Your Home Is Your Fortress: But Can Emergency Responders Get In?

ambulanceHolidays are for visiting family, which in my case means visiting a place with a lot of AARP publications sitting around. And one of the aforementioned (December 2015 AARP Bulletin) offers useful reminders on the effects of living behind carefully locked doors and barred windows, perhaps with a zealous security guard or a protective dog, if you need to be rescued by ambulance or fire personnel.

Bottom line: Your rescuers may not be able to reach you.

The article, ominously titled “When Every Second Counts,” cites “real-life tragedies,” in which emergency responders couldn’t break down doors or get past a dog’s sharp fangs in time to save the person inside.

It would all feel a bit sensational if it weren’t real. And fortunately, the article provides some simple, practical advice to tuck into one’s brain for an emergency moment, particularly if home alone: Turn on the lights and open the door after calling 911! If you live in a building with a security desk, call it, too. Better yet, if possible, step outside so that the EMTs can find you quickly; or send someone to wave them down.

In the meantime, AARP recommends thinking ahead about practical measures you can take to ensure that you can be located and reached quickly. For example, cutting back trees near one’s driveway, keeping stairs in good repair, and making sure your house numbers are freshly painted on the curb in reflective paint will all help avoid situations where an ambulance is circling the block or can’t get into the driveway.

Now, what about that dog? Unfortunately, you can’t explain to an animal who are the good guys and who are the bad. The article suggests locking pets away. I would underline that with a caution that, legally speaking, if you aren’t in a condition to restrain the dog and the dog looks ready to attack the first responders, they are schooled in the idea that it’s okay to kill an animal for defensive purposes. (See When Killing a Dog Is Legally Justified.)

Okay, with all that in mind, go ahead and climb that stepladder to put the star on top of the tree . . .