When Seeking Emergency Assistance at a Private Home in a Residential Area in the Middle of the Night
There have been numerous tragic occasions where innocent young men, desperately seeking emergency assistance in the dead of night—perhaps after a traffic accident or upon encountering car trouble in inclement weather—have been shot dead on front porches through glass or screen doors by allegedly “startled” home occupants who decided to shoot first and answer questions later. How a gentleman conducts himself when trespassing private property may make the difference between life and death.
When the door of a private home has a door knocker, a gentleman should knock three times in rapid succession, followed by a three-second pause, then another three rapid knocks, before immediately walking away from the door, preferably back onto public property directly in front of the house in an illuminated area if possible, (but certainly to at least 15 feet away from the door—in plain view—or completely off the front porch) in order to wait for an occupant of the home to respond. While waiting in plain view, the gentleman should continue using his hand-held device to attempt contact with the local emergency assistance agency. Being actively engaged in attempting to contact local emergency assistance also demonstrates to the home occupant that the gentleman is not armed with a weapon. (If after five minutes there is no response from an occupant of the home, the gentleman should repeat the process outlined above). Besides being a safety precaution, immediately vacating the premises and returning to public property directly in front of the home also serves a practical purpose: It allows the gentleman to observe whether his call to attention has alerted the occupants of the home—as evidenced by the turning on of lights, the opening of windows, etc. Being on public property, in plain view directly in front of the home also affords a startled home occupant the opportunity to calmly and rationally assess the situation from a safe distance, perhaps opening an upper-level window to respond to the inquiring gentleman. Upon obtaining the attention of the occupants of the home, the gentleman should quickly extend greetings for the evening and apologize for the imposition, then immediately (and audibly) declare his need for assistance—all from a “safe, non-threatening” distance: “Good evening, ma’am, sorry for the late-night imposition. Can you please help me and my friend by calling emergency assistance? I’ve been involved in a car accident about a mile down the road. My friend is injured, bleeding, and in the vehicle. I have no mobile phone reception. The situation is urgent. Thank you.” Only when invited by the occupant to re-approach the door should the gentleman do so. [If the occupant is unwilling to invite the gentleman onto his/her property or into the home while assistance is en route, the gentleman should request that the occupant provide a detailed physical description—height, weight, race, approximate age, garments—of the gentleman to the emergency agency so that the first-responders know in advance the physical characteristics of the person to whose assistance they have been summoned].
When the home has a doorbell (instead of a door knocker), it should be rung twice in rapid succession, followed by a two-second pause, then rung twice again in rapid succession, followed immediately thereafter by the procedure outlined above.
If after two attempts there is no response from the occupants, the gentleman should assess the totality of the circumstances, then decide whether to seek assistance elsewhere, or to make further contact attempts at the same residence.