How to Respond to a Burglary 2

Masked burglar entering a property through a windowKnowing how to respond to a burglary and how you actually react at the time are two different things. When a burglar enters your home and you’re still in it, having a plan could literally save your life. I’m not trying to be alarmist here, just realistic. Sometimes a burglar breaks in thinking the occupants are out or away when they’re not. In situations like these you need to keep a cool head.

NOTE: You can jump to any part of this post by clicking the links in the table of contents

Table of Contents

  1. Understand Why They Are There
  2. Get Out if You Can
  3. The Safe Room
  4. Keep the Mobile Phone Close by and Charged
  5. Know what You’re Going to Say
  6. What to Do if You Meet the Intruder
  7. Preventing a Break-In (Doors and Windows)

Understand Why They Are There

If an intruder enters your home, try not to scream or panic as it may only serve to exacerbate the situation. The majority of burglars only want to get in, steal, and get out.[1]

Points to consider:

  • If you’re in the home assess the situation
  • If possible, call the police without delay and STAY ON THE LINE UNTIL THEY ARRIVE
  • If you’re arriving home and notice a stranger inside, DO NOT ENTER THE BUILDING

Some house break-ins occur when the burglar knows the residents are home because they have chosen your home to burgle. These typically happen in the small hours of morning, when everyone is sleeping. If a noise awakens you, just remember, this is not the movies. Don’t tiptoe down the stairs gripping a baseball bat expecting to swing at the first thing that moves. No two situations are ever the same, but what you mustn’t do is play the hero. For all you know the intruder could be armed and dangerous. There’s also a chance that they’re not alone. If the burglar is a nasty piece of work, they may feel the need to shut the witness up. Again, I’m not trying to be alarmist here but we do have to be realistic.

In any situation where you catch a burglar in the act, be mindful of these three things:

  1. Be cautious
  2. Be discreet
  3. Be safe

Get Out if You Can

Before you do anything, listen out to see if you can gauge the situation. Try to ascertain how many intruders there might be. Are they trying to be quiet or are they ransacking the place without thought or concern. If the latter, they are more desperate and potentially dangerous. If there are other family members in the home, make sure you don’t get into panic discussions. These almost always end in raised voices and rash decisions. Remember, be cautious, be discreet and above all else, be SAFE. Hopefully you will all be on the same page and know how you expect to respond to the situation. Always, always, always get out if you can without drawing attention to yourself. Once outside the building, and at a safe distance, dial 911 immediately. Stay on the phone until the police arrive.[2]

The Safe Room

It’s always a good idea to have a designated safe room in the home. Even a small room, like a closet with a sturdy door that you can lock from the inside will suffice. If you don’t have such a space you might want to think about creating one. Once you are all inside, quietly call the police. If you don’t have a designated safe space, at least get everyone into the same room and then fortify it as best you can. Do this by quietly pushing heavy furniture and other objects up against the door. Once you’re all as safe as you can be, make that emergency call without delay.

Keep the Mobile Phone Close by and Charged

What could be worse than not having access to your mobile phone when you need it the most? It’s a nightmare come true, that’s what it is. Or what about going for the phone only to find the battery is flat. I have two simple rules when it comes to the mobile phone.

  1. I never go to bed without it
  2. I always put it on charge from the bedroom at night

This is as much a part of my bedtime routine as say taking my clothes off or brushing my teeth.

Although 911 is a short and simple number, I have still created a speed dial to quicken things up in case of a crisis situation. All I have to do is hold down a single button and I’m straight through to the emergency services. Even tapping three keys can be difficult if you’re in a panic or if your hands are shaking uncontrollably. This is why I suggest setting up a speed dial for 911.

Know what You’re Going to Say

It might sound simple but you’d be surprised at how difficult it is to get the right words out if you’re in a panic. If you rehearse a couple of lines for these situations, it will come out a lot easier at the time. After you give the operator your name and address, you can then proceed with a summary of the details. It might go something like this:

“There’s an intruder downstairs in my house. We’re hiding in an upstairs bedroom. That’s all I know. Please hurry.”

Remember to stay on the line with the operator until the police arrive.

What to Do if You Meet the Intruder

There are always cases where things don’t go to plan and the occupants come face to face with their intruder. Without making this too complicated, I will summarize the main points for you. Please be mindful of these in the event that you meet the burglar:

  • Stay as calm as you possibly can, be cooperative
  • Avoid direct eye contact
  • Speak in a normal tone when spoken to, but somewhat softer than usual
  • Stay still, don’t make any sudden moves
  • Fighting must always be the very last resort, when you feel your life is endanger

It’s quite usual for burglars to flee when confronted. Whatever you do, don’t chase after them. At this point you still don’t know if they’re armed or dangerous. You also don’t know if they’ve left an accomplice in the property. Nothing is over until the police have arrived and secured the scene.

Preventing a Break-In (Doors and Windows)

This page focusses on what to do if an intruder enters your property while you’re still in it. Obviously it’s better if a burglar never gets into your home. Although there is no guarantee of that, you can certainly make these incidents far less likely by taking a few simple precautions. We’ve looked into the hardware solutions, to prevent break-ins, in other articles on the site, and I recommend you read those. But technology aside, the most effective of all preventative measures is the most simple.

Your first line of defense must always be with the doors and windows. Make sure they are strong, secure, and locked at night or when you’re out or away. More than half of all break-ins are through weak or unlocked doors and windows. It therefore makes sense to begin tightening up the security of your home in this area first. You can have all the sophisticated security precautions in the world, but if you’re doors and windows are vulnerable, then so are you.[3]





About Mark Bickmore

Hi, my name is Mark Bickmore. I'm an Engineer, who has a keen interest in home security and keeping my family, property and valuables safe from burglars. This website was set up to help me explore the research, facts and myths about burglars and burglary. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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2 thoughts on “How to Respond to a Burglary

  • Paul

    If someone is breaking into my house.. sorry for your luck but that door was locked for your safety not mine. If they make it past the dogs then they’ll be met with a 12gauge and the wife with an ar15 I can react way faster than how long it takes the police to show up still call but I’m not counting on them to be there in time. Id just say it’s wise to not break in if we are home. If I’m not home I’d call police and secure house to make sure they don’t escape till they show up as long as my family isn’t inside then I’d be making entry