When Squatters Move In: How to Take Back Your Home From Intruders

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A catastrophic disaster has occurred, one that destroyed hundreds or thousands of homes and businesses and destroyed a community’s way of life. After a long journey home, you notice an unfamiliar car parked in your driveway. You know your wife and kids aren’t home yet.

One or more intruders have taken over your home in your absence. Due to the disaster, your cell phone can’t make a successful call, so you can’t call 9-1-1 for help. Your family’s survival depends on the preps stored in your home and the shelter it provides.

Not a pleasant scenario, is it?

Those of us in the preparedness game spend lots of hours and lots of dollars preparing for any likely disaster. Food, water, power, communications, and many other topics fill our minds and fuel our plans. We all consider our well-prepared homes as our castles, but what do you do if squatters move in and take over your preparedness lifeline?

Are you prepared to watch your family go hungry and become vulnerable because home intruders picked you as a victim?

How will you take back your home from intruders, and is that the right decision?

This issue has a lot of factors. First, I’ll discuss the overall problem, and then I’ll offer practical steps you can take if the only option is to take back your home by force.

image: home intruder breaking in through door

How many people know you’re a prepper?

Let’s talk honestly. How good is your operational security (OpSec)? Truthfully.

If you’ve been casual about OpSec, then there’s a good chance your neighbors know that you’re a prepper, whether they heard it from you or another neighbor. They know you’ve stocked up on food and other supplies. Or perhaps they know you raise chickens or have a flourishing garden.

Well, who else knows?

The Gardener? Your babysitter? The Postal Carrier? The UPS guy?

People notice, and people talk. Some of those people may not have your best interests at heart. You have your plans, but taking your preps might be someone else’s plan.

Consider this typical comment left on this blog. “John” said:

I have plenty of guns and ammunition and thus can take anything I want from my unarmed, effete, and liberal neighbors.

It’s unlikely that someone with this attitude and lack of integrity will stop at taking things from the people on his hit list. If he believes that “Might makes right,” you can bet he won’t have a problem taking from you if he thinks he can. And there are many, many people out there just like “John.”

It’s much easier for people like this, home intruders, to take someone else’s preps than to spend their own money and time to become prepared themselves.

You should be prepared to defend, or in some cases, take back your family’s life-sustaining supplies and shelter from those who will be intent on taking them.

What kind of disaster could precipitate home intruders?

Now, realize that I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill wildfire, minor flood, or any other event that is an inconvenience for a few days. Even though those can be stressful situations, they don’t tend to change most people’s behavior.

I’m talking about a catastrophic disaster, one that destroys hundreds of homes and businesses and crushes a community’s way of life. It could be a major earthquake, a widespread and long-lasting power outage, or a Katrina-level storm. It’s a situation where it is obvious to everyone that serious help is needed, and yet help could be days or weeks away.

That’s when it’s likely that morally compromised individuals and groups start looking for supplies they can take to solve their immediate needs or to make a buck at your expense. They may make the choice to take your food and supplies and your home.

How likely is a home invasion scenario?

Is this scenario unlikely? You bet.

But it’s not impossible.

You only need to read the weekly stories of people who have had to confront an intruder in their home or have their business robbed to realize that predators are present throughout our society.

The only thing that holds many of them back from going full-on marauder is knowing there is a protective layer of law enforcement that usually protects their potential victims. In a true worst case scenario, that protective layer will become scattered, at best, and the possibility of having your home and preparedness supplies plundered is a real threat.

But just as with other natural and man-made hazards we can anticipate, you can also plan for this home intruder hazard.

How To Plan For Home Invaders & Squatters

Analyze Your Vulnerabilities

Start with assessing how intruders could force their way into your home.

Ever get locked out of your home? Did you have to jump a fence, pry open a window, or force open a door? This is a great place to start your planning; bad guys may try to get in the same way.

Windows and doors are, of course, the most vulnerable openings but also consider walls shared with others, such as in a townhouse or duplex. A shared basement or attic area where a home intruder could gain access to your neighbor as a prelude to victimizing you are also vulnerabilities.

Once inside, they have gained the upper hand. It will be far more difficult to take back your home and belongings from an individual or group of people who have claimed it for themselves.

Consider this disturbing fact. If you implemented home security measures to deter, delay, and defend, that home security plan can now be used against you.

Plan Ahead to Take It Back

The advantage you have over an interloper is knowledge of your home and any of the home security measures you put in place. You know the layout, where things are kept, and any vulnerability that can’t be fixed. Realize that taking back your home will not be easy…but if your and your family’s survival is at stake, it would be worth it.

If you have law enforcement or military talent in your family, take advantage of their knowledge and skills as you plan. Factors to consider are your health and physical ability, skills and experience, and the amount of help you could expect from family, friends, and neighbors.

That plan can include an attempt at negotiating with the intruders or not. Negotiating in this context is high risk but potentially has a high reward. The disadvantage is that you alert the intruders of your presence, making a subsequent physical entry of your home a much higher risk to you. However, if the intruders agreed to leave peacefully, you would alleviate the physical danger of an assault.

You may decide that a stealthy approach and quick assault stacks the odds in your favor. But first and foremost, if you can summon law enforcement help, do not try to resolve the situation yourself. Be a good witness and let the professionals do their thing.

Specific Tips for Taking Back Your Home by Force

Don’t Tip Them Off

I’m a Certified Emergency Manager and have given a lot of thought to these types of scenarios where your home or other property could be taken over by other people. While your first instinct might be to drive up immediately and confront the intruders, I would recommend:

  • Driving on by like nothing happened. If you were targeted in advance, chances are the intruders know what you drive and could ambush you as you approach the house.
  • Instead, go around the block to formulate your plan.
  • If you can, summon law enforcement help. Do not try to resolve the situation yourself. Be a good witness and let the professionals do their thing, if there are any professionals to provide help, that is.

Gather Intelligence

If you are on your own and law enforcement help isn’t an option, realize that the intruders are there to either grab your supplies and go or squat in your home and comfortably live off your supplies.

Time is of the essence.

The longer you wait before acting, the more likely they will be able to escape with your lifeline or fortify your house for their protection. Get as much information as possible about them. Solicit information from your neighbors if they saw them.

Make a Decision

Now you have a choice to make: how badly do you want them to leave?

This is an important personal and moral decision.

If you forcefully try to take your home and preps back, you may have to hurt or kill one or more of them. If you don’t have the moral clarity to be able to do that, walk away. Don’t unnecessarily jeopardize yourself if you can’t pull the trigger to defend yourself.

You’ll also have to consider that you or one or more of your loved ones will be injured or, perhaps, killed. This may be a quick operation in which the intruders make a fuss and then move on, or it could become quite deadly.

Be Smart, Be Careful

For liability’s sake, I will describe what I would do, based on my experience and training. I’m not recommending anyone else do anything described here. I’m presenting this only as a thought exercise, a “what if?” scenario.

A conventional SWAT-style assault on your home is one option, but the squatters have the advantage. You are not likely to prevail if they have guns and are willing to use them.

The best solution is to make the bad guys want to come out. SWAT teams use tear gas or pepper spray to temporarily create an atmosphere where the bad guys cannot breathe or see. I will use a similar technique using items that can be improvised in a disaster.

I’m also going to use other principles used by professional SWAT teams:

  • Distraction
  • Disorientation
  • Overwhelm the senses

Remember, this game plan is just a thought exercise for a what-if? scenario. In no way am I recommending you take these actions. Instead, use these ideas as a launching pad for your own answers to “What if invaders took over my home following a worst case scenario event?”

Assemble the Team and Supplies

The plan I have come up with can be executed with as few as 3 (highly capable) people, but of course, the more people I can assemble to help, the better. Along with available family, friends, and any other volunteers, I will also need:

  • Rope, wire, or garden hose to entangle the feet of escaping bad guys
  • For self-protection, as many firearms as possible, bats, axes, and other improvised weapons
  • Rope, wire, or other materials to secure the wrists of detained bad guys
  • Motor oil or other oily material and rags
  • Fire extinguishers and buckets of sand or dirt
  • Flashlights
  • Cigarette lighters
  • Candles or other wick material

How to Force the Home Intruders Out

The key to the plan is to create a large volume of smoke inside the house without burning it down. I want to create a temporarily unlivable environment that forces the bad guys out.

I’m going to use a smoke pot, which is a metal can stuffed with cotton rags soaked in some type of oil, with a candle inserted for ease of lighting. Oily materials, particularly petroleum products, create huge volumes of smoke but a relatively small amount of fire.

(Knowing how to make a smoke pot is helpful as a survival strategy if you are ever lost and need to signal for help.)

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES USE GASOLINE FOR THE SMOKE POT.

My plan is to insert a smoke pot into first-floor bathrooms and the kitchen through their windows. These rooms usually have a less-combustible floor than carpet-covered areas, and bathrooms often have the extra benefit of having a tub or shower pan directly below the window opening. The smoke pots can burn with less chance of fire spreading while they churn out their smoke in the dark, with smoke detectors screaming. With heavy smoke in multiple areas of the house, the bad guys are forced to escape.

image: smoke pot to force out home intruders

A smoke pot improvised with an almond can, cotton t-shirt, and motor oil.

Blinded and choking in the smoke, the escaping bad guys will easily become entangled in obstacles placed at exit doors, reducing their ability to fight back. The home intruders are disarmed and detained.

Why detain them and, hopefully, turn them over to law enforcement? It will be fewer bad guys on the streets, thus, possibly, saving others from harm and eliminating those who targeted you and your home from coming back any time soon.

Execute the Plan

  1. We start between 3-5 AM when the human mind is the least alert.
  2. A Team Member (TM) takes a final look inside to try to see persons inside.
  3. Obstacles–looped garden hoses, rope, or wire–are placed at the front and back doors.
  4. A TM shuts off power to the house (breaker/fuse box or generator).
  5. TM’s break bedroom and living room windows from a distance with big rocks, then blind anyone inside with flashlights from behind cover.
  6. Bathrooms and kitchen: TM’s break the window, light the smoke pot and toss it in.
  7. All TM’s make noise to seem like a larger force. Barking dogs are even better.
  8. TM’s at the front and back door capture/disarm bad guys coming out.
  9. TM’s put out fires with extinguishers or buckets of sand.
  10. Once the fires are out, TM’s ventilate smoke from the house.
  11. Deliver any prisoners to law enforcement and help anyone needing medical assistance.

Assume that not everything will go according to plan — it never does!

However, thinking through a plan like this, step by step, and then considering how the plan might go awry, for good or bad, will lead you to consider other options. You’ll end up with a Plan B, a Plan C, and so on.

A Last Thought

This was an interesting mental exercise, but the issues are real.

Too often, the strong take from the weak. If you are into preparedness, you are already strong in many ways. Keep your preparations safe. Plan, practice, and improve!

Have you given any thought as to what you would do if your home or other property were taken over by others in the aftermath of a worst case scenario? Would you walk away and try to survive elsewhere? What would be your backup plan?

The very scenario we’ve been discussing happens in the excellent book, Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The Survival Mom reviewed the book in this video.

How are you prepared to retake your home from intruders?

Originally published March 19, 2015; updated by The Survival Mom editors.

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Jim Acosta

Jim has spent time as a volunteer firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician, and wildland fire hand crew member. He is currently a Certified Emergency Manager. In 2011, Jim authored “I Can Overcome That: The Practical Guide to Surviving the Next Big California Earthquake.”

12 thoughts on “When Squatters Move In: How to Take Back Your Home From Intruders”

  1. Hi Lisa,

    This is something that I’ve never really considered before. For some reason, I’ve always just assumed that if things were to get to the point that it wasn’t safe at our home that we would bug out. Now that I’ve read this article, it really has the wheels turning in my head. I’ll have to spend some time thinking about what our family might be able to do to reclaim our home and supplies if marauders were to ever force us to leave.

    By the way, I just love reading your website. I get so many good ideas from it!!! I feel like a bit of a blog stalker because I pop in everyday to see what’s new and interesting here. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Patty! It’s impossible to say how possible a scenario like this would be for any specific home, but for sure, there’s a problem with squatters right now moving into foreclosed homes. Glad you like my blog!

  2. It’s always good to have a plan just in case. I like your idea of using smoke, light and noise to get the intruders out. I’m going to see if I van devise a plan along similar lines. Thanks for the inspiration!

    I would like to point out a possible flaw in your plan though: have you ever tried braking a window, especially from a distance using rocks? Unless you have old single layer windows instead of more modern multi-layered, isolating windows (pretty much standard on all houses build in the last 2 decades over here in the Netherlands), you’ll probably only crack the windows and wake up the intruders… Something to consider.

    1. I wondered about that. Most houses have double layer windows, plus blinds, curtains or some other covering. If you could break the window, you would have to get the smoke pot past that or risk setting the curtains or blinds on fire.

  3. Larry Niven has always been my favorite author. I read Lucifer’s Hammer long ago, together with the Mote in God’s Eye. they came out at the same time almost.

    It’s wonderful to hear your take on Lucifer’s Hammer this long after I read it. Thanks for posting it. I’ve had the drive to keep a full pantry most of my life.. I’m now 70. Now, since losing my home and gardening space twice, I feel panic not having my own garden. My drive is to get another one.

    Your posts are wonderful and so right-on. Keep up the good work. Well Done.

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  6. not mentioned is having an “Emergency Evac” check off list that includes preparing the home >>>>
    if there are eazier to access homes nearby >>> Why break into your average home for the neighborhood? – make sure to barricade your doors & windows before leaving – it’s something you most likely had at least partially done during your bug in portion of the SHTF event …..

    who wants to inhabit a home that has been disabled from the grid utilities? – again, there’s probably better homes around with the electricity working – before you leave pull the meter and secure it – pull your main circuit box breakers and secure them …

    most homeowners can shut off the water supply valve in the basement or utility room – it should be on your Check List >>> but do you have a proper reach municipal wrench for your streetside Buffalo box water valve? – lets see some squatter turn your water back on and flood damage the home ….

    natural gas? – again, shutting off your piped in fuel should be on the list >>> but HOW you shut it down matters – most gas meters have a padlockable hasp on the valve – make sure to have a hardened padlock that is beyond a simple bolt cutter or a few hammer blows – the ultimate prep is to have your own hidden shut off valve just past the gas meter – nobody but nobody will be expecting that much less some squatter …..

    got propane or your own well water supply? – same principles apply – just customize the sabotage …..

  7. Between Three Centuries

    Already have a PEX tubing or other type installed in your house and running to some remote location. When returning home and finding it occupied by squatters, hook up the tank of carbon monoxide gas that you already had previously purchased and flood the house with the gas. Do this at a time when they would most likely not be suspicious of being tired and drowsy. After several hours turn off the gas and go in and drag out the bodies.

  8. I need your help Jim. I have a similar senario only these Squatters have taken over my home for going on ten years.I have been a prisoner in my own home for so long. Absolutely NO One will believe me, not the Police or my Family. I have no where to turn for help. I have had to put up the house for sale because I can not take it much longer. They keep doing bad things in my home, and now they have a Meth Lab in my cellar. They are letting strangers in my house at night to wander and steal from me while I try to sleep. This is not in my head or am I delusional. These people are real and I am getting sicker by the day from breathing in the fumes from their make shift lab. There is so much I need to tell you, but I can’t talk on the phone to you because they listen to my phone calls. I can text to you only. Or I can use Messenger and email as well.
    It has taken me so long to find you and that maybe you will come help me. Please…

    1. Bonnie, you’ll need to document all of this with photos, video, written records, and then get in touch with a lawyer. Find out what your rights are in your state and pursue it through legal means and courts. If you’re able to sell your home and start over in a new location, that might be the best course of action.

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