Most people would prefer not to even think about home intruders—but the right time to consider what you would do in such a situation is before it happens. Thinking through your plan ahead of time will prepare you if you should ever face this scenario. The best way to respond will depend on where you are, how close the intruder is, and whether they know you’re there.
Take the time today to review the following steps to ensure your safety.
If You Can Leave, Do So Quickly
If you have a burglar alarm, you’ll know the moment someone is attempting to break in to your house. Don’t stick around to see if it’s just a neighbor or if a family member forgot to enter the security code. If that’s the case, you can sort it out later—but once the intruder alarm is activated, treat the situation as an emergency.
If you are near a door and can safely exit without the intruder seeing you, make a run for it. For example, if you are on the main floor of your home, and hear someone breaking in through a basement window, leave immediately. Don’t stop to grab anything—just get your family out, go to a neighbor’s house, and call 911.
If You Can’t Leave, Hide
If a burglar has already made their way into your home, you may not be able to get out easily. In that case, retreat to a closet or room with a locking door. Barricade the door and call 911. If you don’t have your cellphone with you, wait as quietly as possible for the intruder to complete the robbery and leave—a few replaceable belongings aren’t worth sacrificing your safety.
When it comes to choosing which room to hide in, consider setting up a “safe room” in your home—a closet or small room with a lock that bolts from the inside. If possible, equip the room with some water, snacks, blankets, and a phone charger or emergency landline phone. Everyone in your family should know where the safe room is.
If the intruder confronts you, remain calm and raise your hands to shoulder height. This will allow you to move quickly if you need to defend yourself. Speak in a calm, low voice and do not make eye contact. If an intruder asks where your safe, money, or valuables are, tell them. The best outcome is a robbery that is over quickly.
Be Prepared with a Plan
It’s essential that you create a plan for what you and your loved ones would do if a stranger were to break into your home. The moment an intruder enters, adrenaline will kick in, and you will likely be in fight-or-flight mode. It will be very difficult to think clearly—let alone make decisions. For this reason, you should know what to do ahead of time. Here’s how to make a plan to keep everyone secure:
Choose an Exit. In formulating your plan, decide which exit to use for each of the possible intruder points of entry—for example, if the intruder is coming through the back door, the kitchen door may be visible to them, so you’ll want to choose a different way out. If you install window escape ladders on the upper floors of your home, you’ll give yourself several more escape options.
Create a Safe Room. Decide which room in the house will be your safe room and stock it with bottled water and blankets. Consider installing a landline phone in that room for a few dollars a month, so you can still call 911 if you don’t have your cellphone.
Share the Safety Plan. Walk through all plan elements—including what the intruder alarm sounds like so nobody confuses it with a fire alarm, where to hide if a stranger breaks into the house, and how important it is for everyone to remain absolutely silent. Going through the steps of your safety plan before you need it can save precious time in the event of a home intrusion.
Practice Your Plan. Once everyone knows the plan basics, run through a few drills. You may also want to create a code word to use to discreetly let your housemates or family members know an intruder is in the home.
Prevention: How to Keep Intruders Out of Your Home
The best plan of all is preventing a home invasion before it happens. A few steps that you can employ right away include the following:
Plant prickly shrubs like blackberries or holly around the perimeter of your house to make it difficult for intruders to enter through ground floor windows.
There are many home security systems on the market, including a growing number of options that give you access to alerts and camera footage right from your phone. This could help prevent the frightening scenario of walking in on a stranger who has gained access to your home. Check out our guide to the best home security options for you and your family.