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Keep calm and stay alive

Being assaulted by armed robbers in your home is never something you can plan or prepare for.

“How you act when threatened however may very well determine the outcome of events for both yourself and your family. When faced with an armed robber, it’s important to remember that the one thing you can control is your emotions. Give you and your loved ones the best chance at escaping unscathed by remaining calm,” says Mike Francisco, security spokesperson for the Muldersdrift Communication Action Group (MCAG.)

By staying calm, you think more clearly and present less of a threat to a nervous intruder, since you’re less likely to make surprise moves. This reduces the chance of the robber becoming agitated, which in turn reduces the risk of violence, he explains. “When you do feel panic beginning to rise, it’s important to try and slow down your thoughts and remain focused on pulling through. Signs of panic include a racing pulse, dizziness, sweating and hyperventilation – all symptoms that can dull your senses and prevent you from keeping your wits about you. If you do feel panic rising, relax your muscles and try slowing down your breathing by focusing on taking deeper breaths. It also helps to motivate yourself with positive thoughts, such as ‘be brave, stay in control, stay still and above all, remain calm’.”

Expect swearing, shouting and other unnerving noise and actions or reactions from the robbers. If you’re prepared for volatile behaviour, you’ll be less unnerved and better equipped to focus on protecting yourself, seeking any exit possibilities or finding ways to keep yourself out of harm’s way. “Remember they are often more anxious than you are or may even be high on drugs.”

“It’s also wise to avoid any sudden movements. If you do need to move, reach or change your position, tell the robber first so that they’re aware and not surprised by your moves,” says Francisco. Most of all, cooperate. “This isn’t the time for heroics and defiance. Make it clear that you are submitting by responding to their requests promptly and not backchatting. Do not make eye contact with the perpetrators and take up a lower body posture by lowering your head. Remind yourself throughout that the incident will be over faster if you comply with their demands.”

In addition, speak only if you need to answer the intruder and always reply honestly. Keep your answers short, precise and positive by using simple words and phrases. And don’t speak unnecessarily. While you should only raise the alarm when it’s completely safe to do so, keep unobtrusively looking for ways out of the situation. “Most of the time it is best to wait it out, but you should still consider whether escape is a safe possibility or not. Working on strategies to get through the event can help to keep you calm because you’ll feel that you have at least a little control over what is happening to you. Yet if it is too big a risk to raise the alarm, rather refrain from doing so. The last thing you want is for the robber to feel threatened and harm you as a result,” he says.

As a final thought, Francisco says if the children are old enough, it is worth discussing this type of approach with them before an incident happens. Many of the schools discuss safety at home with scholars too and in this way they are a little more prepared to deal with a situation. It is also advisable that all members of the family have access to emergency numbers. “Every family member should have an awareness of safety and how to behave in a life threatening situation.”