Your door sensor beeps at 4 a.m. alerting you that someone (or something) has opened a downstairs door. You are startled and a wave of panic races through you. Your first thoughts are always the worst, it must be a criminal, armed and dangerous, entering your sanctuary. You debate turning on your light while reaching for your bedside gun safe (I strongly recommend a biometric one that only requires a thumb print and not a series of numbers).

Once armed, your next job is to make sure the other people in your home are where they should be and that someone didn’t wander downstairs to let out the cat.

Once you establish that everyone is safe in their beds, who do you do next? What are your rights? What if you do find someone in your home, then what?

Breathe – it sounds silly but it’s true. Just take a breath and listen. Most homes have floors that will creak and shift under weight. Do you hear anything? Of course your heart is pounding but try to concentrate.

If you have an alarm and it is monitored hopefully they are calling you or the police, if not, call 911 and let them know you may have an intruder, that you are armed and describe yourself. Pajamas with feet are nothing to be ashamed of.

Turn on your lights. This isn’t a secret agent movie and you most likely don’t have night vision. See your surroundings.

Call out and give a warning. No one wants to get shot and you don’t want to shoot anyone unless it is absolutely necessary.

If there are other adults in the home, wake them up. You don’t need to handle this alone.

Keep your finger off the trigger but be prepared if necessary.

Continue to listen. Once you have shouted out and given warning, it is possible if there is someone in your home that they will leave. Most intruders don’t want confrontation but if you are dealing with someone seeking drugs, they may not be of their right mind.

Keep yourself safe. Do not put yourself in harms way. If the police are on their way stay in an area where you can protect yourself and those in your home.

Keep listening. Do you hear people talking? Did you hear a door open or close? Is the neighbors dog barking?

Get mad. Fear will cripple you so make sure you are mentally focused on the fact that someone may have invaded your private space.

If you are confronted with someone that means to harm you or a member of your household you have the right to protect yourself by whatever means possible.

If you encounter someone who is fleeing your property, you cannot shoot them. Make a mental note of every little detail. What is their height, weight, clothing description? Which direction or what type of vehicle did they flee in?

When the police arrive put down your weapon and make your identity known as well as the other members of your home.

If an intruder was present and now the police have arrived and are in control of the situation, immediately write down everything you can as once the shock sets in your may forget important details.

We always hope that it was nothing more than an improperly latched door or a feisty raccoon going through your trash cans but remember being prepared is the most important lesson.


Dorothy Royal is the owner of Surf City Guns and Ammo, mother of two wonderful children, ringmaster of a herd of miniature ponies and an avid member of the Surf City Writers Group and Topsail Book Club.