It’s 3:00 in the morning and you and your family are sound asleep. However, while happy dreams flit through your brains, a home invader with bad intentions is prowling around your yard. You are about to face one of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. Are you sufficiently prepared to meet the challenge?
In the United States, a home is broken into every 15 seconds. The main purpose for home invasion is burglary; unfortunately, home defenders cannot determine the intent of a home invader at the time of his breaking in. He may just want your TV and laptop, but there’s also a chance he wants to victimize your family on a personal level. Kidnapping, rape, and murder are possible outcomes that must be taken into account.
At this point, it is best to hope for the best but plan for the worst. We’re here to help you with that plan.
In presenting this information, we will look at home invasions in 3 stages: pre-invasion preparation, home invasion, and post-home invasion. Each stage has a unique set of tasks that are intended to raise the likelihood of emerging from the home invasion in the best condition possible.
**Legal Note** Check the laws and regulations for your state and/or locality. Know your rights as a citizen defender and stay within the context of the law when defending your home, even if it means acting in contradiction to the information delivered below.
Prepare your home to be a less-desirable target to home invaders. Here are a few steps to accomplish that:
- Install a home alarm system. Home invaders will shy away from homes that have alarm systems installed. There are a number of quality home alarm companies in the marketplace; some are stand-alone companies while others are included with cable and internet packages from TV service providers. Whichever option you choose, do some background research and read reviews before allowing them to take on the important job of protecting you and your loved ones.
- If money is an issue and paying for a monitoring service is not in the budget, there are less expensive alternatives. For a fraction of the cost of home security systems, consumers can purchase very convincing but very fake security cameras and door stickers that imply the presence of a security system.A couple of points for consideration when taking this angle: using real company logos may come with legal implications. Check with a lawyer or other knowledgeable professional to determine if the use of such logos is an issue. Further, know that not every home invader will be deterred by the presence of a security system. Additional steps will be necessary in the event the stickers and cameras fail in their intent.
- Install motion-sensitive lighting at possible points of entry. Every exterior door should have a motion-activated lighting system. For additional protection, dark areas of the yard should also be covered.
- Use bolt locking mechanisms on doors. Bolt locks require considerable effort to bypass. Would-be home invaders will make noise in the process of making entry (either by kicking the door repeatedly or smacking the door with a pry bar), thus giving the home-defender additional time to call authorities and prepare a defense.
- Keep the hedges and shrubs trimmed. People involved in illegal activity like ready-made hiding spots. It is best to deny them this luxury by thinning or removing landscaping features that provide places to avoid being seen.
In addition to potentially stopping a home-invasion before it begins, pre-invasion preparations also serve to aid in the home owner’s defense in the event an actual break-in occurs and intruders are injured (or worse). Actively trying to repel an invasion through the methods described above is a sign that the homeowner desired to avoid confrontation. Police, attorneys, and juries like that kind of thing.
Preparing your home from the inside prior to a home-invasion requires a bit more thought than preparing the outdoors. The defender has to consider where people sleep, what happens if the intruder strikes while everyone is awake and in different areas of the house, dealing with multiple intruders, and dealing with armed or unarmed intruders, defending when one or more family members is away, among other points of consideration. Discussions within the family are crucial to preparing for these and other situations that may arise.
Here are some initial ideas:
- Obtain some basic tactical training for the adults in the home. Self-defense training is also highly recommended. Further, check with local law enforcement to know your rights as a homeowner defending life and property.
- Establish a safe room and have a plan for everyone to get to it. The safe room should be in the most remote corner of the house (away from doors), have a multi-layered locking system, provide easy access to a phone, and have tools for defending the lives of its occupants. If the invaders just want your TV and laptop, fine. Let them take these objects and go. Call 911 and wait in the safe room for the police to arrive and clear the home.**Legal note** In some jurisdictions, it may be a legal requirement that the homeowner retreat from the property altogether. If this is the case in your jurisdiction, plan and proceed accordingly.
- Hang some pictures and other wall decor at specific heights to indicate a ‘do not shoot below this line’ level. That low point would be the height at which still-sleeping children would be in their beds. In the event that one must confront an intruder before everyone is in the safe room, it is best to know where to and not to shoot.
- Work out a plan with the family and make sure everyone knows their role in that plan. Have additional plans for situations in which the children are at home alone, one or the other spouse/partner is away, daytime invasion, and managing multiple intruders.
Despite our best efforts to send a home-invader running prior to breaking in, we find ourselves facing the terrifying uncertainty of having an uninvited someone in our home. Here are some action steps:
- Execute the plan. Getting everyone to the safe room (or out of the home altogether, depending on laws) is imperative. Call 911 and keep them on the line throughout the entire defensive operation. Since emergency operators record every call, the recordings may play into the homeowner’s defense in the event of a violent resolution to the invasion.
- Inform the intruders loudly that you have called the police. Command them to leave immediately.
- Confronting intruders is an action of last resort. Homeowners should never go looking for the home invader except in the case that a family member is unaccounted for. The best defense is mounted from the safe room.
- Should the home invaders attempt to breach your safe room, inform them loudly (in such a volume that it is unmistakable to the intruder and to the 911 operator’s recording) that you have a gun and will shoot if they come any closer. Again demand that they leave the premises. Repeat as often as necessary until the intruders leave.
- If the safe room is breached, carry out whatever actions are necessary to defend the lives of family members.
The intruders are gone (or rapidly achieving room temperature) and the police have arrived. What happens next depends on what happened during the invasion.
- Inform police of your location in the home via 911 (or verbally, if they are in the house). Once positive identification of the police is obtained, holster or set aside any and all firearms and exit the safe room.
- Cooperate with the police, answering any questions they might have. Take stock of any missing items and report them as missing/stolen.
- If the intruder is still in the room (wounded or otherwise), secure any weapons he might have been carrying (do not pick the weapon up; just remove it from the reach of the intruder). Verify that there are no other intruders via visual or auditory assessment (i.e. look and listen).
- If the intruder was injured and has retreated from the home, DO NOT pursue. Check the condition of family members and re-establish the security of the safe room.
- When it is safe to do so, continue communication with 911 the operator. Inform him/her of what has happened.
- When police arrive and positive identification has been established, set aside all firearms and leave the safe room. There will be an investigation, and they will want the evidence in the safe room to be as undisturbed as possible.
- Decline to answer any questions about the incident until you’ve had a chance to calm down and speak to counsel. Police might take objection to your reluctance to talk to them. That’s understandable. However, it is best that you provide clear and truthful answers to police questions, but such clarity of mind might not be possible until after an adrenaline spike has subsided.
- Inform police that in the absence of your responses to questions, the 911 recording will provide a fairly comprehensive accounting of what happened.
Home invasions are terrifying events. Take steps to ward off home-invaders before they ever make entry, have multiple plans just in case, and be ready for the inevitable police involvement when the event is over.