point that an intruder is on your doorstep and covers the things you can do to defend yourself and your family against him.

The program starts with a re-telling of the Dartmouth University Murders, a 2001 incident in which two Dartmouth college professors (Half Zantop and his wife Susanne) were stabbed to death by two local teens. If you’re not familiar with the incident, the teens wanted to start an adventurous life of crime and needed seed money, so they decided to pull some robberies. They also decided that to be good crooks they needed to dispose of their victims so that there were no witnesses to their deeds.

The reason this incident is important to the rest of the video is because of what caused them to pick their victims. As it happens, their first attempt was thwarted by an alert and armed homeowner. In that there is a lesson, one which Muir and Pincus return to multiple times in the remainder of the program: be prepared and have a plan.

Many victims of home invasions have a trusting nature, as did the Zantops; they lived in a “safe” area. This led them to allow the killers into their home, with tragic results. Don’t take this to mean that you need to become a hardened, grizzled misanthrope to keep yourself safe, however! It does mean, as Pincus points out in his analysis of the murders, that you need both awareness of how attacks happen and a plan to deal with them.

Understand first that there is no one picture of a killer, nor do they ply their trades in any specific kind of area. This was a nice neighborhood, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and the killers were clean-cut, popular, good students at the local high school. No one would be frightened of them, a fact which they exploited to gain the victim’s trust and to enter their home.

Their first victim survived largely because he was wary of strangers ringing his doorbell. He didn’t open the door for the killers, and in fact when they insisted on being let in he displayed his Glock pistol to warn them off. It worked, and instead they went to the much more trusting Zantop house.

Thus the first tip in this DVD seems simple enough: don’t let strangers into your house! To reinforce that message, the host gives some good advice about dealing with an unexpected stranger at the door, including how to position yourself to maintain control over the entrance. As Pincus points out, you can’t shut yourself off from society and become a hermit behind closed doors, but you aren’t obligated to open your door for everyone in the world either. There is a middle ground!

Kelly Muir then takes over with some very solid — and very detailed — advice about how to deal with strangers in your home. As she points out, your home should be a relaxed environment, but there are times when you need to raise your awareness and preparedness.

She divides having strangers in your home into two categories: those who are expected and have a purpose being there (home repair, furniture deliveries, etc.) and those who are unexpected and have no business with you.

The latter category is really an expansion on what Pincus covered in dealing with people at your door, with more detail on just what you can do if they happen to make entry despite your best efforts.

It’s the former category, however, which is most intriguing to me and it’s one to which Muir has obviously given quite a bit of thought. Workmen in your home are rarely vetted, even by the companies they work for. It’s not unusual to find helpers and apprentices with records, and it’s not unheard of for them to use their legitimate presence to “case” a house for later entry.

Muir goes into detail about how to handle these inevitable occasions in three separate areas: things to do before they arrive; what to do while they’re in the house; and what you should do after they leave. She gives a lot of great tips, many of which I’d not considered, in preparing for the “expected stranger”. She explains how and why to establish a work area, how to guide the visitor to and from that area, what you should do to monitor their activities, and finally how to determine if they’d been doing something other than their job while they were there. For me, this was one of the best segments of the entire DVD.

Another actual event is then presented: a home invasion in Prescott, AZ where a teenager was able to successfully respond to — and repel — intruders in his home. Listening to the young man talk about what he did and his reasoning behind his actions was inspiring and enlightening. (I won’t spoil the story with too much detail, but at one point the 9-1-1 operator tells him to do something remarkably stupid and he’s smart enough not to listen to her. Good for him!)

Again an analysis of the incident was provided, and even though this one turned out perfectly fine there were still some things that could have been done better. In this case, the doors to the house weren’t locked; it was nighttime in a remote, rural location and no doubt the occupants weren’t used to locking their doors. It’s important, no matter where you live, to lock your doors whenever you’re home! (The point is also made that you shouldn’t rely on the people who built your house to make those doors solid and safe; you’ll have to see to that yourself, whether you do it or have it done.)

After that, Pincus presents his 5 Fundamentals of Home Defense: evade, barricade, arm, communicate, and respond. He covers each segment quickly but thoroughly, giving specific examples (from the two cases studied) to illustrate his points. For many, this will be the most important segment of the DVD because it forces you to think ahead and plan for the worst-case scenario.

Storing firearms, pre-positioning them for quick and easy access, gets some attention as does interaction with responding law enforcement. Pincus points out that you need to make a plan for your home defense and that you need to practice that plan with the entire family from time to time.

A bonus section deals with non-firearm defense in the home. It’s possible that you could be caught without a firearm on your person, or without easy access to one, and it’s imperative that you think about alternative weapons in your environment. Pincus walks through a typical house and shows various options that might be found. The kitchen is certainly the easiest (butcher knives being a formidable weapon in the resolute hand), but there are weapons of convenience in nearly every room.

Again, thinking about this ahead of time is important — not because it will identify specific weapons, but because it accustoms your mind to thinking in terms of something other than a gun. It opens your mind to options.

This DVD upholds the good production values and quality of information that PDN is becoming known for. There isn’t much fluff here, just solid information from knowledgable professionals. Definitely recommended.

You can purchase the Personal Safety in the Home DVD from the I.C.E Store (I receive no compensation from your purchase.)

-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-

Disclosure: This DVD was supplied by the Personal Defense Network for review. I am affiliated with PDN as a contributor, and have worked with their Managing Editor, Rob Pincus, on various projects over the years. Nevertheless, I pledge to endeavor to maintain an objective point of view in this review.

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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