Let's say you put in the hard hours into researching the perfect security system. You got your sensors installed, obtained an alarm permit from the local police department, and have your system all set up and working perfectly. Maybe you even triggered a couple false alarms, got a rapid response from your monitoring station, possibly even a visit from the police. But do you know what to do if your burglar alarm goes off and the burglar doesn't leave your home? Do you confront them? And if so, with what? Or do you wait until the police arrive?
What To Do If Your Burglar Alarm Goes Off
We show you how to prepare for an actual break-in scenario, so you'll know what to do if, and when your burglar alarm is tripped (even if it turns out to be a false alarm). Even the best alarm system can fail you in the event of a break-in if you don't install them correctly, or if a professional installer doesn't take the time to learn and take advantage of the layout of your home.
The sad truth is that criminals have many of the national "out of the box" security systems figured out. Why? Because the installation process for all of them is the same. A home alarm system can still serve you right, but only if you take the time to install and set it up correctly based on an intimate knowledge of your home and some basic security knowledge. Preparedness can help get you ready for just about any scenario, and keep you and your family safe in the event of real break-in.
Here's what you'll find on this page:
- Preparing your security system for a break-in
- The key to security: knowing how to respond
- Should you confront a potential burglar?
- Know the layout of your home: designate a "safe room"
- A tip on deadbolts
- Gun safety
- Setting up your security system to scare and thwart
- Turning your security system into a sentinel
- A tip on home security sirens
- How customized is your security system?
Preparing your security system for a break-in
Imagine this scenario: it's 4 in the morning, and you hear your alarm go off. Having experienced nothing but false burglar alarms since you installed your system, you pop out of bed, annoyed at the rude awakening, and proceed to disable the alarm on your smart phone (which you're using to control your security system). You curse at the basement door sensor that just created yet another false alarm and kept you from getting enough sleep to do your presentation in front of the board in the morning. At this point, you're aware enough to notice your better half looking at you with a fearful expression. She's wondering why you disabled the alarm for the burglar that may have just broken in?
Panicked, you grab a baseball bat and go kamikaze-ing down into the basement. Unbeknownst to you, this is about the worst position you could put yourself in, if in fact an armed burglar is now awaiting you in your basement. When's the last time you saw a baseball bat beat out a 20 gauge shotgun? Fortunately for you, in place of a gun-toting burglar is a perfectly closed and secure basement door, with an alarm sensor that has fallen down, triggering an open door event.
The key to security: knowing how to respond
What if you had faced an armed opponent? That could have been the end of you despite your perfectly functioning security system. We're here to show you that the best security system is one that not only technically functions but that also prepares you to act in a manner that keeps your family safe. But in order for it to be able to do that, you must first be prepared yourself. This guidance comes as a result of a conversation I had with our resident security consultant Greg from Sentinel Consulting Group.
The first question you want to answer is this: when an alarm is triggered, are you going to confront whomever has broken into your home, or (and in most cases this will be our recommendation), hide in a safe location and wait until law enforcement can arrive and to do their job? Knowing the answer to this question can save not only your life but that of your family.
Should you confront a potential burglar?
You may think that, for those that are prepared to take a gun handling and safety course, and are equally prepared for the potential consequences of having a weapon in your home, confronting a burglar is the way to go. But there's more to it than simply knowing how to wield a weapon. You will also need to tactically prepare and train, based on the layout of your homes' floor plan (which you'll need to memorize and be able to traverse in complete darkness), so that you will have every advantage when confronting a burglar. And even then, there's the chance that you'll be outgunned, especially if you're facing more than one opponent.
As you can see, getting the edge on a burglar (or burglars) successfully takes a lot more time and training then waiting for the police to arrive and do their job (they, after all, do this for a living).
Know the layout of your home: designate a "safe room"
For those that opt to hide and stay safe until law enforcement arrive, you'll need to prepare in advance as far as where you are going to hide and, if there are multiple family members, how you will get them all to safety. It's probably a good idea to run some drills in the middle of the night and see how everyone responds, and how long it takes to get all of your family members to the designated safety room, or safety area. The safety room will, ideally, be as far away as possible from any potential break-in areas (such as windows and doors), and will be set up in a way that will allow you to anticipate the burglars arrival (i.e. don't go hiding in a hallway or a room with multiple access points). It is also not a bad idea to have a dead bolt installed on your bedroom door, or wherever you decide to hide until law enforcement arrives.
What should I keep in my safe room?
If your safe room has space, ideally you would also keep some supplies (water, canned food, etc.) in there in case you end up holed up in there for longer periods of time. It's also a good idea to have medical supplies or a first aid kit in case someone gets injured or needs help. Along those lines, it might not be a bad idea to sign up for some rudimentary medical training, including a CPR class. Lastly, although you are probably carrying your cell phone on yourself at all times anyways, it's a good idea to have some way to communicate with the outside world (a phone at a minimum, ideally a computer with a cellular connection) while in your safe room.
A tip on deadbolts
Deadbolts are only as secure as the door frame they're set in. Make sure the doors you are trying to protect consist of both a thick, solid frame and a sturdy and heavy door. If you are dead bolting a glass door, make sure you use a key lock that actually comes with the key (otherwise all the burglar has to do is punch the glass, reach in, and unlock the door). With the key, they would have to bring their entire body through the glass, which is a lot more dangerous. If you are protecting a glass door, you'll also want to make sure you have a glass break sensor installed.
For those that choose to hide and wait, but also carry a weapon, consider having it aimed at the door in the event that the burglar tries to break it down. But please exercise caution and read this next section on gun safety before considering having a weapon on property. Statistics show that the average weapon wielder is more likely to injure a neighbor, family member, or even themselves, than they are a burglar. We should also point out that, on average, the majority of burglaries are conducted unarmed.
A word of caution on readers with weapons in their homes or anyone considering weapons training: A study has shown that 76.7% of gun shot victims were killed by a spouse, family member or someone they knew, and there was no forced entry into the home 84.3% of the time. Strangers comprised only 3.6% of the killers (statistics from aa team led by Dr. Arthur Kellermann of Emory University that conducted a survey of 388 homes that had experienced homicides). So in more cases than not, having a weapon can be both a liability and a danger to you and your loved ones. If you insist on keeping a weapon in your home, please follow and practice stringent gun safety protocols.
Setting up your security system to scare and thwart
Turning your security system into a sentinel
A tip on home security sirens
Most security systems come with only one siren, built into the main control panel. But using Z-wave home automation technology, you can purchase add-on sirens that will not only work with your system, but that you can place anywhere in your home, including outside if you want to alert your neighbors. We urge caution with the outdoor siren approach, however, as a false alarm may cause a disturbance and/or a noise violation.
How customized is your security system?
Do you feel comfortable knowing what to do if your burglar alarm goes off? Have you gone as far as to create your own safe room? If not, would you consider spending the time to set one up? We'd love to know, and are curious what works best for you in your home. By sharing your experiences and lessons learned you will not only help our readers gain valuable knowledge, but potentially aid in preventing future break-ins.