Having an intruder in your home is one of the biggest fears of any homeowner. Each year about 16% of American households encounter a break-in, and they can happen whether or not you are home. Having a plan in the event of a break-in can save your life and help to protect your family from harm. There is no single best strategy as it will depend on the circumstances of the break-in, but in most cases escaping and getting help is the best course of action.
If an intruder enters your home:
Be quiet and listen. Try to determine how many intruders there are. Are they ransacking the house or moving towards you? Do not argue with your spouse about what to do as the noise will alert them to your presence and let them know that you are aware of them. Don’t leave your bedroom with a flashlight or a weapon to seek out the intruder: they may react violently if surprised. It is best to avoid confronting the intruder if possible. Keep your family together and get to a safe place.
A secure room is one of the best options for keeping your whole family safe and together. An interior closet with a sturdy door that opens outward is a good option for a single person. Whether you are securing a hiding spot or an entire room, be sure to put a deadbolt lock on the inside of the door and recharge your phone in that room each night. That way you will not have to scramble for your phone while attempting to get to your safe room, and you will be able to call the police even if your phone is taken off the hook or the line is cut. Stay inside the room and wait for help to arrive.
If you don’t have a safe room with a deadbolt lock, choose the most secure room with the best door and barricade it shut with heavy furniture. Call the police dispatcher and calmly tell them your situation in a few sentences so that they can help you as soon as possible. Informing them of something like: “Someone has just broken into my house. It sounds like one person. I don’t know if he has a weapon. He’s downstairs in the living room. I’m upstairs in the master bedroom with my wife,” gives them all the information they need. Leave the phone line open so the dispatcher can communicate with you and hear what is going on.
Remain calm and cooperative. How you behave in the first 30 seconds can set the tone for what follows and if violence occurs, it usually will happen within the first few minutes. Speak in as normal a voice as possible and make no sudden moves. Hold your hands up at shoulder level to demonstrate compliance while keeping them ready to defend yourself if necessary. Avoid direct eye contact as it may be seen as aggressive behavior.
Most break-ins can be avoided and it begins with strong doors and good locks. Most burglaries occur through the front or back door – 34% and 22% respectively – so investing in a steel-covered solid wood door at least 1.75” thick is a good place to start. Make sure the doorjamb is also steel and that any glass panels in or near the door are made of unbreakable glass. An alarm system is also a good way to scare burglars away from your home before they get both feet in the door. In most cases, a thief will flee the scene if they hear an alarm has been triggered.