Vicki Kawelmacher has spent the last decade as a self-defense instructor with a focus on teaching women to defend themselves in everyday situations. But a close call with a couple of would-be burglars last month at her home in Nevada has her re-examining home safety and urging other women – and men – to do the same.
“The moment I knew somebody was coming down my side yard I was terrified,” Kawelmacher, who runs the non-profit Help Me Help Her, said in a recent interview.
She was unsure what could happen but she knew she needed to keep herself safe until police arrived. So Kawelmacher grabbed her gun and went to a safe place in her home.
“I think the average homeowner relies way too much on 911,” she said. “They, and only they, are their first line of defense. People let their guard down in their homes because your home is your castle. Your home is your safe place. Not being prepared could mean the difference between life and death.”
Kawelmacher said that staying safe starts with being prepared and being prepared starts with knowing your best options ahead of time.
“I would encourage everyone, do a walk through of your house,” she said. “As a homeowner, you know your home better than anyone. You know where your hiding spots are. Have a plan. And the question you need to ask yourself is what do I do if? What do we do if?”
And while Kawelmacher has no qualms about carrying a gun, she realizes not everyone is comfortable with that option and encourages everyone to find the option with which they are comfortable.
“To say pepper spray is not a good option, or a taser is not a good option, or a stun gun is not a good option, I don’t think that’s fair,” Kawelmacher said. “I think you need to look at all of the options.”
Even everyday household items can buy time to get to a safer place if needed.
“Awareness and mindset will always be your first line of defense,” Kawelmacher said. “I don’t care who you are, you’ve got to tap into your awareness.”
And Kawelmacher said she never opens the door for people she doesn’t know, especially at night.