Finding yourself in a life-threatening situation involving armed criminals is not something most of us want to think about. It is, however, essential to have a plan of action, says Charnel Hattingh, head of marketing and communications at Fidelity ADT.
Being South Africa’s largest armed response service provider, Fidelity ADT has first-hand knowledge of the prevalence of armed robberies and home invasions and where and when these are likely to occur.
“Apart from providing fast response to these priority crimes at homes and businesses, along with all other resources that may be needed, like trauma counselling and medical assistance, we continuously educate our customers about how to react in situations like this,” she says.
“How you react when faced with a nervous, gun-toting criminal can save your life, or cost you your life. All family members need to know what to do if uninvited guests come through the door intent on robbing you, or worse.”
The most prevalent crimes involving armed criminals are home invasions, hijackings, and follow-home robberies.
Hattingh says these are common scenarios:
• Motorists pulling in and out of driveways are a common target and are often even held up in the garage and then forced back into the house.
• People who withdraw large amounts of cash from banks are followed home and robbed.
• Families entertaining outside at home or relaxing inside are surprised by armed criminals.
• Armed criminals break into homes in the early hours of the morning when everyone is asleep and surprise the homeowners in their beds.
Six tips on what to do in an armed robbery
1. Stay calm and obey the criminals’ orders.
2. Keep your hands visible and don’t reach for anything unless told to do so.
3. Don’t try to negotiate with them. Speak when spoken to and do so clearly.
4. Give them what they ask for and don’t lie about safes or cash in the home. Likely, the criminals have done their homework.
5. Observe the criminals and try to gather information on their appearances, voices, language used, etc. Look at clothing, distinguishing marks, height, and types of weapons, for example.
6. Keep them informed so there are no surprises, like a family member arriving for a visit.
• Press your panic button/phone to alert your armed response service provider and/or phone the police on 10111. Say if you need medical assistance.
• Lock all doors.
• Check on the victims. Keep everyone calm.
• Relate the incident clearly and in detail to the first responders.
• Try not to disturb areas the criminals were in, and point out anything they may have left behind.
“These are terrifying ordeals. It is not easy to keep a cool head when children and other loved ones are in harm’s way, but one of the most important reactions is to stay calm,” Hattingh says. “The criminals are also nervous – maybe even on drugs – so the slightest wrong move or sudden movement can lead to shots being fired.”
Crime can be prevented.
“Vigilance is important, as is good perimeter security and home security measures like activating outdoor beams when you get home and the alarm in areas of the home you are not using. Never allow strangers onto your property. Security systems should be linked to an armed response service provider and all systems must be regularly tested.
“Prevention is better than cure. And, in the case of a traumatic armed home invasion, the long-term psychological effects can rob you of quality of life. Do all you can to keep criminals out of your home and make sure the family all know what to do if they are held up,” Hattingh concludes.
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