During our SAFE 101 Violence Prevention courses, one of the most widely discussed topics is, “What do I do if a stranger is at the door?”. Well, I thought it valuable to share my Top 6 Critical SAFE 101 Rules to Remember When a Stranger is at Your Door. I have never been a victim to a home invasion, but those I have taught who have experienced it have told me it is one of the most harrowing experiences. So while the odds of it happening may be slim, we are always best prepared for the worst-case scenario.
1) Are You Expecting Them?
If you are not expecting them, you should automatically raise your level of awareness, not paranoia. Take into consideration you have no way of knowing why they might be at your door, who they are, and, most importantly, what their motive for being at the door is.
2) Never Open the Door to a Stranger!
One of the questions I usually ask is when the doorbell rings, do you immediately open the door without seeing who it is first? Or do you look out the window and open the door even if you don’t recognize the person? Many people open the door to strangers because they feel it is rude to talk to someone through the door or a window located near the entrance. Once that door is open, it is virtually impossible to stop them from forcing their way in.
Some tell me they speak through the door, and the person has attempted to make them feel guilty for not opening the door. Think about that; if a complete stranger is trying to manipulate you and make you feel guilty, that is a huge warning sign.
3) But They are Dressed Like a Service Person
This one drives me nuts. Many companies, particularly furnace companies, appear to send their technicians out to their client’s homes without setting up an appointment. I am sorry, but if I am not expecting you, I will not allow you entry to my house.
Now let’s say you don’t want to send them away, what can you do to help ensure they are there for the reason they are telling you? I would ask to see identification through the window. If you indicate you are calling the company to make sure they are supposed to be there, they will leave quickly. If you can’t see through a window, ask for the name of the company and tell them to wait while you place the call while keeping an eye on them from inside the house.
I recall one woman who opened the door and proceeded to say to the guy (who was there to check the furnace supposedly) that she wasn’t expecting him, but he could still come in since his husband made many appointments without telling her. The attacker asked, “Which way to the furnace?” and politely said, “after you,” which appears that he is a gentleman. This tactic brought her to the basement ahead of him, where she is now isolated. This gave him a higher chance to assault her sexually.
4) What is Their Body Language Telling You?
Body Language accounts for between 60% to 65% of communication, so it can be essential to understand in regards to Violence Prevention. If you look through the side window and seem to be looking around erratically, that may indicate they are looking to see if there are any witnesses. Even something seemingly small like they are very close, almost hiding close to the door may be a sign they are trying not to be seen. Do they appear nervous or fidgety? One first sign of trouble is if you do open the door and look past you to one side or the other, they may be scoping the house for any threats to their motives.
5) But They Say They Have an Emergency!
Unfortunately, some people need help, but nowadays, some people will create a scenario where they bring you in emotionally in an attempt to gain access to the house. How do they do this? One example may be: Picture a woman at your door crying and indicating her baby is sick, and she needs a phone to call 911 immediately. Wouldn’t you be more likely to let that woman in the home? This is an excellent way to take advantage of someone’s kindness. My best advice is to offer to call 911 for them. I don’t know of any argument they could have for that. If you decide to let them use the phone, have them back up and hand to them, but understand you may now be without a phone. It all comes down to your Intuition and what you are comfortable doing.
6) I Don’t Answer the Door
I also have many people tell me they don’t answer the door so they can avoid possible confrontation at the front door. Or they teach their kids not to answer the door if they are left home alone for any length of time. While this may be effective most of the time, but if the goal of the potential attacker is to break into the home and they now think no one is home, then not answering the door might not be the best answer. The challenge is that we don’t know the motive of the attacker always. People and children should have options that they can implement on a moment’s notice. If one does not answer the door and then sees the person walking around the house, they may call 911, but they should also consider if they can exit the house quickly, and would they know what to say out the window, so the person no longer thinks it is empty. Teaching communication options is critical, especially for children. We will explore this in a future blog post.