(WMC-TV) - If you heard an intruder entering your home, what is the first thing you would do? Would you reach for your phone? Or your gun? Staying safe in your own home can mean a split second decision, but whatever decision you make, be ready to live with the consequences.
Sherry Carruth lives with her children and two dogs in East Memphis.
"I still have kids here. You don't fool with my family."
When something suspicious is going on, Sasha and Lelo sound the alarm.
"I know when she barks, something's going on," Sherry explained. "Neither one of them appreciate anyone that doesn't belong here."
Southaven Police Chief Tom Long says a barking dog goes a long way in keeping you and your family safe.
"That has been proven over and over and over to be one of the best deterrents on the planet," said Chief Long. "Because you really are taking, you know, your life in your hands, even if it's five poodles."
And if the dogs don't stop them, Sherry is ready too.
"If I was back in the bedroom, I'd grab the gun first," she said. "If I'm up here, I'll get the bat that I have in the corner."
Chief Long says OK, but there is something else you should do first.
"Dial 9-1-1. Even if you can't talk, because we're going to respond. Everybody has the enhanced 9-1-1 system that is going to give us your location," he said.
Stay on the phone, and then barricade yourself inside your room to buy yourself some time until police arrive.
If possible, use a piece of furniture to block your door. Keep something in your room to protect yourself, such as a baseball bat or pepper spray. And let the intruder know that you are taking action.
"Tell them. Let them know what they're dealing with," said Chief Long. "At that point, it may be a relative of yours, that says 'Hey, it's me.'"
Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri operate under separate Castle Doctrines or "Stand Your Ground" laws that allow a person to legally use deadly force when a victim feels his or her life is being threatened. Specifics vary state to state.
"Well, I'd automatically shoot them. There's no question on that," said Sherry. "I think any person who felt their life was threatened and had a gun, would use it."
Chief Long wants to remind everyone to think before acting.
"If it turns out to be some young teenager or some kid who ran away from home and crawled in, you know. You may not be near as zealous about wanting to defend it against that person as somebody that escaped prison that's murdered three people," he explained.
Sherry says regardless of who tries to get in, she is prepared.
"God helps those who help themselves. I'm prepared to take care of myself," she said.
Chief Long says if you are going to use a gun to protect yourself, do it legally. He also warns that you will live with the decision you make for the rest of your life, so be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Be knowledgeable about the gun laws in your state by clicking the following links:
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