Over 2 million burglaries occur in America every year. Of those, nearly three quarters happen in residential homes. That boils down to one intrusion every 13 seconds! While you can prevent intrusions by equipping yourself with a home security system, keeping doors and windows locked, and maintaining a well lit home, here’s what you should do if you awake to find someone in your house.
1. Verify their presence.
It’s easy to let your imagination run wild. Maybe you just finished watching a scary movie and are jumpy. Perhaps you dream something that didn’t actually happen. Whatever the case, If you wake up and think you heard something strange, take a deep breath and listen closely. See if you can distinguish between pet movements and normal plumbing sounds and those of footsteps, breaking glass, opening doors, or shuffling objects and furniture. If you can confirm someone is in the house, move onto step two.
2. Stay put!
It might be tempting to charge down the stairs with a baseball bat or gun, but that could endanger your life. You won’t know if the intruder is there to steal your TV or do you harm. Of the average 3.7 million burglaries that happened annually between 2001 and 2007, 266,560 burglaries resulted in violent crimes against homeowners. This is a statistic you don’t want to add to, so choose flight instead of fight and move onto step three.
3. Call the police.
Once you know someone is in your home, call the police. Emergency dispatchers are used to these situations, so keep your voice to a whisper and speak slowly so they can hear you. If you can’t talk because the intruder is too close, you might be able to use the text-911 function to call for help silently.
This texting function was introduced to help the hearing impaired, but it can also serve you if you need to hide. The national average police response time is 10 minutes, so try to relax while help is on the way. You can enter your zip code to see if your local 911 dispatcher supports texts for help. That way, you can be better prepared for a break-in.
4. Be quiet.
You don’t want to gamble one what kind of intruder is in your home. Maybe he/she will run off if you yell or make a noise, but they could become combative too. If you need to move around at all, do so extremely quietly. Afterall, it’s better to let someone make off with your electronics than your life.
5. Alert your housemates.
If you live with friends or family, you should let them know something is happening in the home. You can do this by text if everyone has a cellphone or by quietly creeping to their rooms. If you have children, you can keep them calm by letting them sleep, but locking their doors. It’ll be better if they don’t panic and make noise. Plus, locking their doors will keep the intruder out.
6. Secure your pets.
If you have a dog, you probably won’t have an intruder problem. However, there are plenty of pooches that aren’t afraid of strangers. If your dog didn’t alert you initially, but is making noise once you’re awake and agitated, try to calm him/her. Also, keep your pets with you if you can. If they run toward the intruder, they could be harmed.
7. Decide if you need to escape.
If it sounds like the person in your home is there to hurt you, find a way out immediately. Look for windows you can safely exit, or places to hide if you can’t make a getaway. You shouldn’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for help to arrive, so hang tight and do what’s best for your personal safety in the meantime.
8. Keep your weapons close.
All states have different laws about defending yourself and property. If you have a gun or weapon, you can keep it in your bedroom, but make sure you know your rights. If you shoot and kill someone, will you be protected under a self defense clause? All gun owners should know proper safety and laws about their firearms. Educate yourself if you have a gun or weapon, so it doesn’t come back to bite you if you use force.
9. Stay calm.
Panicking can cloud your judgement and cause you to make mistakes. It would be impossible to keep your heart rate down and adrenaline from spiking during a home invasion, but you’ll need to take control of your nerves. One way to do this is to take 10 deep breaths. It’ll give your brain more oxygen, give you time to think, and keep you from making any spontaneous decisions.
10. Take notes.
If you’re in a position where you can see the intruder, memorize everything. In the chance he/she gets away before police arrive, you’ll want to be able to give a detailed account of weight, gender, height, and attire. It’ll make it easier for police to track the intruder down and prevent them from victimizing other homes.
A break-in can be an unnerving and traumatic experience. Although, being prepared for the worst can help tremendously. Memorize these steps above and practice your break-in protocol at home—much like you would a fire drill. That way, you’ll be ready if someone breaks into your home while you’re sleeping.
Curious how safe your neighborhood is? You can read up on the 30 Safest Cities in America to Raise Kids or the 100 Safest Cities in America. There, you’ll find violent crime data, town initiatives, and more information about where you live. You can also shop for home security systems to amp up your safety. Since homes without security systems are 300% more likely to be broken into every year, it’s a smart choice to equip yourself with one!