Ideally, there should be no safer place in the world than your home. So it stands to reason that a home invasion is one of the most stressful situations imaginable.
There are few things worse than realizing that the proverbial “bump in the night” has happened and that a burglary is in progress while you’re home.
While being highly stressed in such a situation is natural, it is critical to have a plan and know what to do. Taking the proper steps enables you to keep calm and protect your life and your family.
What to Do Before it Happens
Although you should have a sound home security system, it is essential to know what to do if a burglar gets past those defenses and makes it inside your property.
1. Have an emergency plan
If an intruder is inside your house, your priority is safety. Nothing a burglar can steal will ever be worth more than your life or that of your loved ones.
During a home invasion, you must do everything you can to get yourself and your family away from danger. The safest way to do so is to get everyone out of the house toward a designated rally point.
Make a habit of keeping your car keys on your nightstand or within reach of your bed, as it will allow you to escape to a safe place using your car.
If your bedrooms are not on the ground floor, you may want to plan a fire escape protocol to exit through the windows safely, such as using window ladders.
If leaving the house is not an option, designate a safe room for everyone to gather into and prepare means of barricading the room.
If you plan to use weapons for self-defense, you must thoroughly research all your local laws regarding self-defense and lethal force, particularly if you intend to use firearms.
Do not include weapons in your self-defense plan if you’re untrained in their use. Lack of proficiency and confidence will put you in more danger.
It’s Happening Right Now: What Should I Do?
If you suspect that a home invasion might be happening, your stress levels will rapidly increase. Take several deep breaths, keep calm, and assess the situation. If you are sure that a burglary is in progress, follow these steps.
2. Get to safety
Gather your family together as quietly as possible, and enact your rally point plan.
Get everybody out of the house, get your car keys, make sure everybody is safe and accounted for, then walk or drive to a safe place, such as a neighbor, a friend, a family member, or another trusted person.
3. Call 911 ASAP
While enacting your rally point plan, call 911 as soon as possible. Give the dispatcher the following information and no more:
- Your name.
- Your home address.
- What you and your family look like (height, build, clothes, and distinguishing features, such as tattoos).
- Indicate that a home invasion is in progress at your address and that you’re in fear for your life.
- If possible, give the operator the number of burglars.
- If you’ve had a good look at them, identify what the burglars look like
- Whether the burglars are armed.
- Request that police (and, if necessary, an ambulance) be sent to your location.
4. Do not give your position away
Always remain as quiet as possible. Do not alert the burglars to your presence, and do not confront them unless absolutely unavoidable; there may be more than one, they may be armed, they may be on drugs, or mentally unstable, and you can never predict how they will react.
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5. Confront them if you have no other choice
If you cannot escape the house, or if they are approaching your location before you’ve had the time to gather your family or exit the house, you may have no other choice but to confront them.
At this point, the situation may turn into self-defense, and your life is in danger. Reach for a weapon; anything at all is better than nothing. Do not rush to the burglar’s location but issue the following information in a loud, clear, assertive tone:
- Indicate that you’re armed: “I have a gun” or “I have a weapon.”
- Indicate that the police are on the way: “I’ve called 911” or “The police are on the way.”
6. Avoid unnecessary risks
Never do the following during a home invasion situation:
- Threaten the burglar’s life directly with a statement along the lines of “I’m going to kill you.”
- Back yourself into a corner you cannot retreat from safely.
- Use scare tactics such as audibly racking a firearm or firing warning shots.
- Display or brandish a weapon in front of a burglar without being fully prepared to use it.
What to Do in the Aftermath
The home invasion is over. The burglars have either escaped or been stopped. What happens now?
7. File a police report
Always file a police report before you do anything else. At the minimum, you should file a report within 24 hours of the events.
8. Gather information
Tour your house and make a list of everything that has been damaged or stolen. Take photographs of every room in the house.
Assist law enforcement with all the information and help you can provide, such as information regarding the burglars or security camera footage.
9. Contact your insurance company
Call your insurer and file a claim after you’ve obtained a police report and submitted all relevant information to your local police department. Most insurers won’t provide you assistance without at least a police report.
You may need to fill out forms or provide documents to prove your ownership of the stolen items, such as receipts, owner’s manuals, warranties, and other pieces of evidence.
The insurer may send a claims adjuster to take a thorough look at your house and evaluate the extent of the theft and damage. It is good form to let them do their job uninterrupted.
10. Assess, repair, reinforce
After you’ve dealt with the legal aspect of the situation, follow this checklist:
- Get a professional to repair or replace your broken doors and windows.
- If the burglars stole bank cards, contact your bank to cancel them and order new ones.
- If they stole computers or mobile devices, reset all your online passwords.
- If you don’t have one already, install a home security system. If you have one, assess whether there are holes in your existing setup and reinforce it.
Your Safety is Your Priority
Just as the best way to deal with dangerous situations is to avoid them in the first place, the best way to deal with a home invasion is prevention.
Although there is no such thing as zero risk, it is essential to take every measure possible to prevent a home invasion before it happens to you. The more you prepare, the better the outcome should the worst happen.