A couple years ago, safe rooms (a.k.a. panic rooms) were the “buzz” around the water cooler with the release of the movie “Panic Room,” starring Jodie Foster. Now again, with the recent mid-west tornadoes, safe rooms are making the news.
Safe Room Construction – How secure should it be?
These rooms are built to provide security for families in the case of terrorism, natural disasters, intruders, or any other type of personal danger. Building a new safe room is a wise DIY home improvement, providing the homeowner some added peace of mind. Panic rooms are often thought of as impenetrable rooms with indestructible walls and doors. Realistically, it only needs to be structurally sound, and secure enough that your family can hide in, make some emergency phone calls, and keep intruders at bay. If you think about it, unless someone is purposefully out to hurt you, their intent is to get what they want, and out of the house as fast as possible. So, as long as you build the room strong enough to be a deterrent, you’re generally safe.
What to consider with safe-room construction:
- You will want the door and walls to provide as much resistance as possible. Certainly drywall attached to wood studs does not keep someone from putting their foot through it, but concrete would.
- A logical place to build your panic room is in a basement. Basements are notoriously good protection during natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. The one downfall to a basement panic room is that in a chemical or biological attack, chemicals are heavier than air and would move to lower ground.
- It’s also wise to build a panic room without windows. A safe room with a window only provides an additional point of access. Don’t forget that without a window your safe room will need some form of ventilation.
- The door should be a solid material (steel would be best), and it should open outwards to make it more difficult to kick in. Most importantly, be sure that the door jamb is made of steel too. A couple dead bolts should do the trick, and be certain that the keys are kept inside the room where no one outside the room could find them.
- Another issue to plan for is sound. Your panic room should act as a good hiding place and sound proofing to keep burglars from hearing you while you call the authorities is essential.
What should I keep in my new room?
Be sure to think about what you want to store in your panic room, especially if you are in an unfortunate circumstance that requires staying more than a day. The following list is a good place to start:
- Water and plenty of it (The rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day. 5 gallon water containers for camping work well.)
- Food, non-perishable (canned) meats, fruits, and vegetables and be sure to include a can opener. You may also want to include some comfort foods such as coffee, tea, and candy, especially if you have children.
- First Aid Kit, including prescription drugs
- Bedding, such as sleeping bags and at least one change of clothes
- Hygiene supplies – including a 5 gallon bucket and plastic garbage bags to act as a substitute toilet (A room air sanitizer comes to mind here too.)
- Other tools and supplies such as a phone, battery operated radio, and flashlights
- Toys, books, and games
- Defensive weapons
- Telephone – preferably a land-line that won’t need re-charging
All of your family members should be made familiar with the room including when, and how it is to be used. If you have children, stress the importance of the room, and that its only function is for safety during an emergency, not for fun and games.