Barricading the door of your “safe room” with a heavy piece of furniture could help prevent a predator like this one from entering.

I was sleeping soundly when the shrill alarm pierced the air. The next thing I was consciously aware of was standing at the end of the driveway by the mailbox and putting on a sweatsuit over my pajamas to keep warm. On my flight from my bedroom I had unconsciously grabbed my gym bag that always hangs on the door and contains sweatpants, sweatshirt, wool socks, and a wool blanket. My two sisters were wrapping themselves in the wool blanket, my mother was on her cell phone with 911, and my father had just finished a perimeter check of the house and was proceeding to back the car down the driveway for us to take refuge in until the fire truck arrived. It all happened in the blink of an eye and without any thought. We had gone over our fire drill so often we all knew just what to do and even ripped groggily from our beds at two in the morning, our unconscious minds led us to safety.

But what if instead of a smoke detector, it had been our burglary alarm?

Many people have a fire plan but very few have a home invasion plan. How will you protect yourself during a break-in? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Have a security system. All of your doors have deadbolts, right? The doorknob locks and pathetically ineffective “security” chains won’t cut it. You need deadbolts. A multi-zone electronic security system is best, but even if you can’t afford one or live in an apartment that won’t let you install one, you can get battery-powered alarms for all your doors and windows that sound whenever one is opened. Motion activated lights outside of your home are wonderful. Low hedges underneath all the windows are great deterrents, as is a dog. Contrary to popular belief, a “guard dog” is not the most effective, rather it’s the little yapper type that won’t shut up. The more you can do to prevent a home invasion from even occurring, the better—but you still need a plan in case one does.

Know your exits. Front door, back door, side door, garage door, window… If someone comes in, can you get out without being seen? Going to a neighbor’s house and calling 911 from safety is better than a possible confrontation with an intruder. Some burglars have accomplices outside the house, though, and a run-in with them can be just as dangerous. Plus, some states have adopted the Castle Doctrine laws and there is no duty to retreat. If you decide to stay in your home…

Have a safe room. Which room in your house is the easiest and quickest for all of your family members to get to? A good choice is one at the front of the house with a window where you can see the police and toss them your door keys when they arrive. Make absolutely certain this room has a landline telephone (in case the battery on your mobile is dead, plus your address automatically appears on 911’s computers) and a cellular phone (in case your land-line has been cut). Have an index card beside the telephone with your name, address, and phone number written on it. Under duress, people can forget even these simple things. Make sure there is a lock on the door and possibly even a dresser or nightstand nearby to barricade with. Have your firearm readily accessible and loaded, and either a light attached or stored with the gun. Be sure the batteries are fresh.

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