In the middle of the night you are startled from your sleep when you hear sounds coming from your back door. Someone is trying to break into your home! What do you do?
The thought of someone breaking into your home while you and your family are in it is a terrifying one. While still uncommon, this type of crime is on the rise according to local authorities, particularly among upscale developing communities. This article presents vital steps to prevent the threat of break-ins, as well as steps to take should someone enter your home.
Before we go over these steps, it’s important for you to understand two things: First, every breach of home security is different and must be handled differently. There is no one size fits all prevention or fix. This article will give you excellent suggestions, but it is ultimately up to you as a homeowner to make the right choices.
Which leads us to the first tip: Try not to panic in this (or any other emergency) situation. Always try to think clearly. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.
Second, you have to know that there are actually two types of home security breaches: residential burglaries and home invasions. Both are different in the way they play out, and you need to be aware of the differences. However, the main thing you can do for both is to take steps to prevent them. These steps include:
- Make sure doors and windows are strong and secure (doors should have a strong wooden core or be reinforced), and keep them locked at all times. This includes garage doors or any other entry points.
- Have a reliable alarm system installed, especially one that will summon law enforcement when triggered. If you’re worried about getting an alarm system because you’re afraid that you or your pets will set it off, don’t be: modern home security systems (such as the Apx Home Security System) are programmable and easy to activate/deactivate (such as with a wireless remote). Also, modern alarm systems that include motion detectors will differentiate between a person and a pet.
- One of the most valuable components to a home security system in terms of break-ins is a personal panic button. This type of device is a portable button that is hooked into your home security system which will activate an alarm or summon help when you press it. This device is incredibly important.
- Make a plan with your family of what to do in case of a break-in. This should be part of a larger fire-plan and emergency plan. Talk with your family and discuss steps (escape routes, barricading doors, ways to summon the police, meet-up points outside the home, etc.) to take in an emergency. Having a plan of action is the best way to act calmly in a situation. Plan it out as best you can.
- Don’t advertise your wealth when you’re out. Some burglars and home invaders look for targets by spotting at dining establishments or other locations. Particularly if you live alone or are alone, don’t wear lots of expensive, flashy jewelry.
- Likewise, be aware while you’re driving home. Some criminals will pick targets on the basis of cars (the thinking goes, if you can afford a nice car, you can afford other expensive things. This is not always true, but it is how some criminals think). If you think someone’s following you, circle the block or take a different route. If they keep following you, call the police from a cell phone or drive to a local police station. Do not get out of the car if you can help it, especially not in an unpopulated area.
- Make friends with your neighbors. Get to know your neighbors. Go over and talk to them. Let them know who you are, who’s living at your place, and give them permission to contact the police if something “odd” is going on (loud sounds, alarm, etc.). Offer to do the same for them if they like. When someone knows you, they will be more likely to take action on your behalf and keep watch for you.
Back to the Two Different Types of Home Security Breach:
Residential Burglaries commonly happen at times when you’re out of the home or likely to be out of the home. This is usually during the day, or during the night when Burglars suspect you are on vacation. Reduce this chance by having a good security system installed (so that if they do break in it will trigger an alarm), and have try to make the appearance of not being on vacation (have someone pick up your mail, etc.).
When residential burglaries happen at night, or when you are home, it’s usually either an accident (they thought you weren’t home) or an act of monetary desperation. If this happens, the first thing to do is remain calm. Stay where you are and try to listen to how many people are there, and what they are doing. If you are in your room, barricade the door and call the police (make sure to have a cell phone in case the physical line is cut) or activate a panic button. You can also attempt to escape if it’s easy and if you know where the burglars are (if you are unsure if there are more outside, stay in your room).
In NO case whatsoever should you attempt to fight a burglar or drive them out unless it is asolutely necessary for self defense. When people (including burglars) are cornered, they are more dangerous. Your job is not to be a hero or catch the criminal, your job is to keep yourself and your family safe until help arrives. Don’t worry about your things, either: you can always buy new possessions, but you can’t buy a new life.
Having a working interior home security system (motion sensors and alarms, glassbreak detectors, etc.) will save you a lot of trouble here. Most burglars are skittish and looking for easy marks. Alarms, loud noises, etc., will usually drive them off before your things are stolen (or before they even get fully inside the home).
Home invasion is often a catch-all term used to refer to anyone entering your home. In this article, “home invasion” means any time someone tricks or forces their way into your home when they know you are there.
Where burglars use stealth, home invaders use force and fear. They will often ring the doorbell and pretend to be something else (delivery person, home inspection, salesperson, etc., sometimes even wearing a uniform) and then attempt to force their way in when you answer the door. They will then use the threat of further force to instill fear.
Often they will attempt to immobilize or restrain you while they ransack your house, and will sometimes attempt to gain entry while you are sleeping.
Again, this is a terrifying topic to contemplate. But you have to be aware of it. Just as with burglaries, the first step is knowledge and prevention:
- If you suspect you are being followed home, don’t go directly to your house. Take a circuitous route through your neighborhood and if the person keeps following you, call the police with a cell phone or drive to a police station (or heavily populated area with lots of other people). Do not pull over.
- Don’t answer the door for strangers. Most people have a habit of answering the door automatically when the doorbell rings. DO NOT DO THIS. Make sure to look out the peephole first. If you don’t have a peephole, have one installed on your doors, preferably a with a wide-angle (180 degree) lens that allows you to see the entire front porch. Home invaders often work in teams, and if there is one person standing in front of the door and others lurking, do not answer the door and call the police.
- To be realistic, most people coming to your door will have legitimate reasons for doing so. Know that it’s perfectly acceptable to talk to these people through the door, and to inform them that you don’t open the door for strangers. If they start to act strangely or get belligerent when you inform them of this, call the police.
- And don’t count on door chains. If someone is throwing their full weight against the door, the chain usually won’t hold. Make sure all doors are reinforced or have solid cores so that they are much harder to break through. Make sure the doors have a deadbolt, and keep the deadbolt locked. If your door has a glass front, consider a double-door lock to prevent someone breaking the glass and reaching in to open the door.
- Have a panic button, a hand-held device that will trigger an alarm signal. This is very important. Make sure this panic button is hooked up to a monitoring system that will summon help when you press it. Keep it with you when going to the door, and keep it near your bed when you sleep. If someone attempts to invade your home, the first thing to do is activate the panic button. Home invaders act on the premise that no one is coming to help you, and like to use that to get their way through intimidation. If help is on the way, it increases your chances of getting out of the situation safely and with your home intact.
- Install a home security alarm system, one with monitoring service. If someone attempts to force entry while you are sleeping or otherwise occupied, this is your first line of defense and ensures that help is on the way. A complete system should include such things as motion sensors, glassbreak detectors, and contact sensors for all the major entryways. Again, home invaders assume that no one is coming to help you. Having an automated system is the best way to insure this is not the case.
- As with other emergency planning, getting to know your neighbors. Talk to them, let them know who you are and what’s normal for your home. This can be done in a friendly manner such as house-warming parties, etc. Ask them to call the police if they see anything strange going on at your house or hear any noises (cries for help, alarms, etc.). Having an existing personal relationship makes it more likely that they will keep an eye out for you and your family.
What if someone makes it into your home? The first step is to escape if at all possible. Flee from the invader as fast as you can, as soon as you realize what’s happening and don’t stop. Get out of the home through another exit, or barricade yourself securely in a room (“securely” means large furniture in front of entries and exits to a room that someone cannot break through). Many people install “panic” rooms, such as a reinforced closet with a separate phone line or emergency cell phone, etc. Put walls and solid objects between yourself and the invader.
Do not attempt to fight back unless it’s the only option you have. This is especially true if there is more than one invader, or if the invader seems armed. Getting out safely should be your main priority. This is another reason to have a pre-existing escape plan (as you would in the case of fire or other emergency), and this is especially true if you have family (most home invaders will target people who live alone, or the elderly, but there are no hard and fast rules here). Two-way intercoms can be helpful when people are sleeping in different rooms.
If you do end up caught, treat it like a mugging: don’t give the home invader any reason to harm you. Don’t get snippy or difficult, and don’t stare in direct eye contact (this can be perceived as aggression). Often at this stage, the invader will use threat of force to get you to turn over valuables and information: PIN numbers, safe combinations, locations of valuables. Don’t make assumptions about whether or not this person is serious with their threats. Try to stay calm internally.
Again, the best way to handle this situation is to avoid it with common sense (don’t open doors etc.) and be prepared for it with an automated way of summoning help (such as with a monitored panic button and a monitored alarm system). Knowing help is on the way makes all the difference.