I’ve talked to numerous friends, coworkers, students, family, and others about their perception of security in rural environments. The majority assume that living outside of heavily urban or suburban areas decreases the likelihood of their encountering a situation in which they would have to defend themselves or their loved ones from a lethal threat. I personally have found reason to believe quite the opposite. Let me share a couple of incidents that happened in my area that will hopefully cause you to rethink that position.
It Can Happen Anywhere
A 34-year-old male stole a vehicle and attempted to steal an ATM from the front of a convenience store. When confronted by a deputy who had responded to the ATM alarm call, the subject attempted to ram the deputy with the vehicle, which caused the stolen vehicle to become disabled. The subject then fled on foot, found an unlocked vehicle with keys in it (small town — again, rethink the security perception), stole that vehicle, and took off. The second stolen vehicle belonged to a local HVAC servicing company and was equipped with a GPS locator. The dispatcher for the company that owned the vehicle was able to track the vehicle and relay location, direction of travel, and speed to pursuing law enforcement officers. Sheriff’s deputies from a neighboring county disabled the vehicle with tire spikes, and the subject fled the vehicle and ran into a corn field. Air, canine, and foot patrol units pursued him until they apprehended him two miles away from his abandoned vehicle. The suspect was not armed but was considered dangerous because he had attempted to ram a deputy with his vehicle.
The above incident hit very close to home for me, as it all happened across the road from the property I live on. The suspect ditched his second stolen vehicle at our neighbor’s place that is closest to us to the north, and he was apprehended on our neighbor’s property that is closest to us to the south. We live on a 36-acre horse ranch, and our closest neighbor is ¾ mile to the east as the crow flies. The guy literally ran through my yard while being pursued, and he may have tried to gain access to our house. There were dead cornstalks by the entry door (which was locked), no wind to blow them there, and no stalks by the door the night before.
Another incident that helped change my thinking:
While backing out of our driveway on the way to work on a cold and rainy March morning, my wife and I saw a female subject in our headlights (memories of Night of the Living Dead flashed through my mind). We pulled up, opened the window slightly, and asked the individual if we could help. She related that she thought she had lost her cell phone in the ditch. We agreed to help look for it, and I asked my wife to call the sheriff and relay the situation to the dispatcher. They sent a deputy out, to which the girl objected vehemently. While helping find her phone, I noticed that she smelled strongly of alcohol. The deputy arrived, and we found out that the girl had been very intoxicated and run off from a party at about midnight the night before, and they had been looking for her since then. The deputy also informed me that this individual had a history of violence while intoxicated, especially toward law enforcement. The deputy convinced the girl to go with him at that point.
I was never of the opinion that because we live in a rural setting with no close neighbors we were less likely to have something happen that might require us to defend ourselves. Nevertheless, these two incidents reinforced to me the importance of getting solid personal-defense training and maintaining good situational awareness. In a rural setting, neighbors who might hear you hollering for help are much farther away. And in fact, no one may hear you at all.
Personal-Defense Preparedness for Rural Residents
My recommendations for personal-defense preparedness while living in a rural environment are:
Get good training. And make sure you receive training on all firearms platforms that you have available, within reason. Most people can’t afford to go to a ton of classes that cost many thousands of dollars. A training program that allows you to use the skills you learn in a multitude of contexts is ideal. The Combat Focus® Shooting program is an outstanding training program that gives you intuitive shooting skills that you will be able to incorporate into many different circumstances. Your training should include use of cover and how to engage threats from around cover. It is also important to note that competition shooting is not a substitute for defensive shooting training. There are some excellent articles and videos here on the Personal Defense Network that address these issues.
Communicate with Law Enforcement
Learn to communicate efficiently and effectively with law enforcement. If you ever have to report a threatening person on your property, the more information you can give the 911 dispatcher, the better. Make sure you give accurate descriptions of yourself and your location on the property, to make sure the responding officers do not mistake you for the bad guy.
Practice good home and property security measures. When leaving the house to work at other locations on the property (e.g., fence work, baling hay), lock the doors and take a key. Many people who live in rural environments are very lax on home and property security due to the aforementioned (mis)perception of safety. Locking doors, windows, vehicles, and buildings could be the deterrent that causes a bad guy to leave you and your place alone and go looking for an easier target.
Carry your firearm on your person whenever practical while on your property. Make sure it is carried in accordance with the laws of the area you live in, and remember that the reason to carry a defensive firearm is to defend yourself or others if you need to — not to show off, make a political statement, or just exercise your right to do so. Sometimes I carry openly while working on my property, and other times I carry concealed. It depends on the work I’m doing and the time of year.
Know Your Neighbors
Having a good relationship with your neighbors can be invaluable, as well as allow you to recognize people who more than likely are not coming to spoil your goods. I have great relationships with my neighbors, and they all know where I stand on personal defense issues. I have had several in classes with me and have helped them become more capable with their defensive firearms.
Be aware of your surroundings and practice good situational awareness. If you have livestock on your property, get to know their alarm signals and keep an eye on your stock when it is practical. I’m obviously not going to be watching my horses in the pasture if I have my head stuck under the tractor doing an oil change, but visual as well as aural signs that livestock give can tip you off to something that potentially needs your attention. Horses will raise their head and snort at things that are unusual for them. Cattle will stop eating and look intently at things that are different. Cats might run away, and dogs may go nuts. Use those signals to your advantage in being situationally aware.
This article is not meant to instill paranoia in those who live in rural settings. Country living is some of the best on planet Earth. But this article is meant to dispel the myth that living outside of urban areas means you don’t need to think about defending yourself and/or protecting your property. Maintain stringent personal and property security measures, and get some good training to become more effective at defending yourself.