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There was a posting on a local forum about an alarm that sounded in the middle of the night:

At 3:36am last night our house alarm went off…was surprised how quickly I arose from a deep sleep and sprung into action. First I turned off the alarm and then went for my handgun and flashlight. I opened my bedroom door and noticed that our 2 kids’ bedroom doors were closed (thinking they might have gone downstairs to the bathroom). My wife also woke up. I listened for noises but it was dead quiet . . .


I left the bedroom and peered down the staircase (saw nothing). Still no sounds. Surprisingly the alarm did not wake up our kids so my wife stayed watch upstairs as I made my way down the staircase (I would have rather stayed upstairs but knew that someone had to clear the house). I cautiously walked around, turning on lights, examining doors, windows, etc. until it I was convinced there wasn’t any threat. 2nd and 1st floors cleared; onto the basement.

I followed the same procedure and eventually issued the “all clear” to my wife who ventured downstairs to the 1st floor. A few minutes after going back to bed I realized that I never cleared MY KIDS ROOMS so I got up and peeked in them to confirm they were the only ones in their rooms.

We didn’t call the police because there never seemed like there was a real threat; had we heard sounds we would have. I also decided not to put on my body armor before going downstairs to clear the house. The other big fail was that our alarm company NEVER CALLED US. I called them this morning and confirmed that they never received the alarm from our house. I still have to call them to troubleshoot what went wrong. It’s still a mystery as to what triggered the alarm and why the alarm company never received our alarm…

The fact of the matter is that the poster’s response to the alarm was a great way to get himself killed if there had been an actual break-in. If a burglary occurs during hours when a homeowner is typically home, you have to assume the burglar is ready and willing to be violent. Otherwise, he would have broken in when he expected an empty house.

In the above case, if someone had actually broken in, the poster alerted the home invader to his response by shutting off the alarm. Best to leave it on and not let the varmint know what you’re doing. Once alerted, the burglar would probably hide and wait for the owner to approach. The tactic is best known as an ambush…you have no idea where they are, but they know — based on the layout of your home — where you’re coming from. Bad news for you.

Best to fortify your family in a safe room — any room the family knows to get to in an emergency– and defend it. In any emergency (other than fire), all family members should know to get to the designated safe room on their own. Obviously you will need to help any small children.

It’s a good idea to have a cell phone and a long gun stashed there. A cell phone is important in case the lines are cut or they simply remove the handset from the phone base. Use a handgun to get your family to the safe room and the long gun to defend it once you’re there.

The handgun allows a free hand to deal with family, doors and light switches. Once in the safe room, call the cops and wait. Advise the police to kick in the door, or drop a set of keys out the window and tell the dispatcher where they are. Keep the dispatcher on the line and advise him of any changes to the situation. He will let you know when the officers arrive and what to do.

NEVER search your home unless you need to get to a loved one in order to get them back to the safe room — you’re just walking into an ambush. When police search buildings, they send in teams, not single officers. Y0u might feel silly if there is no one there, but it beats the alternative if there is.

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  1. My dogs don’t have an off switch and there is no way anybody could sleep with their barking.
    Our house is small and I can’t imagine somebody getting in without the dogs giving them away. Live to far from town to wait for police. From the first bark it is a DIY job.
    I am more than comfortable with my dogs, handguns to take care of things. My long guns are for hunting game, outside.

  2. One or two dogs trained for home/family security are good to have along with a working alarm and safe room. The video did not mention it (or I failed to hear it) yet I think having a bullet proof door might be good so shots cannot be fired from the hallway into the room at the homes residents. Something could be designed to allow firing from the safe room into the hallway at the intruder. It would also be something to somehow safely release bear spray into the hallway at the intruder while the safe room is kept safe from the chemical blow back. It’s very unlikely an intruder(s) would be so bold and determined that they would stick around and risk a fight with the police yet one never knows. I think many/most of such cases would involve someone seeking revenge against the residents or someone on drugs.

      • By all means, let loose the dogs of war! At worst, they will distract or possibly scare the intruder. At best, they will keep him busy or run him off.

        For several years, I had a trained attack dog. Lots more possibilities with the right dog and the right training.

    • Bullet proof doors cost thousands of dollars. Bulletproofing walls costs more, and unless you really trust the door and are willing to line up your family behind it the walls remain a vulnerability. There are ballistic panels that can be installed into the walls but that is much easier done in construction, and to seriously protect one room you’re looking at five figures, easy if you hire it done. Cheaper yourself if you’re handy with drywall and paint, but not cheap by any stretch. What we see in movies as a safe room makes a great choice for Bond villain lairs but in real life is pretty hard to come by. Better to be designed from the ground up with a safe room than add one later.

      A basement room would be better, it’s unlikely that the bad guys will come after you with a backhoe and if it’s in a corner there are already a couple of walls that are functionally bulletproof. The downside is that any room that is hard to get into is equally hard to get out of, an upstairs room with an outside window access is really important if, frustrated by their inability to get into your safe room, they decide to burn down the house around you.

      I think it’s perfectly reasonable to up-armor the door against crowbars, kicks and the like, a metal interior security door in a metal frame with a serious lock and multiple points of contact with the frame (extra deadbolts high and low, both sides) can hold back a determined invader for quite a while, and if they’re serious enough to shoot through walls to get you then it’s definitely a SWAT-level problem that you have and you might want to consider your choice of companions, to your point re: revenge. That is doable in the low-thousands of dollars, and there are even doors that a wife will consider cosmetically-acceptable.

      One thing to remember is ear protection for everybody in your safe room, and maybe eye protection as well. Better deaf than dead, but firing any long gun from inside a safe room is instant and permanent hearing damage to all involved.

      • While it is expensive, Darren, bullet-proofing (and I use that term loosely because even the government has trouble bullet-proofing anything) walls and doors is not as expensive as one would think. Lexan is available at Lowes and Home Depot for very reasonable prices. A six-pack that measures six feet by three feet can be purchased for around $500 dollars. For me to do the relevant walls in the room I have planned for a safe-room would cost about $2500.

        If one were to remove a door and decide to measure its dimensions they would see how very weak the standard door is and decide to build their own. If one were to take a sheet of said Lexan and place it as the core of a sturdy hardwood door with adequate bolting and hinges there would really be no way in and it would be massively resistant to small arms fire (Lexan being bomb glass used in hurricane proofing ones home).

        One would think that a determined attacker would then try to come in through the wall. I would think that maybe a small job requiring the removal of some drywall and the affixing of the remaining Lexan around the door and the adjoining walls would stop that threat in its tracks.

        And let’s face it. If they come through the Lexan re-enforced door or the re-enforced wall before the police arrive… you are f*ck$d anyway because it isn’t an attacker. It’s the G-man.

        I am all about the basement idea and have a plan in mind but I haven’t yet discerned how to get there if there is anyone on the bottom floor (which is likely in my home as there is only one way up and down) of my home.

  3. One thing that has concerend me when I’ve been in a similiar circumstance is being sure that the children are secured in their rooms before checking out the house. You don’t want to meet one of the kids who went to the bathroom in a dark hallway as you round a corner with pistol in hand….. just somthing to think about.

    • Remember when cleaning house to periodically sweep the alarm sensors. The best guess our alarm company gave for an alarm while we were out is that an insect (spider) walked across the sensor.

    • First thing to do after getting armed is get the entire family to a designated safe room. If there are more than one adult, one can get the gun the other gets the kids.

  4. Agreed.

    Point 1:Bad guys usually attack people they know. The person who boots in the door at 3am could be a stranger…or it could be your close friend. You may know the layout of your home, but so will the bad guy if he has any brain cells.

    Point 2: Clearing your home with a non-NFA long arm is a BAD idea. Unless you have a bullpup rifle, a 16″ rifle WILL result in excess barrel pointing into the corner space.The bad guy then only needs to grab the rifle and twist to relieve it of your control.

    Point 3: Clearing the home may be perceived in court as provoking a lethal encounter , with the appropriate criminal charges. This isn’t a problem for states like Montana , Texas, and the like. But not all of us live in America. For the gun owning dissidents of New Jersey, California and other socialist nations its almost certain the gun-hating DA will spin events to suggest that if the homeowner merely hid the bad guy would have done no harm. To a gun hating jury, “clearing the home” is translated to “hunted down impoverished theif with a weapon.”

  5. Never clear your house? Are you nuts?

    The defeatist attitude on this website is a bit much.

    I can certainly understand that there are times it would be best not to do so, but never? Wrong answer. In my home I will do what I need to do to keep my family safe and I’m not about to take advice that says I should always retreat and always hide. If there is a danger in my home, I hope to destroy that threat and that doesn’t happen by hiding or running away.

    It’s rare for a family dwelling to have bullet-proof walls and floors. I will always assume that I have to shoot the burglar first so that his shots don’t go into where my family is. That means I’m not waiting for him to find me, I will find him. I will have to trust that I’m better at this than the burglar is.

    Be prepared, be sensible, and bet on being a winner. Running and hiding is not the way to go.

    • Until you die in the ambush and now your family are alone in a house with a murderer or more than one and thsy may decide to leave no witness’s. Don’t let pride and macho get you killed. Protecting your family is the only objective here.

      Fight smart.

    • Testosterone gets you killed.

      Running and hiding may not be emotionally fulfilling, but it will keep you and your family alive.

      Dead macho men can’t care for their families.

      • C’mon, now. How many of you have searched your house? Got kids? Teenagers? Their brains are like a wrestling match of squirrels being chased by a vacuum cleaner. You can tell them to shut the door, lock the door, etc., and if it registers part of the time you have relatively disciplined teenagers.

        I searched my house this weekend when the front door didn’t get latched or locked when the wind blew it open in the afternoon, and I’m not posting from beyond the grave. I’m not part of the NEVER search your house brigade. Yes, it’s a challenge to search a house, but it is a personal choice.

        A bump in the night is a little different, and I’ll send the dogs out to investigate first. The advice given in this article is pretty decent on that account.

    • Defeatist attitude? There is nothing defeatist about keeping your family safe in a room defended by you and your guns.

      A defeatist attitude is meeting your invader in a ambush. You will be defeated in a few seconds.

      I have more training, more armament and more ammo than most police departments in my state and I KNOW that no amount of training and guns will help you in an ambush, which is exactly the situation described in my original response.

      The ONLY way to guarantee to win a gun fight is to avoid one.

      Just because you have a gun, does not mean that you will win a gunfight. You can do everything right a still lose.

      This article is a must read:

      • The only way to avoid a plane hijacking is to sit back and do what the hijackers say. We’ve had a remarkable dearth of hijackings since that rule was abandoned.

        The only way to avoid getting hurt is to not resist the rapist. I guess getting raped isn’t so bad to some people.

        The only way to maintain your safety is to do whatever the government tells you to do, just like those guys in 1775.

        You go avoiding fights. I might choose to avoid some and I might not. I won’t make it a rule to stay out of a fight. I will trend towards attack and violence against those who would threaten me or my family. I might lose a fight, but I won’t know unless I fight. I will always keep the option of stopping a threat and not just cope with it.

        I find your advice to be repugnant.

        • My only concern is the safety of my family. Given the choice, I prefer to change flights instead of fight the hijackers.

          Who is going to save your family after you are killed in the ambush?

        • PS. There is a total disconnect between what I stated and your assumptions. I never said to cooperate with the hijacker, I said to avoid the hihacking. Never said to cooperate with the rapist, I said to avoid him.

          The more you know about gunfighting the less you will want to be in one.

        • Being murdered in an ambush and failing completely to defend your loved ones is not fighting. It’s wasting your life and chances.

        • Rabbi there is one of two possible assumptions here on your “just change flights” notion. One is that there is an infallible way to detect a terrorist yourself before boarding, which is simply not possible for an individual if it is not possible for a near omniscient government. The only other possibility involves either time travel or teleportation, as I am not aware of any method for changing flights when you realize a terrorist is trying to take over your plane in midair. Please help me understand the ridiculous thing that you are saying.

  6. “A few minutes after going back to bed I realized that I never cleared MY KIDS ROOMS”

    Maybe its just me, but that’s the first thing I’d do. Not only to make sure they’re safe, but if you’re clearing your home you really should know where everyone is first.

  7. I know our alarm company – a large national provider – does not “register” a tripped alarm unless it has gone off for I believe 60 seconds. They assume that any shorter alarms are an accidental trip by the homeowner which are immediately cancelled by said homeowner. Otherwise they would be trying to call homeowners and responding the police to a lot of alarms.

    Best to let that sucker howl for a while – the longer it sounds, the more an intruder wants to head out the nearest exit. Couple that with an auto-on for selective lighting (providing you don’t put yourself at a tactical disadvantage with the lighting) and they’ll probably flee. Intruders like it dark and quiet. Took a wonderful handgun course with Greg Hamilton of Insights Training in Bellevue, Washington, where he talked about watching people “cockroach” as soon as any lighting, even indirect lighting, hit a room. They’re hidden but even reflected light from a flashlight on the ceiling illuminates them and they’ll start to stir even from positions of concealment.

  8. hoping I don’t double post – my first comment didn’t go up.

    I think a number of the major alarm companies don’t “recognize” a burglary trip at a residential property until the alarm has sounded for a certain amount of time. Our company assumes that if the alarm is cancelled promptly, it was an accidental trip. Ours has to go for I believe 60 seconds for the company to register it as a burglary trip before they call us, the PD, etc. All the more reason to let that alarm scream for a while. Burglars like dark and quiet!

  9. Weird to see this commentary on a website that constantly bemoans the lack of individuals taking responsibility for their own self defense.

    “Call the police to clear your house!” said no one ever.

    • What about being hoodwinked creeping down your own stairs is part of self-defense? Any fool knows it is better to sit in a secure spot and wait for trouble to come to you.

  10. Not sure if anyone thought about it but to clear or not to clear may be based on where you live. In almost all cases I agree with gathering your family, calling the police and be ready to defend a secured area. However, that is when I am in my suburban setting. Response time could be less than a minute and no more than 4.
    What about folks that live in more remote settings? I’ m just asking should that be considered?

  11. Unfortunately, if there is a BG in the house I have almost no choice but to virtually clear it. My kid’s bedroom is on the other side of our small house and I don’t have a happy feeling about leaving him there on his own with a possibly drugged up intruder lurking. If the BG is semi-rational, he’ll likely take the hostage. And arming a young one is not an option.

    The advantages we do have are lots of night lights throughout the house and I’m working on setting up inconspicuous mirrors (picture frames, planters, etc) to be able to check blind spots for BG’s before I expose myself from a concealed position. The wife is on 911 and can defend the safe room with OC (she doesn’t like firearms) if someone gets past me until I get back. Nothing in the plan is ideal but having one I’ve practiced is better than nothing. I know where I have decent cover and where my firing lanes need to be. If the shooting starts, it’s gonna be a real bad day. Anyone got a better idea?

    • You only need to clear the house enough to get the kids to the safe room.

      You have some good ideas, but remember, mirrors work both ways.

      • Thanks Rabbi, we are on the same page. I’m aware of the mirror thing but worst case is we both know where each other is, assuming he notices the mirror. If he wants to assault MY defensive position, I’d prefer those odds anyway. If Plan A goes to hell in a handbasket, my Plan B goes something like this: Improvise. Stall the BG(s) if I can until the cops arrive. Distract him from going the other way, but move on him if he does. If I had to shoot him in the back it was only because he was going for my kid’s room. Note the mention of pre-identified safe (and unsafe) shooting lanes to what is behind him. Multiple BG’s gets really ugly. Me not getting to my kid in a bad situation is no worse than me getting killed trying to get to my kid. Maybe I can work out a signal with him to implement the fire escape plan out the window to the neighbor’s house. I hope like heck I never have to find out what I’d have to do.

  12. One of the more recent BG tricks is to shake a door, or whatever, to trigger the alarm, then wait outside. The owner may well “clear” the house, or not, and in any event, the alarm goes off, either via auto or manual. Owner sees no problem, checks to make sure alarm is armed, and goes back to bed. After awhile, the BG triggers the alarm again. Owner checks, and still sees no problem. Eventually, the owner assumes there is a problem with the alarm system, and disarms it. Then goes back to bed. The BG is counting on the owner to fall asleep, and now has access to the home without an alarm.
    This is where dogs “usually” are failsafe (for two reasons). They don’t have sensors or other electronic gear that may fail, and they’re usually very persistent. That is, providing the owner doesn’t harshly scold them for making too much of nothing. Trust your dog, and reward him for doing the correct thing … protecting your family.

  13. Not everyone lives in a 2 story home with all the bedrooms conveniently next to each other.

    I live in a 1-story open-design house. Master suite is on one side. Kids bedrooms are on the opposite side with living areas in between.

    I can’t hunker down with my family behind me. So, we have a family plan if the alarm goes off in the night. My son (older of 2 kids) knows his reaction is to instantly dart across the hallway into his sister’s room and lock it down tight… and wait (for me or mom).

    I will naturally want to clear the house. There are not any good “ambush” points due to the open design of the house. Of course, I will proceed carefully. But, I won’t leave my kids vulnerable or with status unknown until LE arrives.

    Oh… our inside alarm is EXTREMELY loud (by design).

    • You only need to clear the house enough to get the kids to the safe room or you to them. Anything can be used as an ambush. Could simply hide behind a couch or the fridge knowing where you will have to walk.

  14. Wow, the author of the article must live in the city, and must think everybody else does, too. If I had to put my life into the local LEO’s hands, we would definitely be dead. There was a murder last year, and it took the city cops over an hour to respond (to a domestic violence in progress). Now, the “city” I am referring to has about 600 residents, so the officers weren’t busy doing anything. The county LEOs responded BEFORE the city did, still took over 30 minutes.

    Bottom line, if you own a gun, and want to protect your family, it falls on YOU. Not the cops.

    • Fortunately, it looks like you have multiple options to choose from. You can either get your family hunkered down in a room defended by you and your guns while waiting an hour for the police to arrive. Or, you can walk into an ambush. Always nice to have options. Your choice.

  15. Living in the country like i do we have a plan! Our bedroom and our daughters bedroom are side by side so she is literally two steps away. She goes in our room, door gets locked by the Missus, who has multiple weapons at her disposal and she calls the PD while I check the house!! We have a safe word so she knows it is me and the house is safe!!

      • With the layout of our home I can clear 80% of our house just standing in front of the bedroom door. What I can’t actually see I can cover the entrance’s to from that one spot!!
        The PD will know exactly where I am and what I am wearing. Being over 9 miles from the nearest police officers home and even farther from the PD office my decision is based on the possibility that the BG(s) are in my house knowing we are home so their intents are not a simple smash and grab. I have to protect my family and in a case like the above hope that I can do so and survive till the Police arrive.

  16. There used to be a US Army regulation that a soldier, awakened from deep sleep was not liable for his reaction for the 1st X seconds of wakefulness. SOP was to shake the sleeper’s foot to stay out of a haymaker’s range. There are endless examples of soldiers in combat zones shooting their comrades under such conditions.
    I am willing to bet that any father, aroused by an alarm in the same circumstances, is operating under a full dose of adrenalin and not actually “awake” as the term is commonly understood. Not donning BA, not checking the children, but checking the perimeter and then experiencing sudden onset lassitude seems to indicate this in this situation. It would be interesting to know the mother’s reaction as well.

    • What he said. I have a very friendly and playful dog that doesn’t have an “off” switch. Wouldn’t hurt a fly but learned to chase off a neighbor’s aggresive dog that kept wandering into the in-law’s yard this weekend. After that, she was on high alert all weekend, even going apeshit when my brother-in-law spooked her this weekend. I couldn’t get her to shut up and I couldn’t have been more proud. Then we went home and my toddler tried to ride her like a pony 🙂

  17. I’m with those who think donning a stab-resistant handgun-caliber bullet-proof vest is a nifty idea, together with a handgun and flashlight. I also think the ability to flood the first floor (or central area of a single-story) with light via remote is a fine concept: It’s fairly cheap to buy bright battery-powered emergency lighting. (It’s also useful during weather emergencies.) Correctly installed, illuminating inwards, it also helps the cops if you need to call them. I clearly live in too safe a township. Nobody ever gets shot, with two exceptions in fifteen years (out of 27,000 residents) and they were a spousal murder by a professor and one partner in a restaurant business shooting the other, both out-of-towners. Electronic ear-pro seems smart… if you can remember to turn it on. And don’t forget the first-aid gear. You can ‘win’ but still end up shot or cut.

  18. This happened to me and my mom recently, (yes still live with the ‘rents at my ripe age of 23) and since we live out in the country, we don’t wait for police. Alarm goes off, I yell for my mom and see if she accidentally set it off to let the dogs out. When the answer was no, I grabbed my glock 19 with laser/light and set out to clear the house while she was on the phone with the alarm company. We never turned off the alarm during the entire process as it seemed like a bad idea. I wouldn’t want a bad guy to think the coast is clear. I still stand by this theory. I want it clear before we turn it off and reset it. Anyway, we have 7 dogs (2 in front, 1 in back, 4 inside) and since none were barking we figured it was a false alarm but wanted to clear to make sure. Turned out to be a faulty sensor, so all was good. Set the alarm again and we went back to bed. My dad was out of town, and since neither of my parents like guns (actually always despised them and hated them growing up) it is up to me to make sure the place is clear in this situation. After this has happened to me and my mom and me and my dad on separate occasions, they are now very glad I own firearms and am proficient with them. Initially they were upset when I got into firearms after a friend showed me the light. Now, they feel safer and since my dad works out of town, moms glad I am there to act as security.

  19. Maybe it’s stupid, but unless I’m pretty sure there’s a BG in the house, I’m just gonna clear the house myself with the help of my dog. The wife can stay upstairs with the kids and the house gun. I’ll take my EDC. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see how anyone could ambush me if the dog goes downstairs first. If there’s a BG, there will be a fight with the dog that I will hear.

    If I AM pretty sure there is someone in the house, then yes, I’m following your advice and calling 911 and waiting upstairs, concealed and ready.

  20. This really all depends on your individual situation — the layout of your house/apartment, alarms, dogs, neighbors, lighting, police response time, etc. Mostly, the Rabbi is right.

    For me, if I thought someone might be breaking in, the response would be to wake up the wife, have her call 911 on the cell while I get both of us armed (a routine we’ve practiced; takes 20 seconds or less in the dark), and then the first place I go is the kids’ rooms, which are just down the hall. It’s impossible to move upstairs without the floor creaking, so after checking our sleeping areas I’d know if a bad guy was in the house (and where).

    And no, I wouldn’t go looking if I thought someone was lurking. Bad idea. If someone decides to quit lurking and come into my range, it’d be the worst idea of his life (thanks to the old noisy house, I’d know exactly where he was). But otherwise, I’m not taking any risk of putting myself into some criminal’s sights if there’s any way to avoid it.

    • Walk heel to toe to reduce creeking. Also, floors and stair creek the most where there is the most wear. Walk on the sides of the steps and the edges of the flooring as much as possible to reduce creeks.

  21. I would like to add strategic low-level lighting to this thread.

    We have low-level night lights at the bottom of the stairs (two-story, no basement). They are there to light up the bottom 5 steps of the stairs (light colored walls) with complete darkness at the top of the stairs (dark wood paneling and no back-lighting).

    You get a clear look at anyone at the bottom of the stairs with no clear target at the top.


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