A violent incursion into your home is one the most terrifying experiences most people can imagine. But if the worst happens, what immediate actions should you take to protect your family and home?

A home invasion is an illegal entry into an occupied private dwelling with the intention to do harm. This ‘harm’ may take various forms, and could include: robbery, violence, rape and sexual assault, or even murder—so the potential threat and countermeasures should be considered seriously. Let’s take a closer look and discuss some tactics that can lead to a positive outcome.

Take Early Action

This is often easier said than done, and some people will advise that being passive is the best way to avoid physical danger. However, if your home is about to be occupied by people with unknown intentions, then you are already in physical danger. Freely placing yourself and your family into the hands of criminals in not a good strategy.

Another often mentioned strategy is to hide, but this option is equally flawed. Firstly, unless you have a panic room or a mansion, this is not an effective solution. Secondly, what will happen to your family if you hide? Once inside your home intruders will have time and privacy, and it is important to consider that with these two elements one crime can easily turn into another.

The most effective countermeasure is to take early action. Remember that the best time to disrupt any attack is before control has been established. If entry is being forced via a door, immediately thrust your full body weight behind it and jam your foot behind the base. If possible, position your body opposite to the hinges; this amplifies for the force acting on the door and minimizes your exposed area should shots be fired.

Immediately alert family members to the danger and instruct them to secure other entry points as quickly as possible; this attack may be a distraction. Other family members are an asset here as numerous actions can be carried out simultaneously, so take control of the situation and issue clear instructions. Also remember that the longer you can delay entry, the more likely it is that the criminals will retreat. Make as much noise as possible to fray the nerves of the intruders and help them to conclude that you’re not an easy target.

Call 911

If you’re not near your phone when the attack begins, yell loudly to other family members to call the police (even if nobody else is home), as this will put the attackers on notice that the cavalry is on the way. If you are near your phone and you’re home alone, dial 911 as soon as possible. If you can’t speak, leave the line open so the dispatcher can clearly hear what is happening. You can also converse with the criminals in a way which is useful to listening police personnel: “Why are you breaking into my home?” or “What do you want from me?” These questions, and any answers provided, will assist the police to assess the situation remotely and provide an appropriate emergency response.

Work a Strategy

If your defenses are overcome and your home is successfully taken by force, the intruders have gained the physical element of control—but they don’t have control over your mind. In high-pressure situations, having productive tasks to complete helps to focus the mind and to subdue panic. Slow your breathing, try to think clearly, and work logically through your next steps.

At this point, you may be injured, so keep things simple and work through the following immediate actions list:

  • Has contact been made with the police? If not, focus on how you’re going to make that happen.
  • How many attackers are present and where are your family members? Is everybody accounted for?
  • Am I injured? If so, how badly? If you’re obviously injured, now is the time to play on the severity of your injuries and make yourself appear weaker than you are. This might provide a reality check for the intruders (things are getting serious), but more importantly they will assess that the threat is neutralized, which could play in your favor if you spot an opportunity to take back control.
  • Are weapons present? If so, how can you counter them if an opportunity presents itself? Knives cause slash and stabbing injuries and bats and clubs cause blunt trauma injuries, so look around for appropriate shielding material which can be quickly accessed. If you’re facing a firearm it is important to understand that bullets easily pass through interior walls and furniture, so don’t plan to take cover within your home, and only consider unarmed action against a firearm as a last resort. 
  • How can I get the intruders out of my home as quickly as possible? This is your primary aim.

Remember that any physical counter attack will likely cause you injury. Factor this into your planning and either accept this fact or take alternative action.   

Be Practical

When considering your response, and prior, when making plans for such an event, assess your capabilities realistically and honestly. Consider your health, fitness level, whether you have any relevant training, and how you normally react under pressure and to confrontation.

You will notice that age is not included in this this assessment. Fitness, health, and your own psychology are far more relevant, and age alone can be misleading; there have been cases where elderly military veterans have beaten three shades of justice out of attackers many decades their junior, so age per se is not an accurate barometer of success or failure.

Be Legal

The legalities of self-defense and the defense of others can vary wildly depending on where you live. In some places you have the right to use lethal force against anybody presenting a threat to your home, and in others only the application of proportionate force is supported in law. In reality, this is not as large an issue as it may seem—your primary aim is to get the intruders out of your home as quickly and safely as possible. If this is achieved through deterrent action, inducing panic within the attackers, or by physically repelling them, you win.

In most places a citizen has the right to defend himself or herself, and others, against threat or violence by using reasonable force. This can differ according to the circumstances and the threat being faced, such as: if the attackers are armed, physical size differences, and the perception of the level of danger being presented (i.e. what you believe the intentions of the intruders to be). Broadly speaking, if you take action which most people would find reasonable in the same circumstances, you normally won’t overstep the mark.

To this end, and when planning your security strategy, why not seek the advice of local law enforcement? This will not only keep you on the right side of the law, but also help you to refine your broader security strategy.    

Always remember that prevention is better than cure; plan for the worst-case scenario, but aim to deter intruders by turning your home into a hard target.