According to a report by the United States Department of Justice, 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions. Although home invasion is not defined as a specific crime in many states, as a criminal practice, it is becoming increasingly prevalent. Previously, businesses, banks, and similar commercial institutions were the targets of choice for criminals because they held the promise of bigger payoffs. However, as security measures at these businesses have improved, targeting them has gotten increasingly difficult. This has made family homes a very attractive alternative for criminals.
While most people would like to believe that the solution to a home invasion is just a 911 call away, it’s not that easy. According to research done by the Atlanta Journal Constitution on police response times in major metropolitan areas, it typically takes at least 10 minutes for police to respond to a high-priority emergency call. Atlanta, which had the slowest response time of the seven cities studied, took on average 11 minutes and 12 seconds from the time a high-priority 911 call was received until a police officer arrived at the scene. A lot of bad things can happen to you and your family in 11 minutes. Even worse things can happen if you never have the opportunity to make that call.
One of the best ways to ensure that your family can survive a home invasion is to develop a sound home security plan that includes external physical security, a strong safe room within the house, and good security-conscious habits.
Safe Room Basics
The first priority in keeping your family safe should always be to invest in the external security of your home. Strong physical barriers and warning systems, while not perfect, will make getting into your home much more difficult. If they don’t completely deny access to the criminals, they will slow them down significantly and make their efforts to get in louder and more obvious. That gives you time to react.
A safe room is basically a reinforced room within your home where you and your family can secure yourselves in the event of a home invasion. It provides physical security to keep the invaders out, provides the resources you need to call for help, and serves as a stronghold from which you can defend yourself with force if required.
Typically the master bedroom is the most logical choice for a safe room, but this may vary according to the layout of your home, its physical structure, and the way your family members are typically positioned within your home.
Like the external doors to your home, your safe room door should provide a solid physical barrier to keep intruders out. Although it may not do so permanently, it should be strong enough to allow you time to call for help and gather the resources to defend yourself. Safe room door features should include:
• Solid core: Hollow core or paneled doors can be easily defeated with a strong kick. Your safe room must have a high-quality solid-core door.
• Multiple hinges: Your safe room door should be hung on at least three, preferably four high-quality hinges. These hinges should be attached to the door and the frame with three-inch or longer wood screws or deck screws. This way the door is securely anchored into the actual wall structure, not just the doorjamb.
• Pinned hinges: Your safe room door should open inward, so there are no exposed hinges that a home invader could attack. Whether it opens inward or outward, the hinges should be “pinned” by replacing one screw of each hinge with a “hinge stud” that extends about 3/8- to 1/2-inch out from the hinge plate and nests into the screw hole on the opposite hinge piece. Alternately, you can use a nail, wood screw or lag screw that is screwed in only part way, leaving part of the screw shank protruding. Cut off the head of the screw at the proper length and you achieve the same goal, which is to make it impossible to lift the door off the hinges, even if the hinge pins are removed.
Pinned hinges prevent the door from being lifted off its hinges and are a must for outward-opening doors. One screw is replaced with a nail or screw that extends through the matching hole in the other hinge plate.
• Deadbolt: A safe room door needs to have a high-quality deadbolt lock or, even better, two of them—one above and one below the knob. The lock area of the door should also be reinforced with a metal wraparound sleeve.
• Reinforced strike plates: To ensure that the deadbolt does its job, the bolt must nest into a strong anchor in the doorframe. A reinforced strike plate is much longer than a standard strike plate, includes more screw holes for mounting, and when installed with extra-long screws, is anchored to the solid wood of the wall structure.
Your safe room door should be of solid-core construction, have at least one deadbolt lock, and have a reinforced strike plate. This extended plate is installed with long screws that anchor to the wall frame around the door.
• Peep hole: Ideally, you should be able to look out of your safe room to see if an intruder is still in the hallway. A one-way peephole is therefore a good idea. If you are forced to use the safe room, resist the urge to look out of the peephole until you know it is safe to leave the room (after the police have arrived). Your presence behind the peephole could allow an intruder to target you with a firearm through the door.