Self-Defense 101: Making a Plan with Your Family

There’s far more to self-defense than simply owning and carrying a firearm. A multitude of other factors should be considered, including mentality, self-defense insurance, and training. One facet of self-defense that’s often overlooked is the need to make a plan, which is especially important if you have a family that includes kids. So, what does a family self-defense plan look like? We’re going to share some tips and ideas with you so you can create the best defensive plan for your family.

silhouette of a nuclear family with three children
It’s vitally important to make a self-defense plan with your family. Having things outlined in advance helps relieve the stress and uncertainty in the aftermath of a defensive situation or attack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s a Self-Defense Plan?

You might believe self-defense is a matter of defending your life or the lives of your loved ones from a deadly threat and moving on with your life. However, there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, if you stop and consider the realities of having kids, you might realize having a self-defense plan in place is about more than running away or finding a responsible adult.

A good example of a situation requiring a family plan is school shootings. Although school shootings are not at all a new occurrence—they’ve been going on since the 1700s—people are becoming more aware of them.

Have you ever stopped and considered what you would do, and what your kids would do, if their school was attacked? This is about thinking beyond the knee-jerk reaction to somehow be magically present to protect them at all times. You need to have a plan that helps you provide that protection while also putting a portion of the responsibility for that protection into their own hands. This might feel counterintuitive, but this is important and doable even for grade-school-age kids.

students and responders outside the school - Uvalde school shooting
It’s vital to make a plan with your kids for what to do during and after an active killer situation at a school. (Photo credit: Fox News)

Bottom line? A good self-defense plan with your family covers what you’re going to do in one of two scenarios:

  1. A defensive incident or attack where you are all physically present.
  2. An attack during which you’re separated, such as during school hours.

What should a Safety Plan for my kids include?

text with the word Safety highlighted
Having a safety plan in place with your kids isn’t just smart, it’s a must. (Photo credit: Philosophy Talk)

Let’s consider making safety plans specifically for the aftermath of an active killer situation at a school. This is not only a timely plan to focus on but one that is overlooked all too often.

students participating in active killer drill
Is hiding ever a good idea during an active killer situation? It’s very scenario-specific. (Photo credit: KHOU News)

Things to include in a plan for your kids in the event of an active killer situation:

  • Understanding the realities of “run, hide, fight” that most schools teach.
  • Letting the kids know it is okay to disobey a teacher or other authority figure in certain situations. This can be tricky, but kids do need to understand adults aren’t always right, and when their lives are on their own, it’s even more vital. This is easier to communicate as kids get older and their comprehension improves.
  • The difference between cover and concealment. When dealing with young kids, be specific about what items in their classroom or school will provide cover.
  • Where the exits are and how to get to them. Practice walking those routes.
  • How to break a window or glass wall/door to leave. Although protection from cuts would not be the priority during an active killer situation, there are still steps they can take to try to protect themselves at least somewhat.
  • A meeting place away from school grounds that they can safely walk to from the school, alone, where you or another trusted person will be waiting for them. This route should be practiced so it is memorized.
  • A safe word that is unique enough that no one will guess it. That’s the word someone would use to let the kids know they were endorsed and/or sent by you to get them.
  • Age and size-appropriate ways to fight back if they are left with that choice.
  • How guns work, and how to apply that to fighting back when that’s the only choice.
children learning CPR
Yes, kids can and should learn first aid and CPR. (Photo credit: Cool Kids First Aid)

The bottom line of creating a safety plan with your kids in the case of an active killer situation is a weighty one, especially for young kids. They must decide, on the spot, whether they can or should run, hide, or fight, and how to do it. If they can get away, they need to have a plan already in place so there’s no debating what to do and where to go. Is this a lot for kids? Of course it is, but they can do it. Kids are more resilient than many people realize.

Other things to include in a safety plan for your kids:

  • Basic first aid skills
  • CPR
  • Tourniquet application
  • Fire extinguisher operation
  • Pepper spray use

What should a Safety Plan with my spouse be?

Whether they’re your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife, you should have a plan in place with your other half. The details of the plan depend on whether or not you both carry guns for defensive use, which of you is better trained, and other factors. Don’t just wing it.

If both you and your other half carry guns, it’s wise to spend time training as a team. Learning to take turns with who is in charge, clear rooms together, move as a team, and shoot safely as a team, are all important skills. Gunsite Academy teaches a fantastic Team Tactics course that utilizes their shoot houses.

partners training for team tactics at Gunsite Academy
Training for team tactics with your other half, or really with anyone, is a wise idea. Gunsite Academy offers a Team Tactics class. (Photo credit: Gunsite Academy)

There’s a lot more to shooter dynamics and team training than you might believe, which is why it’s smart to invest the time and money necessary to go through a class with your significant other.

However, if only one of you carries a firearm for self-defense, your dynamics will be different. The teamwork you practice will revolve around allowing the person capable of defending you to take the lead. It is always worth considering having both of you trained and armed; relying solely on one person is simply higher risk than both being fully prepared.

Your plan with your significant other should include:

  • Deciding who takes the lead for defensive use of a firearm, if there is a choice.
  • Making a plan for where the person without a gun goes, and what they do.
  • Agreeing on whether you both immediately retreat, when possible, or take other action.
  • Coming to an agreement on what to do if there is an armed active killer incident while you’re at the store or mall, but not together at the crucial moment.
  • Having a point of contact aside from yourselves that you intend to reach out to for help if something happens.
  • Knowing the information for your self-defense insurance and/or lawyer.
  • Figuring out who does what with the kids, if they are with you.
  • Choosing at least a generalized meeting place away from the area if there’s an incident.
  • Knowing who will cover what direction (for example, my husband is left-handed and I’m right-handed).

Do you really need a Self-Defense plan?

The answer to whether or not you truly need a self-defense plan with your significant other and other members of your family is a resounding “yes.” Being prepared in advance is a smart survival tactic and also removes a layer of stress, should the worst occur. Knowing in advance what you each intend to do, or need to do, takes away the guessing factor. It’s not only responsible but wise to do your best to map out what you will all do before it happens. This is no different than planning an escape route and meeting place in the event of a house fire. Being prepared is always wise.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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