In the United States, there is an average of around 1 million home invasions per year. Most of these invasions occur between 10 AM and 3 PM when people are at work or school and away from their homes. That being said, there’s always the likely chance that you could be home during a home invasion.
To survive a home invasion, you must plan beforehand, hide in a safe room, and contact the police. If the intruder does not find you, do not leave your safe spot until the cops arrive. If they do find you, ensure you don’t agitate the intruders and follow their directions until it’s over.
During a home invasion, there is little one can do to prepare except hide and call the police, which is why planning before your home ever gets invaded is the number one key to surviving a home invasion. Better yet, instead of surviving a home invasion, why not prevent the probability of having your home invaded?
To prevent a home invasion, one must:
- Get home security: Investing in a home security system is, bottom line, the most useful for battling home burglary, but it’s also not cheap. At around $500 for equipment and installation and another $20 to $50 per month for the monthly monitoring, not everybody can afford professional home security. But there is a cheaper alternative. Getting DIY, or do it yourself, security equipment and systems can offer a similar level of security at the cost of doing it yourself.
- Prevent your house from looking like easy pickings: Vulnerable, insecure houses are more likely to be subject to home invasions. Making it seem like the home is occupied when it’s not by leaving a car in the driveway, or having short fence/hedges so it’s easier to see intruders from all sides, cameras on the porch, flood lights, multiple locks on the door, etc. can all make your house look secure and prevent your house from becoming a target.
- Stop leaving easy ways in: Leaving the front or back door unlocked is a no-no. So is leaving your key under a potted plant near the door, on top of the door, and so forth.
- Not open the door for strangers: The chances of your home invader knocking on your door to burst in and take you hostage seems very low, but it can happen. Get a chain on your door and if you don’t recognize the person on the other side, don’t unlock it unless you are 100% sure of their intentions.
- Not advertise when they’ll be away from home: More than half of home invasions are perpetuated by people the homeowners know, whether it be distant relatives, people from their neighborhood, or work acquaintances. With social media on the rise, updating other people on your life’s goings-on–where you’ll be tomorrow, where you’re eating now, when you’ll be on vacation–is very commonplace. It’s also, unfortunately, how burglars know when to rob your home. Do not advertise when your home will be empty to people you don’t know well or on social media.
- Get a house-sitter for long trips: There’s a story that pops up every couple of months. Family leaves for a couple of months on vacation. They come back and another family is squatting there. Ensuring that you have someone to house-sit or look out for your house while going on a long trip can prevent that.
Of course, no matter how secure your house looks from the outside, or how blatant your home security is, there is still a chance that it will get invaded. In those cases, you prepare for what happens when it gets broken into.
- Get a weapon: A weapon that you know how to use and are willing to use is the best weapon. Firearms are a popular self-defense weapon for owners, but if you don’t think you can kill in a fight/flight situation or don’t know how to operate one, then it can be more trouble than it’s worth–though having a prop gun, like a realistic-looking shotgun, can be helpful with intimidation and clubbing someone upside the head.
- Make a safe room:
The perfect safe room requires:
- A fully charged phone and phone charger to call 911 with.
- (Remember: most phones can call 911 without a plan or sim card.It doesn’t have to be a fancy smartphone, just something you can call with.)
- A door with a deadbolt/other locks.
- An escape route (window you can confidently climb out of or something similar).
- Items that can barricade the door (bookshelf, wardrobe, drawer, etc.).
- Reinforced door so it won’t be easy to kick down.
- Your weapon of choice.
Note any hiding spaces you can use. If you have a gun, then note the door’s position. The best spot and time to shoot intruders is from the opposite side of the door right after the intruder opens the door. You want to shoot before the intruder ever realizes there’s someone else in the room and you want to do that by making sure you’re the last thing they see when they look over the room.
Remember though, around 65% of homeowners know their home invaders. There is a small chance that the intruder can be someone you know whose intentions might not be so nefarious, but these possibilities are hard to rationalize in the moment.
While the possibility that the home invasion is all just a big misunderstanding, and that a home invader that would lock pick the safe room door would also be someone you know, the chance is never zero, so keep that in mind when pointing the gun at the door.
- Pick a safe word: When in a fight and flight scenario, there might not be the time to explain what’s happening to the rest of the house before trouble arrives. Here, a safe word might save lives. The safe word should be short and simple, but not something that would be tossed out randomly in day-to-day conversation. After everyone hears the safe word, they should immediately go to the safe room.
Once you realize someone has broken into your home, there’s not much you can do from there. If you have remote-controlled lights or sound systems from your phone, you can try to scare them out, but that can just as well backfire.
During a home invasion, you should:
- Get into the safe room: If there’s any other family members in the house then you should use the safe word and get to the safe room as soon as possible. Do not save anything. Do not confront the burglar. Go directly to the safe room and lock/barricade the door behind you.
- Call the police: Call the police and try to stay on the line with them. In scenarios where you’re afraid to, or find you can’t, speak, some states have text-to-911 programs. Just dial ‘911’ in your messages and state your city and emergency. (Obviously, check which states have this program before texting the number).
- Stay inside the safe room: Whatever you do, even if you think the burglar has left, stay inside the safe room until the cops arrive on the scene. A burglar could be lying in wait for someone to pop out, or, while examining what damage could’ve been done, the cops could arrive and assume you’re the burglar, which can cause unneeded trouble.
- Follow their demands: On the off chance that the intruders either break into the safe room or get to you before you can enter the safe room, the best bet is to follow their demands and not act aggressively. Your life is likely not worth your material objects or money. Weapons are to be used as a last resort in this situation.
Surviving a home invasion is a simple matter of planning ahead. Making sure that your house doesn’t look vulnerable from outside and having a safe room with an always-accessible phone and phone charger can improve your odds of surviving. So long as you stay inside the safe room until the police come, you should be safe during a home invasion.
However, there are much easier ways to ensure a safe home. Home security systems, while expensive, can provide you and your family the security they crave. With automated alarm and house monitoring systems, home security can inform you, your neighbors, and the police of a home intruder.