Clearing Your Home of a Suspected Intruder - Part Three


by Larry Pomykalski

In this edition of the Firing Line, we’re going to start discussing some techniques for effective and safe house clearing. But be sure you’ve caught up with Part One and Part Two before reading on.

Now that you’re aware of the complications involved in clearing a house or apartment, we’re going to start discussing some basic techniques you can use if the situation absolutely requires that you search your home for an intruder. Let’s be clear about that point-we’re going to discuss what I consider the best method for a solitary civilian to search their own home-this is not the way an entry team would do it.

Let’s use our example from Part 2-you’re asleep on the second floor of your home when you are awakened by breaking glass and muffled voices from the first floor. While you have pre-teen kids that have rooms on your floor, your teenager sleeps in a bedroom in the basement, so you have to go and ascertain that he’s safe. Waiting for the police to respond would endanger your child, so you must act.

The first step is to try and gather some basic intelligence. If you have a dog, what is your dog doing? If you have a dog that barks at the slightest provocation and he’s sitting quietly by your door, that might be an indication that the noise is benign. If your floors squeak, or your doors creek, have you heard any noises that indicate someone moving about? The one big advantage you have in your own home is an intimate knowledge of the layout and idiosyncrasies of its construction. Use that knowledge now.

Retrieve your firearm and your flashlight. You’re going to move through your home with your firearm pointed forward and down, with your finger off the trigger. This is commonly called the ‘ready’ position. Try and avoid having the gun extended out at arm’s length-instead, keep your elbows down and close to your body. This prevents your firearm from preceding you as you approach a corner, and also makes it easier to protect your gun if you get in a scuffle with an intruder.

As you move through your home, you’re going to follow some basic rules:
  • Don’t turn on any lights if you can avoid it. With your eyes adjusted to the dark, you should be able to move fairly efficiently in your own home. If you can’t do that, turn the lights on from a position of cover, if possible, and move away from the switch as soon as possible.
  • Use the flashlight intermittently. Don’t walk around with it on constantly, for obvious reasons. If you have to do this to search your home, you’re probably better off turning on the lights. ‘Blink’ your light at potential hiding areas, letting the quick flash illuminate the area like a flash of lightning. As soon as you flash the light, move. Never light without moving immediately afterward.
  • Keep your firearm ready, but avoid pointing it wherever you point the light. Yes, I know that entry teams do this, but they have a great deal of practice with their trigger discipline-and even then, there are tragic errors at times. Keep the weapon pointed forward and down until you have a target.
  • Don’t worry about banging doors open like they do on TV. Instead, put a premium on moving as quietly as possible.

A basic precept of clearing a space is not turning your back on anything that has not been cleared, or thoroughly searched. Working alone, you will find situations where this ideal must be compromised. Still, work toward that goal.

As you leave your bedroom, take a quick glance out of your door, keeping your body behind the wall, not the door. If the hallway outside appears clear, move quickly and decisively out the door and to the next corner or position of cover. It’s important not to hover near doors or in hallways-these are the areas that professionals refer to as ‘fatal funnels’-areas where an aggressor can predict your movement. If someone is waiting for you to come after them, it’s common sense that they’ll prepare to encounter you where they know you’ll be, and that’s a doorway or hall. You must leave these areas as quickly as you safely can, and spend no longer in them than necessary.

Before we wrap up this edition of the Firing Line, here’s another homework assignment:

With your flashlight and a banana (alright, it doesn’t HAVE to be a banana-anything that will work as a substitute firearm is fine), practice moving through your home following the above principles. Consider how you will open doors, and how and when you will have to employ the flashlight or room lights. This rehearsal should find you modifying your movement each time you repeat a specific task, since you’ll likely identify better ways to move as you practice.

When you’ve done that a few times, consider playing ‘hide and seek’ with a partner, and in darkness that resembles real life conditions. (“Pax”, from The High Road forum, suggests using your kids, armed with rubber band guns to keep you honest - an excellent idea!)

In the next edition, we’ll look at some specific approaches to various floor plans. In the meantime, stay safe.

Larry Pomykalski

"Larry Pomykalski is a former military firearms instructor, former police officer and certified instructor in pistol, knife, OC and defensive tactics."

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