A home break-in is a frightening experience. Finding intruders in your house can cause people to freeze in the situation. It’s essential you can react to minimize the trespassers’ risk of realizing you are on the property. Burglars are usually there to steal expensive possessions, and no jewelry or electronic device is worth risking your life.
If you react swiftly, you can protect yourself, your family and alert law enforcement. Follow some simple tips to help you successfully navigate through this traumatic event.
Move to a Safe Location
The most significant risk during a home invasion is the intruder discovering you are inside the property. There may be more than one interloper, and you don’t know if they are violent or could turn aggressive if they find out they are not alone. While the criminal believes the home is empty or the property owner is asleep, this is the ideal time to move to a safe zone.
When considering what to do if someone breaks into your house, it’s hard to think clearly. It’s best if you can leave the property, although this is not always possible.
When leaving your home is not possible, move to a safe zone inside. Have a designated area where all family members know to meet, equipped with a lock on the door and furniture to use as a barricade. This zone is also where you store your home defense weapons.
Alternately, you can have two or three safe zones in your home, each equipped with a door that locks, a weapon, and a cell phone. You can reuse old cell phones by charging them to full battery, turning off the volume, and shutting them off while storing them in strategic locations.
While your deactivated phone cannot call your friends, every modern cell phone is equipped to make an emergency call. Check the charge on these phones every one to three months.
Keep your movements as quiet as possible. While your initial reaction may be to run to safety, loud noises could alert the intruder to your presence.
Alert the Police
After moving to safety, immediately alert the police to the break-in. If you own a home security system, law enforcement may already be aware of the incident, but you can provide them with details over the phone. When speaking with the 911 dispatcher, try to remain calm and talk slowly so they can understand the information.
The operator will ask for your name and address. Provide as much information as possible, including how many invaders are in your home, what they look like, their clothing, and if they have any weapons.
Keep your voice as quiet as possible so you don’t alert the intruders.
Keep Your House Key and a Glowstick Handy
When the police arrive, your front door might be locked, and you may not know where the intruder is located. To assist the police in a quiet entry and prevent them from breaking down your door, keep a front door key attached to a keychain in your safe zone.
Purchase a glow stick with a hole in it that can be attached to keyrings and other items. Attach this to your keychain, crack it under a blanket to quietly activate it, and silently drop it out of your window or throw it out toward the street. Tell the 911 operator where police can locate your key to assist them in getting into the house. Replace the glow stick every six months to ensure it will work.
Make a List
Once the police arrive and secure the scene, if they give permission, you can re-enter your home. Take extra care when moving between rooms, as your property is now a crime scene, and the police may want to investigate the area to gather evidence.
Begin making an inventory of items that appear to be missing or damaged. Move in an organized manner and process each room one at a time. You may still be in shock, but it’s useful to make a list for the police and your insurance company as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to missing cash, electronics, or jewelry, as these are attractive high-value items.
Use your phone camera to take photos of any damage and use a notes app to make a list if you don’t have a pen and paper on hand. If you know an approximate value for each item, you can note this down for your insurers, although you can do this at a later time if you are still traumatized by the break-in.
Communicate with the Police
The sooner law enforcement can gather information, the more chance they have of retrieving your possessions. They may have questions about who has access to your home if you have noticed any recent suspicious activity in the area and if anyone knew you had valuable items in your home.
If you have home security cameras, you can watch the footage with the investigating officers and alert them if you can identify the intruders. Provide the police with a copy of the footage and ask them where you can get a copy of the crime report.
Ask the responding officers for their names and a business card, so you know who to ask for if you remember more information at a later date.
Phone Your Insurers
Call your insurance company as soon as possible following a home break-in. Leave any damaged areas as they are because their claims adjuster will want to inspect the property to assess if your policy covers the wreckage.
Your insurers require a copy of the police report before settling any claim, and they may ask for receipts and evidence you own the property you list on a claim form. Consider using a folder or uploading all the documentation to one place, and complete the forms with as much information as you can remember.
Begin the Cleanup
When the police and insurance company have given permission, you can begin putting your house back in order. Sweep up any broken glass and call a repairman to fix any damage. Keep a record of any expenses you incur in case your insurance policy covers the costs.
If the intruders stole any phones or computers, reset passwords to prevent online fraud. Check the burglars did not take any bank or credit cards and cancel any missing cards to protect against identity theft.
Safeguard Your Home
It’s vital to plan for what to do if someone breaks into your house. Take this opportunity to strengthen your exterior doors and windows to discourage intruders in the future. Consulting with a home security company can provide you with ideas on making your home an unattractive target for criminals.
Place cameras on the outside of your home and install motion-detection lights. A visible alarm box that flashes intermittently in the dark can also be an effective deterrent.
Review Your Home Security
The best way to protect your home from an intruder is to deter them with alarms, cameras, and lights. However, sometimes you cannot prevent a break-in. In those cases, having a plan, a way to communicate, and sharing information with the police and your insurance company can make the clean-up process easier.