Although many of us consider our homes to be the safest places we know, the reality is that tragedy can strike even in our place of comfort. There are any number of tragedies that can occur while we are at home: tornados, hurricanes, home invasions, terrorist attacks; any of these are possibilities. As much as we would like to believe it will never happen to us, simply glancing at the evening or morning news should be enough to tell us that it can. Some dangers we may face while we and our families are at home are simply unavoidable. In those cases, having a safe room may be the best way to survive until either the storm passes or until help arrives.
What Is A Safe Room
The word “safe room” is just a common term for fortified room within a house that is built to protect the individuals inside from outside dangers. It is designed to withstand any number of things, such as strong impacts, high winds, bullets and battering. There are other common names for the same concept: panic room, tornado safe room, storm room.
All of these encompass the same idea of a room in a house that is built to last and designed to protect those in a home from a variety of dangers that can occur.
Those looking to build a safe room in an existing home have several options. One option to locate a company that will build a new structure within your home, or one that will build a safe room in an existing closet.
How to Choose a Room for Building a Safe Room
In many cases, this may encompass simply choosing a room that already has fairly solid walls, such as one in a basement. The following are some qualifications that would make a good safe room:
- Lower floor or underground (basement)
- No windows and no skylight
- Room with concrete walls
- No walls shared with the outdoors
How to Build a Safe Room in an Existing Room
- Reinforce wooden walls with steel sheathing or concrete
Most homes are made with wooden walls that can easily be broken through from a neighboring room. The walls in the room will have to be reinforced with steel, Kevlar or concrete to provide greater protection on the sides.
- Remove or strengthen windows
Any windows in the room should either be removed completely, or replaced with a different material. Bullet proof and shatterproof materials are required for any windows. Materials such as Plexiglas or other hard, clear materials are necessary.
- Reinforce door
Replace the hollow wood door with a reinforced safe room door. Safe room doors are often crafted from steel or Kevlar, and typically include strong bolts and hinges. Your reinforced door should open inward, so that you can open it even if there are things piled up on the other side. The door jamb should be made of steel, and screws should be at least 3 inches long.
- Reinforce ceiling
The ceiling area will also have to be gutted and changed out with a stronger material to prevent anyone coming in from above during a home invasion, or to help prevent material and debris from coming in from the top in the case of a major tornado or hurricane.
- Secure locks
Include electronic locks and other strong locking mechanisms that may only allow them to be opened back up from the inside. Also consider installing a keyless deadbolt. This can be in the form of a mechanical or an electronic keypad with a combination only you and your family members know.
What to Keep In Your Safe Room
Building a safe room requires careful planning. Beyond just modifying an existing closet or building a new room, special care should be taken in considering what items to include in that room as well. Because you may end up spending a long time in your safe room, you may want to include more than just the bare necessities.
- Monitoring System
Having a monitoring system throughout your home can be extremely useful if you find yourself in a situation where you are stuck in safe room. It is important to be able to view the feed from your safe room so that you know what is going on outside.
- Food & Water
You can be forced to stay inside your safe room for long periods of time if a natural disaster or emergency, such as a tornado, occurs. It is good to store enough nonperishable food and water to last you several weeks.
- Cell Phone Or Landline
Always have a working cell phone or land line phone ready. Whether it be a natural disaster or home invasion, you will need a way of contacting the police or emergency line. If you have a landline phone, it is highly recommended that you choose one that is also wireless in case electricity is somehow out in your home during the emergency.
- Flashlight Or Battery Powered Lantern
During the occurrence of a natural disaster, there will be a chance that the power and electricity will go out. Make sure you keep some sort of battery powered lighting source in your safe room that you can use for a period of time.
- Battery Operated Radio
Having a battery operated radio can keep you updated on what is going on outside, especially during a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Make sure you purchase one that can be operated with battery and always have spare batteries in your safe room as well.
- First Aid Kit
Keep a fully stocked first kit to stay prepared for any physical injuries. Red Cross recommends that all first aid kits should include aspirin, breathing barriers, different types of bandages, antibiotics, gloves, and much more.
- Defensive Weapons
Especially in the case of a home invasion or terrorist attack, it will be good to have defensive weapons in your safe room. This can be a gun, baseball bat, or taser. However, only use weapons as a means to defend yourself to escape.
- Change Of Clothes
During a natural disaster, you may not know how long you will have to stay inside your safe room, so it is good to have extra articles of clothing stored in your safe room to change into if needed. Don’t forget to keep warmer articles of clothing as well.
In addition to pain killers, store any medication that you or a family member may need in the safe room. This should include prescribed medicine for any illnesses that anyone in your family may have.
Not only will the blankets be useful for when you sleep, it can also keep you warm in case the temperature drops significantly in your safe room. Also consider keeping a few space blankets in your room.