, nsidermaSIf you’ve found yourself scratching your head, wondering what is a safe room in a house? If you’re considering building a safe room, also known as a “panic room,” you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know about safe rooms: their features, benefits, potential pitfalls, and how to go about building one.
We’ll also address some of the most commonly asked questions about safe rooms. So, you can decide whether to include one of these rooms in your home. So let’s dive in and explore the world of safe rooms!
Table of Contents
What is a Safe Room in a House?
A safe room is a fortified room within a residential home or business that provides shelter from disasters of all sorts. They are strong enough to withstand abuse from natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornados. They are also hidden to protect their occupants from home invasion threats and terrorist attacks.
Also known as panic rooms (check out the movie with that name!), they are often equipped with communication equipment to contact police authorities. They may also have a first aid kit for emergencies (1).
Features of a Safe Room
Structural and Internal Features
Many structural and internal features of safe rooms promote safety and protection from harsh elements and unwanted terror attacks. An effective safe room is typically approved by FEMA standards (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the ICC Standard 500 (International Code Council).
These guidelines are made to ensure the near-absolute protection of the safe room. They are made to withstand extreme weather and attacks from human threats such as thieves or terrorists. Most commonly, a safe room will be built with concrete walls that resist penetration from extreme winds and are typically bullet resistant.
A safe room can be likened to a castle’s keep from Medieval times, an even more fortified structure that stood inside the main castle (2). Serving the same purpose, a safe room is made as a backup if anything goes wrong. That isif the main castle, a.k.a your home, was under attack or compromised.
Of course, safe rooms have come a long way since Medieval times. Now they incorporate technology and communication equipment in line with our society. Rather than using castle stone walls, it’s far more common to see modern construction materials used to build a safe room’s foundational structure.
Location and Equipment
You can put safe rooms in a hidden room within your home or as a separate entity close to your home. Common locations for safe rooms include behind household furniture or features like big mirrors, wide closets, and large bookcases.
The idea is to keep yourself, your family, and small children safe until the threat has blown over and it is safe to return to the main home.
There are also many perks, equipment, and technology to help you deal with potential threats to yourself and your family. For example, high-tech safe rooms often feature security cameras and alarm systems to help you monitor the situation outside. For more standard safe rooms, there will at least be a peephole for you to spy on the happenings directly outside the room.
Some other equipment you may find in a good-quality safe room include self-defense tools such as weapons or protective gear, e.g., bulletproof vests and helmets. You may also find gas masks and hazmat suits to deal with poisonous gases, radioactive fallout, or other dangerous chemicals.
It can also be handy to include a first aid kit for emergencies and a portable toilet in case you need to remain in the same room for long periods.
On that note, safe rooms often feature nonperishable foods such as canned stews and baked beans for survival purposes. You should also ensure a sufficient water supply for drinking, washing, and other related uses.
It’s also common to have multiple cell phones in the panic room. This is to ensure a source of communication for legal aid authorities is available. This can be for calling the police, ambulance, or fire brigade.
Why You May Need a Safe Room
There are many reasons to have a safe room in your home. It can serve as a refuge from danger, or even just an extra guest room. Many people make their basement into a safe room, while others use it as a home office.
One reason to build a safe room is to protect against extreme weather events. These can include heavy rain, thunderstorms, flooding, and in some areas, bushfires. In the United States, strong winds and flying debris can also be a danger.
A safe room can be a good investment, especially as climate change leads to more frequent and severe natural disasters. When building a safe room to protect against these dangers, it is generally best to place it underground. This provides fewer access points than on the top floor of a two-story house.
In addition to natural disasters, there is also the risk of man-made dangers, such as political instability and civil unrest. Moreover, the interconnected nature of the world through digital technology means that global issues can have a more significant impact than ever before.
The recent war in Ukraine is an example of how missiles, bombs, and bullets can suddenly threaten even peaceful countries. A safe room can provide peace of mind for homeowners who worry about these threats. Although, it is important to assess the specific risks in your location to determine the level of protection you need.
Related: What is a Keeping Room?
It is important to conduct a risk assessment when building a new home to understand the potential hazards in the location. Consider factors such as proximity to rivers, highways, and potentially hazardous structures like gas stations or power plants.
Other factors to consider include the area’s geography, such as the risk of bushfires or landslides in mountainous areas.
The type of safe room you build should be based on the threat your area is most prone to. For example, a family living in a storm surge area should consider building a large shelter. This could include strong concrete slab doors, walls, and reinforced ceilings to protect against heavy rainfall.
When assessing risks, it is essential to distinguish between true fear and phobias. A phobia is an individual’s perceived sense of danger based on personality complexities, while true fear is based on factual information that poses a legitimate threat.
It can be helpful to get a third-party opinion on the risks and threat levels of your home’s location before deciding on a design for a safe room.
Consider the ages, genders, maturity, and any disabilities or medical histories of family members when designing a safe room. For example, if you have a young child with asthma, a dust storm could be a serious threat, and a well-equipped safe room with tools like reliever puffers and resuscitation equipment may be necessary.
Other factors to consider include the amount of cash and other valuable assets you have that need to be kept safe. A safe room can provide an added layer of protection against home invasions. In addition, it can be beneficial if you or a family member is at risk of kidnapping for ransom, such as a professional athlete or high-profile politician.
Pros of Safe Rooms
There are countless benefits to having a safe room in or around your home. However, here is a list of the major benefits you could experience with the new construction of a safe room.
Protection from Threats
A safe room can protect your family if you live in an area at risk of encountering extreme weather conditions or even natural disasters. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of injuries and fatalities occur yearly due to elemental threats such as hurricanes, tornados, bushfires, and severe thunderstorms.
Many safe rooms are constructed to be wind-proof, fire-proof, and flood-proof. This provides existing homes with access to a safe shelter in the face of an imminent natural disaster.
A safe room may not protect your entire house, but it can protect what is most important to you. Compared to your family and loved ones, even your dream house is expendable, but some things cannot be replaced. Furthermore, a safe room allows you to take your most valuable possessions and keep them out of harm’s way in the event of a destructive threat.
Peace of Mind
Some homes are at greater risk of a disaster than others. So chances are that your home may not necessarily be in a high-risk area. With that said, no one is 100% safe from a disaster or home invasion threat. So, having a safe room provides peace of mind that can help reduce stress levels, especially if a threat arises.
You may not necessarily use your safe room as a fallout shelter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for other ventures.
Many homeowners turn their safe rooms into home offices, workout gyms, or even a “man cave” for friends. They are typically hidden rooms in or around the home. You can use a safe room to provide the necessary peace and quiet to get important work done or to have private conversations away from the kids.
Coupling the safe room with a reinforced door can prevent forced entry from unwanted intruders. In the worst case, a criminal or terrorist.
The great thing about safe rooms is that they can be built anywhere, including on high elevated floor or ground-level floors. They can also be built as part of the home or in an outdoor space near your home, much like a granny flat or shed.
When building inside the home, you can opt to have your safe room hidden, such as behind a closet door or large bookshelf. This restricts access to outsiders who are unaware of its whereabouts.
Given the minimal requirements to build a safe room, it can easily be incorporated as part of your home. For example, if you have the space, you could create a whole new room in addition to your existing ones. Alternatively, you could turn one of your existing bedrooms or restrooms into a safe room with just a few structural and internal adjustments.
Cons of Safe Rooms
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when building a safe room. There are a few cons you should consider before deciding. However, you should know a few main concerns when building your new panic room.
May Be Complicated to Build
There are generally few issues when adding a safe room to an existing home. However, although its seldom impossible to construct one, it can still prove to be a complex process. This is because of the expensive and rare materials required to build a safe room.
Remember, these rooms are designed to be bullet resistant, wind-proof, and fire-proof. So, you should use only the strongest and most durable materials to construct the doors, walls, and ceilings.
If you are building a new home from scratch, including a safe room can prolong the duration of the construction work. However, special equipment, materials, and additional crew members may be required to install your new safe room. These extras will cost both time and money.
For these reasons, double-check your risk assessment and re-evaluate whether a safe room is necessary.
Takes up house space
Another thing to consider is the amount of space a safe room will take up. This can be particularly disruptive for a large family and/or a small home. Thus, a safe room could be why certain family members need to bunk together when they easily could have had their own rooms.
If you have a family household with teenagers or young adults, depriving them of their own personal space could lead to unwanted family dramas.
May never be used
This last point ties in with every con and amplifies them. It’s that you may never use your safe room. This is because some areas never experience threats from natural disasters or home invasions. The need to vacate the main home may never come up.
Considering all the other issues a safe room could introduce, it would all be “pain in vain” if it was never used.
What is a safe room in a house FAQ
What is the purpose of a safe room?
A safe room (or panic room) provides members of a household with a shelter in the case of an emergency. It is an escape route for families that protects from natural disasters and human-related attacks.
Are safe rooms a good idea?
It depends on your circumstances and level of risk in your area. However, safe rooms can be a fantastic idea for providing protection and safety from dangerous threats, disasters, and hazards.
Can a bathroom be a safe room?
A bathroom in and of itself cannot be a safe room, but it can certainly undergo construction to become a safe room. Many safe rooms contain a portable bathroom, nonperishable foods, and water supply for long-term survival.