We’ve all seen horror movies about home invasions—it seems like Hollywood comes out with one every week. However, reality is far more frightening than fiction.
In the United States, a burglary occurs every 26 seconds. Most occur at homes during the daytime. Most do not involve firearms, and most do not result in injuries.
But any home break-in can be devastating. It can shatter your sense of security and belonging. You need to prepare for a locksmith emergency in advance and react quickly after a break-in occurs.
Here is your guide on what you need to do.
Preparing for a Break-In
The best break-in is one that never occurs. Even if you are in a safe area, there are a few measures you should adopt to burglar-proof your home.
Install high-quality and heavy-duty locks. Deadbolt locks are hard to cut with wire cutters or kick down. Mortise locks have extra-long bolts and reinforced plates, providing maximum protection.
You should also install good security doors. Solid wood, steel, and fiberglass doors do not break easily. You can place any kind of lock on them, and you can add crash plates for reinforcement.
Place locks on your windows to prevent them from being jammed open. You should also hang curtains over them, preventing people from looking into your house. Make sure you can open the curtains so you can investigate threats.
Some windows may not provide a clear view of areas. You can install security cameras that cover blind spots. In particular, you can look behind your garage and across your backyard for threats.
Talk with your family about what they should do during a break-in. Run an evacuation drill, including going to a location outside the home.
More than 60 percent of violent criminals know their victims in advance. If you have a falling out with someone who knows your house, consider changing your locks.
Do not share keys with people beyond your family unit. Do not discuss your security protocols with relative strangers.
Do not answer the door if you are not expecting someone. Leave lights on and turn on the television to make burglars think many people are home. Lock your doors when you’re not home or when you’re going to sleep.
Immediately After a Home Break-In
Call 911 after any break-in. Remain on the phone with first responders until they arrive.
If you are in your home while a break-in occurs, remain calm. Evacuate through a side entrance or window. Tell the responder where you are going.
If you cannot leave, lock the door leading into the room you are in and/or barricade the entrance. Grab a weapon and crouch down behind a solid object, low to the ground.
Do not shout or make noise. This does not make the home invader scared. If anything, it gives away your location and escalates the situation.
Avoid engaging with the invader. If someone breaks into your house and threatens you, you have the right to engage them with force. But you may become injured in the process, so remain hidden unless they approach you.
If you arrive home and discover your house has been broken into, call 911. If you walked into your home, walk out. Avoid touching anything.
People are more important than objects. Make sure everyone gets out of the house, and don’t worry about your possessions for now.
Let the first responders do their jobs. Give them any information they ask for, but focus on yourself and your loved ones.
You may be asked to go to the station for questioning. Even if you are not guilty of an offense, you can have an attorney present. If you are not comfortable answering questions, invoke your right to remain silent.
Call your bank right away to cancel your credit card and freeze your account. You can reopen your accounts once you confirm the thief didn’t access them.
Your First Responses
The police may close off your house so they can investigate. This will occur if someone was killed or severely injured. You will not have access to your home, yard, or walkway for at least a day.
Ask a responder to go inside your home and give you your essentials. Call a friend or family member and ask if you can spend the night at their place.
Talk with people about what happened. A break-in is a very traumatic event, even if nothing was stolen and no one was hurt. Allow yourself to be emotional if you are feeling sad or angry.
You can go home as soon as first responders say it is safe. But if you don’t feel safe, you don’t have to return. Give yourself the time you need to feel secure again.
Call your insurer to get compensation for damages. Make an inventory of everything that was stolen or damaged. Submit photographs or videos with your claim to validate yourself.
Home invasions are often high-profile news items. You do not have to give a statement to the press. If they gather outside your home, walk directly into your house without saying anything.
Many survivors of home invasions suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms include recurrent memories of the break-in and negative thoughts about yourself. You may become easily startled, staying on guard for danger.
Get a psychological evaluation as soon you are able to. Even if you don’t have PTSD, you may have trauma from the event. Speak to a therapist and consider taking additional treatments.
The Days That Follow
Serial home invaders are not common, and they do not usually revisit sites they broke into. It can happen, so maintain basic vigilance until the invader is caught. Follow the news for further updates and remain in contact with law enforcement.
The police do not clean your home for you. They will remove weapons, but everything else remains in the home. This includes blood stains or biological fluids.
Clean up what you can, but hire a crime scene clean-up crew. They will wear protective gear that keeps them from getting sick. You may need to stay out of your house for a few days if the mess is extensive.
You can also contact state crime victims’ bureaus. Most do not provide compensation for lost belongings, but they can put you in touch with professionals who can help.
Get information from investigators about how the perpetrator broke into your home. Thirty-four percent of burglars use the front door, for instance. Prepare new strategies to keep another break-in from occurring, like installing a new door.
Many people buy a firearm after a break-in. That’s okay, but a firearm is only useful if you know how it works.
Buy a firearm safe that will keep your weapon from being stolen. Take lessons on how to load, fire, and store your gun.
Try to live as normal a life as you can. Go to work and associate with friends and family.
If you don’t feel like returning to your routines, take some time off. You can leave the area and clear your head somewhere else.
Securing Your Home
Once you’re ready, start increasing the security of your home. You can begin by changing your locks.
Profile cylinder locks are some of the toughest locks to break. They are made with heavy metals that resist picks and brute force.
You use keys to turn the cylinder, adding an extra layer of security. Manufacturers can design them with master keys or individual ones.
Smart locks are a more advanced option. You unlock these products with your fingerprints, which are unique to you. A thief cannot break into these unless you’re there.
You can also install locks with Bluetooth. When you’re away from home, you can turn on your smartphone and open your house. This keeps you from having to give out keys.
You can replace the glass in your windows and doors with security glass. Tempered glass receives chemical treatments to increase strength. When it breaks, it crumbles into small pieces instead of sharp shards.
Laminated glass has two panes with a plastic interlayer. The three layers are bonded to each other, so they are very hard to break.
If you don’t want to swap the glass entirely, you can place security films on it. These are adhesive layers made of polyester. They stop the glass from shattering, keeping intruders out.
Installing a barrier outside of your home can help. Place thorny bushes under your windows and around your lawn. Make sure the thorns are visible and cannot be stepped on.
Installing a Security System
Many people turn to electronic security systems after a break-in. They provide 24/7 monitoring of your home, with sensors on your doors and windows.
Shop around for the best rates. Some system providers approach survivors of home invasions after they see them on the news.
Don’t take their offer right away. Find the cheapest, most reliable system and install it as soon as possible. Post a sign on your lawn saying you’ve installed one.
However, you can’t just set your system and forget about it. Check your sensors and monitors for their battery lives. Exchange dead batteries out whenever you notice they’re low.
Some systems trigger a false alarm. You may return to your home to retrieve your keys, only to set the system off by pushing the door open. Call your security provider if this happens.
Keep the contact information of an emergency locksmith on hand. They can open your door without setting off your alarms.
A barking dog can set off a noise or motion alarm. Corral your pet in a room and keep it away from the windows.
You can facilitate your system by installing motion sensor lights outside your home. They turn on when they detect motion, which can scare away thieves. They also help you navigate outside your home at night.
Your system cannot completely deter thieves from breaking in. You should follow common-sense measures like locking your doors. Place jewelry and valuables in safes, or at least out of sight.
People react to traumatic events differently. Some people “get over” them within a few weeks, while others take years to deal with them.
Take as much time as you need and know that you can seek help. Peer support groups allow you to talk to a group about what you’re going through. You can make friends and learn new strategies of resilience.
Take measures to reduce your stress. Deep breathing can calm you down and ground you in the present moment.
Sit down and place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe in through your nose, hold, then breathe out through pursed lips. Repeat several times until you feel calm.
Many people want to move out of their homes following a break-in. This is especially the case if a violent incident occurred.
Weigh the pros and cons before you decide to move. You may be able to get a fresh perspective, putting traumatic memories behind you. On the other hand, you may distance yourself from your close social circle.
You may also struggle to sell your home. Homes in which a homicide occurred dropped in value by 4.4 percent.
Installing a security system may be a high upfront cost, but it can increase the value of your home. If you’re planning on selling, install a system to offset any potential decreases in value.
When you do decide to move, make sure to maintain your security. Store your valuables in containers with seals and lids. Ask someone to remain outside so a thief doesn’t steal from your car.
Prepare for a Locksmith Emergency
A home invasion is every homeowner’s worst nightmare, but it’s a nightmare you can wake from and move on.
Prepare for one well in advance. Install strong locks on your doors. If you’re home during a break-in, evacuate and call 911.
Contact your insurer and get compensation. Take the time you need to recover, then go about securing your home. Install new locks and windows in addition to a high-tech system.
Get help when you need it. 512 Austin Locksmith is the state’s leading service for a locksmith emergency. Schedule an appointment today.