How to prevent and survive a home invasion

There are 8,000 home invasions in North America every day. Your home is probably the place you spend most of your time, followed by work or perhaps school. It is also where you let your guard down and feel most safe. A home invasion not only is devastating, with the possible physical damage to yourself and possessions, but can also leave you with horrible mental and emotional trauma. After a home invasion, you may never feel completely comfortable or safe in your home again, and have many sleepless nights of anxiety long after the initial crime was committed. Don’t let this ever happen. Take the steps now to protect yourself and your loved ones from this horrible event that does happen.

While the elite crew of trained mercenaries cutting phone lines and executing a months-long plan to invade and hold you ransom does happen (and I’ll talk about that), most home invasions are from burglaries. 1 out of 5 homes will experience a home burglary. Every 30 seconds, a burglary takes place in the US. That’s 2.5 million per year. The majority of those occur during the day, and 25% are when someone is home. SCARY!

I have enjoyed reading, learning from, and taking steps based on the home-hardening articles on this site. They offer many solutions that are affordable, easy to install, and offer a lot more protection than your standard-built home. That is my first recommendation, harden your home using those guides to prepare against the most common form of home invasion, burglary.

But let’s say a burglary does happen when you are at home, here’s a possible scenario and what to do about it:

Scenario #1 – A break in or burglary in progress.

In this first scenario, you are either in your bedroom asleep or in the living room with your feet up watching a movie with your family to wind down for the evening. Let’s say you are watching the movie National Treasure with America’s national treasure Nicolas Cage. Both are situations where you are relaxed and feel safe and comfortable in your home. You hear a noise coming from across the house or in the garage.

It’s not wise to run out of the home every time you hear a noise and get spooked. Especially if you have pets or family members are not aware of their location, it most likely would be them accidentally dropping a glass or shuffling things around. If you think it through a little and come to the conclusion that it could be something dangerous, then dial 911 from a nearby phone and tell them you think someone might be in your house. It’s better to have the police aware and on the way than to be staring down the barrel of a gun by a home invader. You can always call back and apologize later that it was your cat if that was what it was. Calling a close neighbor is a backup if you really are hesitant to call 911, just do something to have another person come to assist you and be aware of the situation.

My first tip is to have some sort of weapon in every room to grab and respond to disturbances. Even if you carry a gun, you probably are not wearing that with your pajamas. Pepper spray is a good one that can be bought in bulk and easily distributed to hiding places throughout your home without taking up too much room. Improvise if you don’t have anything. A lamp or rolled-up newspaper is better than nothing. Take a couch pillow or jacket wrapped around your arm as an improvised form of body armor that could give some protection against a knife.

If you confront someone in your home, tell them to get out. If they stand there with a knife and act threatening attempt to talk them down, offer them cash from your wallet, or say “Take that then you can go free.”. A few bucks are worth deescalating the situation and avoiding an altercation. Be on guard though. Fight for your life if you need to.

My friend experienced a situation like this before when he was watching TV and a young burglar hopped up on drugs broke into his home. He used a commanding voice to tell the person to leave, but the burglar charged him, forcing my friend to at the assailant. He was justified but still lives with the guilt of taking a life. Again, harden your home to deter and reduce the risk of anything like this from ever happening.

While this next scenario is less likely to happen, it’s good to be aware of and at least think of.

Scenario #2 – A professional home invasion

If you hear a loud noise and try and call 911 like in the above scenario but are met with a cut phone line or even jammed cell phone then you could be facing a much greater threat than the teenage punk trying to steal some stuff to pawn. In this case, you have multiple points of evidence that you are facing a home invader. Get out and don’t investigate or confront them. Even if you have a gun and feel confident that you would be okay, they could have larger and more guns than you. And even if you were able to take them out, you now have to live with that for the rest of your life and now have a mountain of legal issues to worry about that probably will bankrupt you.

If you see people outside your home, they could attack as you try and flee, so even the get out advice isn’t a hard rule. Be smart about the situation you are in.

Most professional home invasions and kidnappings follow the following steps:

  1. Stalking – they watch you, and know your routine
  2. Entry – they surround your house, cut off escape routes, and enter your home most likely fast, loud, and with a lot of guns to surprise and have the upper hand.
  3. Control – They will try and establish control over you and the situation by showing force or separating you from your children or spouse.
  4. Event – They will use you as their key to get what they want.
  5. Kill hostages – If they kill one of you or reveal their faces, they might show they have nothing left to lose and could easily kill the rest of you.
  6. Escape – The home invaders will try and escape after getting what they want.

If this occurs at night, turn off the lights and stay away from windows that will silhouette you. You know your house and the layout, they don’t. Have the upper hand.

If you are out numbered, act passive and non-threatening. The kidnappers/home invaders have elevated adrenaline and want to maintain control, especially in the early stages of the event. During the control phase, don’t try and reason with them, talk with them, or even look at them. Follow their orders because if you fight, they will try and exert even more control and dominance. Use this time to gather as much information as you can. Remember any names they mention, look for tattoos, how many are there, etc. This intel will be valuable for when you escape.

During the control phase, they will likely hold your spouse or children separate from you as leverage. They know that we are less likely to make an escape or fight back if we know we will leave a loved one behind or in danger. If you are presented the opportunity to escape however, you should. The ability to get away, secure your safety and call the SWAT team will leave you in a better situation than being left alone with the home invaders and the guns.

One way to create a diversion is to hit the panic button on your car’s key fob if you have your keys on you. Once they leave to check out the disturbance, you can try and escape. Do not run, it creates too much noise, move swiftly and quietly.

If you can get out of the house, be aware that professional home invaders may have additional men outside to keep an eye on things like police or you escaping. If you are caught again, expect to be met with extreme violence as they try and regain control and show you who’s boss.

Watch for patterns your captors exhibit. Do they send a text message or call the other kidnappers who are holding your family every 10 minutes to let the other person know that everything is going to plan? If you need to attack and subdue them, know that if they don’t get that phone call at that prescribed time, your family might be at risk. You would want to attack right after they make that call so you have at least 10 minutes to locate your family before things go bad.

Thanks to Ubique for sparking the idea of this forum post. She had posted scenarios last year that I have saved and finally am getting around to thinking about more, researching, and sharing my viewpoint on the subject. Here’s her first post that details out a home invasion scenario, and then in a followup forum post goes over the various things that could have been done to prevent and change that situation from happening. Your homework is to read those two and think about what you would do.


  • Comments (4)

    • 2

      Great post Robert! It makes a good companion piece to TP’s How to survive kidnapping article.

      You are right that there are additional pains and damages that linger for years after a break-in in the way of emotional trauma. If someone goes through a situation like this, it would be beneficial to seek counseling as soon as possible and get over the mental hurt. 

      • 1

        Thank you Gideon! That means a lot and I am glad it was helpful. 

        While researching I was surprised to see how common it is and to learn how devastating it can be to a person, but hopefully some basic steps can prevent such an event from happening.

    • 3

      This is a depressing topic, but I am glad you brought it up.

      30 years ago, there were 10,000 home invasions in LA County annually. It is a terrifying crime for many of the reasons you mentioned.

      Keep in mind that the elderly are often profiled for this because they likely have prescription narcotics! They also are unlikely to have ‘military-age males’ living with them so resistance is not going to be significant.

      Keep in mind that as we age we are less able to outrun a 20 year old violent offender. It’s just not possible anymore.

      This topic was reviewed during a 40 hour Combat Handgun course I took with Massad Ayoob (google him) and he had some advice I never forgot:

      Have a gun within reach in your house at all times. (this is not paranoia)

      Have a large working-breed dog

      Reinforce your doors and keep them locked

      Practice head shots at 25′ until you are confident and proficient. Why? He explained that you must, at all cost, prevent any family member from being taken out of your sight and especially from the home. The reality of what happens to them next, in most cases, will change your lives forever. Be prepared to shoot to defend the lives of your loved ones when threatened with death.

      I know many people don’t ‘believe’ in this kind of violence or don’t want to ‘contribute to a violent world’ but sometimes Violence Is The Answer. Be prepared to fight for your life and your family in a home invasion.

      • 1

        I can see the elderly being targeted easy prey, prescriptions, more wealth and valuables usually than the couple in their 20’s, and older and less likely to put up a meaningful fight unfortunately.