You hear someone jiggling the lock of your front door.
If you have ever awakened to that sound, you know how quickly you go from peaceful sleep to panic-inducing paranoia. And that panic compounds if you have children or other family members in the house.
Home invasions are on the rise, and so is the number of people who are starting to think about what may happen to them or their loved ones if they are not properly prepared. Of course, the first thing to do is attempt to prevent someone from breaking into your home. Surveillance equipment, home security systems, signs, fences and locks on tamper-resistant doors and windows are all good preliminary measures. Hopefully, they will work and discourage the bad guys.
But what do you do if someone actually breaks into your home while you are inside?
Assuming you have at least one other person living in the home, it is important to put together a plan of action and then practice the plan. A high-stress situation is not the time to tell your spouse or children what you need them to do. Here are a few suggestions to prompt your thinking when creating a plan.
Make a Master Family Plan
Create a detailed plan of what to do and where to go, if you can safely gather each member of your household in a safe place.
Make an Individual Plan for Each Member of the Family
Remember, there is a fine line between helping younger children understand safety needs and traumatizing them during the plan-building process.
- Show kids where to hide.
- Tell them when to lock their doors.
- Teach them how to call 911.
- Discuss what to say to 911 personnel.
- Help them understand awareness and their particular roles in the plan if an invasion occurs.
- Emphasize to every family member—especially the younger ones—the importance of remaining quiet.
- Take a self-defense course with your family to learn a few basic maneuvers.
Consider Making a Family Safe Room
This could be a large closet or other area centrally located for all family members.
- Stock your safe room/closet with a flashlight and cell phone.
- Consider having a lock on the inside of the safe room to lock your family inside while you wait for help to arrive.
- On the back of the door in your safe room, write your street address and any other pertinent information (during a stressful situation children may find it challenging to remember details).
- Once you have called 911, do not hang up; stay on the line, but stay quiet until help arrives.
If more than one person in your household has access to a firearm (and knows how to use it), discuss, before an invasion happens, what plan you want to follow and who will be carrying a weapon.
Keep all weapons, especially firearms you may use during a home invasion, in a safe place, out of reach and out of sight of children. One possible safe place for a handgun is inside a bedroom closet high enough only an adult can reach. Consider using a gun magnet or gun rack to safely store a firearm.
There is no one-size-fits-all plan, and every situation is different. And, of course, even the best-laid plans can fail.
Now is the time to start thinking about what to do and whether you are ready if someone breaks into your home.