A home invasion, in which intruders break into your house despite knowing you're home, is one of the most terrifying events anyone can face. Residents can be trapped, held hostage or even killed by intruders.
Yet there are ways to manage such a situation, not all of them obvious. Here are some tips to help you prevent and handle a home-invasion robbery.
1. Don't open your door to people you don't know.
"We have been told all our lives not to talk to strangers, right? But if you answer the door to see who's there, you're essentially talking to a stranger, and you're making yourself vulnerable to a home invader," said Boston-based security expert Robert Siciliano.
"Talk to them through the door. And don't open the door until you have qualified that they are, in fact, who they say they are."
For example, if a man says he's from the gas company but you're not expecting a service call, make a phone call to the utility and ask if a representative is in your neighborhood making house calls.
"Be aware and conscious in making smart decisions," Siciliano said. "But don't open the door for strangers."
2. Have a cellphone handy at all times.
Anybody with needle-nose pliers can easily snip your phone line, Siciliano said.
"I rely on my mobile near my bed," he said. "So should everybody else. Even my alarm system has a wireless connection for cellular service."
Keep a charger in your bedroom so your phone doesn't run out of juice. If you're worried about missing sleep, turn the ringer off.
3. If it's legal in your state, arm yourself — non-lethally.
"Have some pepper spray handy," Siciliano said. "It's a layer of protection in the event someone breaks in.
"If you're going to have a firearm for personal protection, you need to be trained in how to use it. Using a gun or lethal weapon is not to be taken lightly," he said.
"I am not for, or against, firearms. I am simply saying that you need to be properly trained in using a gun especially in the event of confrontation," Siciliano added. "It's not enough to have the gun and point and shoot. You need to know how to use it under duress."
4. Leave if you can.
If an intruder gets inside your house, and you can get out, do so. Go to the police, to a neighbor's house or to some other safe place.
"You don't stick around, you don't tell the home invaders to get out. You don't intervene," Siciliano said. "If you come home and there are lights on that you didn't leave on, if the door is ajar, if the glass on a window or door is broken — don't go in."
5. If you can't get out, call the fire department.
The fire department is going to immediately dispatch someone to your house if it thinks there's a fire, Siciliano said. Police might take longer to respond.
"Those sirens going down the street will probably cause the home invader to run out of your home," Siciliano said.
"The reason I say to call the fire department first is because if you live in a high-crime area, it's sometimes difficult to get law enforcement anywhere," he said. "So you might have a better chance of getting the fire department there. It's an option. It's not the most legal option, but it's an option."
Siciliano added that you should call the police as well.