In the early morning hours of what was to be his 29th birthday, Brenton Estorffe was jarred awake by the sound of breaking glass in his Texas home. Within minutes, the Australian immigrant would be shot dead in a valiant effort to protect his wife and two young children from a pair of home invaders.

“Try to put yourself through this,” said Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls. “You hear glass breaking at the back of your home. Two individuals enter the home. They startle you. You wake up and then all of a sudden a confrontation takes place and then the next thing you hear are gunshots. Brenton gets up, confronts two individuals inside the residence, at which point in time he was shot and killed. Brenton was there to protect his family.”

The police are seeking the public’s help in locating the suspects, who fled the scene in a sedan captured by a neighbor’s security camera. An emotional Nehls has vowed to capture the culprits at all cost.

Sad Reality of Home Invasions

Home invasions are an unfortunate part of modern life. No matter how seemingly safe the neighborhood or house, home invasions occur with disturbing regularity. Even more burglaries occur, and those often turn violent as well, especially if someone is home during the break-in.

Home invasions are different from burglaries in that the invaders (there’s almost always more than one intruder) know someone is inside the residence and that physical conflict is likely – many invaders are actually seeking violence, be it rape, assault, even murder.

The Estorffe home was festooned with Halloween decorations, a clear indication not only that people were home, but that children were present as well. “Anybody would know that there were obviously children in that house,” said Sheriff Nehls. “I mean there’s Halloween decorations. You almost got to make the safe assumption, these individuals knew somebody would be at home.”

Safe Rooms Save Lives

All of which begs the question, when faced with the situation confronting Brenton Estorffe in the early hours of Oct. 16, what can a homeowner do to protect loved ones from home invaders?

“If we think of home invasions as another potentially lethal threat to the home’s occupants, then it makes the most sense to consider a safe room,” says Mark Hedberg, a specialist in the design and construction of safe and hidden rooms.

Known for protecting families in the event of tornadoes and other severe weather, safe rooms in recent years have become increasingly popular as an antidote to home invasions, burglaries, and break-ins.

For example, what if, at the first sounds of breaking glass, instead of confronting the armed intruders in a brave effort to protect his family, Estorffe had whisked his wife and kids into a safe room, then called the police?

“Safe rooms are specifically designed to keep a home’s occupants safely separated from the bad guys,” says Hedberg. “And that’s enormously important because the invaders have the element of surprise on their side, you don’t know how many there are, whether they’re armed. It’s very one-sided. A safe room flips the equation on them and puts you back in control.”

And while some might argue owning a weapon is a similarly attractive deterrent, the unfortunate truth is that guns are all too often used on the wrong person.

“Remember, you’ve been jarred awake by the sound of breaking glass,” says Hedberg. “But in your dazed condition, was that sound from 30 seconds ago or five minutes?” As law enforcement experts often note, our perceptions in sleep can be skewed so that in the same way an alarm is incorporated into our dreams, an unusual sound might be mentally registered much later than when it actually occurred.

Why does that matter? Because if the sound was five minutes earlier, your neighbor may at this point come over to investigate the noise, scared away the bad guys, and you shoot him by mistake. Or you shoot the responding cop by mistake. Or he shoots you by mistake because he sees the gun in your hand.

“No, when it comes to home invasions, prevention and protection is a far better approach than confrontation. Get in the room, call the cops, let them handle it.”

Building Your Safe Room

A safe room does not have to be some elaborate, multi-room bunker complete with life support systems (although those are a popular option for some people). For most families, Hedberg recommends a walk-in closet, bathroom, or master bedroom that is converted into a safe room.

“The room still looks exactly the same and performs the same functions as before,” says Hedberg. “But that reinforced door or the ballistics-proof drywall or the emergency alarm system mean you and your family have immediate access to a location the bad guys can’t enter. That’s all you need.”

Because once that door closes, the clock is ticking before the police arrive. And homeowners want them, not a dazed, unprepared family member, confronting the bad guys.

Safe rooms also offer an added benefit: when the police do arrive, they’ll come to the room and assure you that it’s safe to leave, thereby preventing any risk of an accidental police shooting.

“Frankly, a safe room these days is hard to argue against,” says Hedberg. “I started building these rooms in large part because I see them as an important necessity in a dangerous world. I believe in them, because what’s more important than the lives of you and your family?”

Hidden rooms can be just as effective, says Hedberg, although they’re more difficult to install in existing homes since most of the space has already been designed. For new home construction, however, he says hidden rooms are easy to build and a smart, affordable choice for homeowners.

If you want to learn more about safe rooms or speak with Mark Hedberg directly, drop us a note here.