Home Personal Defense 5 Ways to Plan a Defense Against Home Invasion

5 Ways to Plan a Defense Against Home Invasion

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By Grady Powell

Bad guys are becoming more bold and aggressive. Understanding that valuable items and softer targets are more likely located in more affluent areas, they are increasingly targeting suburban homes and neighborhoods in historically low-crime areas.

As with most things, when it comes to preparing an adequate home defense the sage Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” applies.

1. Plan it, drill it

Everyone remembers the fire drills that we practiced in elementary school. The alarm bell sounded and a swarm of generally chaotic creatures with an inclination for ignoring direction suddenly fell into line and moved to a predetermined point of safety with precise exaction.

In the same vein, create a simple plan to move everyone living in your house to a pre-determined point of safety, which ideally will be a room with few exit points. Only leave the security of the room you are in if other loved ones need to be secured. Everyone should know what starts the plan…an alarm, a whistle, or predetermined action initiating word.

Adults should plan to move to children or the elderly. Older children should move to younger ones and they should all move to a predetermined meeting point or hiding place in the room, and stay put.

Panicked people tend to wander if they don’t have a highly defined place. Designating these locations will give you the ability to discriminate targets far more quickly and effectively if an assailant has made it into the kids’ rooms.

Using techniques similar to those the police employ to deal with active shooters is best for the solo shooter. Don’t clear every room or move timidly through the house. Instead, move quickly and decisively to the objective point and only engage home invaders that are an immediate threat or in the way.

Understand the layout of your house and identify likely entry/weak points. Set up a primary and a secondary route to get to your objective and plot out areas an invader will be likely to move through or toward.

Move to the hold point and wait it out. Remain silent and listen. After sufficient time has passed, then go through the home. If anything indicates that an intruder is present, call the police and let them clear the house in a team. Better to look a little sheepish than go on a one-man house-clearing suicide mission leaving your family members unprotected.

When you call the police, tell them precisely where you and your family are located in the house. Tell them that you are armed and that all your family members are safe and secure with you. Ask them to carefully and loudly identify themselves when entering your strongpoint.

Once the plan is set, drill it. Multiple times. Practice, practice, practice. Your wife may think you’re a tin-foil-hat-wearing wacko and the kids will think it is cool. Run through it several times, both during the day, then again at night with low light/no light. Then have an occasional surprise drill.

If and when the real thing happens, you’ll be surprised to see how a standard operating procedure keeps a stressful situation a lot calmer and more coordinated.

2.  Have an early warning

Police response to home alarms is notoriously slow and often set as a priority right above extracting cats from trees. Forget or even disconnect that part of it, but have a good home security alarm system installed set to activate instantly when a door or window is breached and use it religiously so you’ll be acutely aware the moment someone enters your perimeter.

You have the luxury of knowing who belongs inside your walls and who doesn’t. The moment you hear your alarm go off, it’s time to execute your plan (see No. 1). Make sure to disengage the alarm quickly so your hearing can be used to detect interior movement.

3.  Prepare resources 

Make sure firearms, flashlights and telephones are readily available. Waking up to an alarm, still foggy from sleep, isn’t the time to be fumbling with combination locks on a gun safe or scratching through your drawer looking for a light. Install quick-access gun safes next to your bed and make sure a phone and flashlight are there on your night stand, then practice using them.

A good alternative is a vehicle-style shotgun lock like those used by police. These can be attached to bed frames and hidden by dust covers but accessed with a hidden switch.

Computer cash drawers can be purchased on eBay for peanuts and with rudimentary knowledge of electronics, wired complete with battery backup and hidden activation switch. Stash an old cell phone and charging cord in the stronghold room. Even deactivated phones can still call 911.

Also, store critical first-aid supplies, such as a CAT tourniquet, quick clot agent and any prescription medicines necessary for household members. If for some reason you take a hit on the way to your secure point you’ll be able to buy yourself some time.

Add a few bottles of water for a short potential wait. Enter the direct dispatch number for the local law enforcement on your phone and print detailed directions to your house and to the stronghold inside the house and tuck them away in your safe room. Direct dispatch will almost always function faster than 911.

4.  Harden the structure

A man’s (or woman’s) home is his castle and one of the best defense is making your castle a more difficult target than your neighbors’. Encourage the assailant to choose the path of least resistance and go down the street.

Remove shrubs and plants close to the house that make good hiding spots. Better yet, replace them with thorny bushes that will discourage anyone from trying to move through them. Consider glass bricks as a relatively cheap and highly secure replacement for exterior windows in first floor bedrooms. Use quality locks and, even more important, install door jambs that will resist kicking and crowbars.

As a super-economical alternative, drill 1-inch holes in the floor at the foot of both sides of the door and place pieces of steel pipe in them to secure doors at night. While not exactly aesthetically pleasing, the pipes can be easily removed and the holes covered by an entry mat.

Make sure that entry and exit points are well-lit and windows are covered to prevent people from getting a look at the valuables you have in your house. And get a dog. Even the small ones bark when they sense an unwanted presence near or in the house. That can be enough to make some burglars move along.

5.  Get adequate and applicable training

Don’t let the first time you shoot your gun in the dark with a light be during a break-in. The fewer first-time variables you experience in a real fight, the better off you will be.

Numerous schools exist around the country that provide valuable instruction and practice in night shooting, civilian room combat and scenario-based gunfighting skills. Often this instruction is provided by individuals with substantial combat experience. Many, including Asymmetric Solutions, use full-size ballistic house mock ups that allow the shooter to simulate tactical movement through the structure while engaging strategically placed targets.

Also consider taking an intensive first aid course that will help you deal with a serious medical issue while waiting for the police to arrive and clear your house. Wilderness first aid classes designed to teach civilians how to care for major medical problems when help is at a distance are far more intensive and full of practical knowledge than the basic “call 911 and apply direct pressure” quickie basic first aid/CPR courses.

 – – – – –

Asymmetric Solutions would, of course, like to be a part of your home defense and self defense training We offer a wide spectrum of reality-based courses to civilians. If we’re too far away, find a solid firearms school near you and make sure you’re prepared.

Bottom line: making holes in paper down a shooting range lane will not – in any way – prepare you for the real fight. Reality-based training will.

These steps will be met by some with the attitude that, “Home invasions are rare and would never happen to me.” That, of course, is usually correct. Insurance companies are highly profitable institutions that bet on bad things not happening. Still, nearly all of us spend thousands yearly with insurance companies to prepare ourselves for exactly those rare contingencies.

We also hear the classic, “That level of preparation is paranoid.” One man’s paranoia is another man’s preparation until the preparation is needed. At that point paranoia is reclassified as insight.

I’m not paranoid when I drive my car because I wear my seatbelt any more than my grade school principal was paranoid when he made us do fire drills. Being prepared gives you options and puts you in greater control of your situation.

While home invasions are relatively unlikely, consider the value of the people and things inside your four walls. Personally, I will never let a few dollars spent on training and equipment, a little inconvenience and time spent on a home defense plan and practice be too great a cost to increase the surety of their safety and well-being.


Grady Powell is chief civilian instructor at Asymmetric Solutions. AS is a special operations training facility on over eight square miles outside St. Louis, Missouri employing an instructor cadre of former SpecOps personnel, training both DoD clients as well as civilians. 

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    • Front Toward Enemy*…thank you for ninety seconds of fanciful imagining.

      * try to consider the backblast radius when staging in a home environment…

      Well articulated article…however, remember the words of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” In other words: be flexible enough to improvise, adapt and overcome.

    • Dude, I get that a claymore is a really cool item, but just how many two handed swords do you need? It ain’t like having a Glock in one hand and a CZ in the other!

  1. I have a 3 step plan.

    1) Drill the bastard(s).
    2) Pop a beer.
    3) Call 911.

    Repeat as necessary.

  2. 1 always be armed or have a weapon readily accessible
    2 deadbolts and interior braces on all exterior doors
    3 if youre not walking through the door its locked
    4 exterior and interior lights on at night even if nobodys home
    5 dont answer the door unless the persons identity and motive has been deemed safe by looking through a window thats away from the entry door
    6 using the technique in 5 if the assailant on the other side of the door has a shotgun dont wait for him to kick the door down to start slinging lead his way
    7 safe rooms
    8 assume the door that is least visible from the public eye is the one that will be kicked in first harden that door the most and put a sign on it that says something like this home is protected by high speed wireless device

  3. Hey that reminds me my tactical light died. Gotta’ get another. Other than that I subscibe to the Gov’s plan😄

  4. Good advice especially #1. Most alarm systems have the key pads near points of entry. Have one placed in the master bedroom. Author is correct. Alarms, except for banks, way down on L.E.O. priority list. 99.9% operator error. As for training, the author is incorrect. No one on this site needs training. They’ve seen every John Wayne movie ever made. What could they possibly learn?

    • Hey, even us old guys watched more than John Wayne, don’t forget Eastwood, and Bronson, or even Cleavon Little if yer saddle is a bit hot.

    • And absolutely dial 911 instead of the nonemergency line. Every agency I’ve worked with answers 911 first.

      • For those in Her Majesty’s colonies in Terra Australis, 000 takes a lot longer than you would expect. The myth is the call is answered in 2-3 rings and help appears in minutes.

        The reality is the call will almost ring-out before you are placed on a queue that can take 10 or more minutes before you actually speak to an operator.

        And this is the EMERGENCY line. The assistance line is even worse.

  5. Think you got things a bit backwards. Hardening your structure and making it known from the outside is the first thing anyone should do prior to much of anything else except purchasing a firearm as that has multiple uses.

    Trust me a well lit outer grounds with no areas for a sneak to hide while attempting to break in will defer most all amateurs. Burglars don’t like light and they don’t like being exposed while they gain entrance.

    Next make it obvious that all windows and doors are alarmed and not with some sign saying so as many ppl just buy the sign so Burglars don’t pay much attention to it they go check. (once again making it hard to sneak around out side is a priority and I mean to be seen from the street. Don’t surround your house with pretty hedges and flower beds and trees.)

    Make those connections obvious and visibly unlikely to be shorted without alarm.

    Second if you have a second level; alarm that too and make getting to the roof or the next level difficult to impossible. don’t leave a handy or make shift ladder in an open garage or out building and put lights up on the second level too.

    These light don’t have to be on all night and make your place look like a fortress (altho that’s not necessarily a bad thing) put them on motion sensors as that’s more effective anyway as for a second the burglar may think he’s been spotted by a person.

    They don’t like seeing a building prepared like that. Make them think your neighbor’s house is a better target.

    And lights going on and off in random times can work. Just make sure the times are random. Too many people will use default settings and have them go off and on at the same time every night. Pros will look for that as a sign saying “come rob me”.

    After you’ve secured the outside and made it as imposing and difficult looking as possible, then concern yourself with how to tackle the other potential assaults like an invasion. For an invasion one good thing is to have a nearby panic button for all doors so as the rest of the house and the neighbors and cops know something’s happening. This will make the invaders nervous and want to get out quick.

    No one should be opened a door for after 9 pm. Especially if you don’t know them.

    Make your door bells ring all over the house so others know someone is at the door even if they don’t answer it. They can then tell if somethings wrong quicker.

    This is just stuff taken from reading about break ins and some discussions I’ve overheard from pros from both sides of the line.

    If you’ve got the money to look rich then spend some money to protect it and don’t assume the invaders will know you’re only rich on paper with no liquid assets.

    • Agreed on the lighting. I have motion detection lights for the whole perimeter of my house. In addition to motion detection lights on house power, I have solar powered ones for the sunny sides of the house and Mr. Beam (they take D batt) lights for the areas, where literally the sun dont shine. The porch and driveway lights stay on all night on low wattage led bulbs. Side note, my neighborhood had 2 night time power outages, and I was the only one that had a lit up driveway and porch when I got home at night.

  6. A home invasion with shots fired is liable to draw considerable attention from the authorities. So be prepared to get on their good side fast. In your pre-plan include phone numbers for local donut, pizza and beer delivery options. Own a couple of coffee makers so there’s always a hot pot ready to offer them a refill.

    So, Mister “I Got A Badge”, who you gonna’ believe? The deceased home invader ruining the living room carpet or the nice home owner offering you a fresh cup of coffee and a Dunk’n at 03:30????

    Hospitality never goes out of style.

    • enuf, I hope you’re joking. I never stood around eating pizza, doughnuts and drinking coffee at a major crime scene. If anything, those kinds of things cost me meals, sleep and time with my family.

  7. If you’re going to take the drill part seriously then you have to give up control of when the drill occurs and how.

    Your response will necessarily be different based on your location in the house and the point of ingress, time and other factors. Drilling “when convenient” will lead to specific sets of reactions that may not be applicable to the actual situation. So you’ll need someone else to initiate the whole thing by telling you when and how the “event” is happening so you have to drop whatever you’re doing and respond to their scenario that you’re not expecting.

  8. Glad to know that so many TTAG readers are wealthy enough to attract RIP crews. So if you think you might be targeted hire some body guards. If your wealth is derived from some criminal enterprise just make sure you have your own crew protecting your house. /Sarc

    There are home invasions and there are hot burglaries. You need to understand the difference. A home invasion is an attack by a team whose objective is to take over the house to grab people and valuables. Kind of like SWAT but without the official sanction.

    A hot burglary is a break-in by one or more people when you are home. Most hot burglaries are unintentional. Unlike an actual home invasion the perps generally run when they encounter someone in the house especially when one or more of their buddies takes a round or two.

    You are unlikely to survive a home invasion but if you are prepared you can win the fight against the hot burglers.

    • I won’t quibble with the definitions you’ve given here but I will simply say “wrong addresses happen”.

      The people who go out to commit a home invasion, or are sent to do it, aren’t the brightest. I’ve known people who got shot because a couple gang-bangers got the wrong address and were supposed to kill the guy across the street for being a snitch.

      • That is a potential threat for someone who lives in the wrong neighborhood — or runs into a RIP crew with official sanction.

  9. Luckily I have something about my lawn that attracts unholy hordes of fire ants, to the point where I’m fairly confident any unknowing trespasser/burglar will likley be eaten alive before breaching the structure.

  10. Suggestion for a follow up article, “SA and defense in transitional spaces” BG’s like to catch folks off guard when transitioning from car to house, store to car, etc.

  11. I am in the early stages of preparing a retirement home. Due to an accidental triggering of the burglar alarm, I can honestly say that the police response in this town was quick. My taxes finally working for me. Other measures against a hot burglary, as another reader called it. Dog that barks aggressively when strangers approach. Extra strength windows and doors with double locks (came as a bonus with hurricane zone construction). Minimal windows on ground level. Defender-Security anti-intrusion door reinforcement system (available through Amazon, other mail order sites, Home Depot and Lowes). Motion detector lights are next to go in. House is multi-story with many choke points. If anyone ever got in while we are in the house, which would be difficult, the intruder would face – 9mm handgun with laser sight. AK-47 down the stairwell. SKS with bayonet. Clean-up service.

  12. It is all about #4. Seriously, there is absolutely NO REASON someone should be able to get into your home. It is really easy to make it invasion proof.

    • I’m all for hardening the exterior. The simple fact is that ANY security can be breached. The point, I think, is to buy yourself some time. Dogs are definitely an assist for that purpose. Beyond that, other people who can help to throw out a wall of lead would be of great value.

  13. Step 1: don’t own any shit worth stealing
    Step 2: don’t have a pretty wife worth grabbing
    Step 3: don’t have a smart enough kid worth taking
    Step 4: instruct the home invader on all cool shit your neighbor has and how pretty his wife is and how smart the kids are.
    Step 5: problem solved

    ….I’m glad my wide doesn’t read this blog.

  14. Since I was on the recieving end of tornado 4 days ago, which has knocked out all power in the affected area and is not likely to be restored for at least another 4 or 5 days, I’ve had to rethink what my home security plan is sans electricity. I do have a small generator but it will not handle everything (refrigeration, security, medical equipment, comm, etc. ), so I’ve had to prioritize. Electrical powered security came in last place.

    I’ll be straight up: I live out in the woods a quarter mile from my nearest neighbor or any paved road. I have plenty of firearms and know how to use them and all are easily & quickly accessible. The house is still livable, so I see no reason to abandon my property, even temporarily. But without power I have no warning of anyone approaching my home or breaking in. I know somebody here is going to recommend their favorite killer dog, but that is not a possibility for me. That said, I have made adjustments, which I will not disclose on a public forum.

    Just posting this to get folks to think about what they would do in a similar situation.

    • Twisters suck, but at least you can find your pants hanging in a tree. Glad you made it out alive. I got hit by one in 2004 , a friend 1/4 mile away was crushed by a tree on his house. You got lucky, Peace out.

  15. Another advertiser heard from but some good info. My next door neighbor has been broken into twice thru a sliding glass door while at the local Y. Once while I was at home listening to stereo at a very loud volume. Obviously I am home. TV on in my den viewable from back deck with sound on. Cheap deterrent. My old shooting buddy was a cop and now statey, their statistics show that home invasions are very rare and usually the inhabitants and the invaders now each other, drug dealer and customers, etc. Or, the home owner is well known, and known to have drugs and or large sums of money. B&E’s around here are pillow case bandits, gain easy entry while you are gone, grab a pillow case, empty jewelry box into it and anything else they find in top drawers. Neighbor had had a lot of remodeling work done with multiple contractors in and out of his house both times he got burgled. Coincidence? I think not. My wife’s $2K Nikon got lifted by 1 of 3 appliance, furniture and carpet delivery and install scumbags. Any work or delivery I have done now, I am there with a gun on my hip. Effing scumbags. ESAD!

  16. Excellent article. I would only add, POGO: “Pants On, Gun On”. When you’re home during the day, the alarm is rarely on. If you have kids running in and out, doors won’t be locked. Don’t get caught with yourself in one room, your gun in another, and the Bad Guy between you and the gun.

  17. I have a gun at home, but I try to minimize the possibilities of using it. I have electronic security in my house in case of burglary, and I also protected myself with armored doors. They will not protect me from any intrusion. They are not that thick. But they have an impressive look that you don’t want to touch right away. I got help – Contractorfinder I live in a normal area but we also have theft. I think my level of protection will keep my family safe.


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