A “safe room” is a room in your house that has been built or modified to withstand an all-out assault by home invaders, whether burglars, terrorists, stalkers, or would-be kidnappers. Some are constructed to withstand high winds from hurricanes or tornadoes, or to protect against chemical or biological agents or radiation. Your safe room need not be a small, specialized hidey-hole in a secret space behind a bookcase, though some are designed that way. Your bedroom, home office, or any convenient room with a door can be made into a safe room by reinforcing your doors and windows, adding a few security enhancements, and stocking up on some necessary items.
What are those necessary items? The things you choose to stock in your safe room depend upon the situations you are trying to protect yourself against and how long you expect to be there.
Some basics include:
- A phone—either a dedicated landline or a cell phone. Don’t plan to grab the cordless phone from your nightstand; it can easily be jammed or disabled. If you keep a dedicated cell phone in your safe room, remember to charge it regularly.
- Drinking water (and cartons of juice drinks, especially if children will be there)
- Food such as storable food bars, chocolate bars, MREs, small cans of freeze dried fruits and vegetables.
- A portable toilet, toilet paper, and moistened wipes
- Diapers, food, and clothing for baby if needed
- A first-aid kit
- Blankets and pillows for comfort
- A change of clothing and underwear
- A light source that isn’t dependent on your home’s electricity
- N95 masks
- At least several doses of all regularly needed prescriptions or OTC meds
- A battery-operated or hand-cranked radio
- Duct tape
- A ladder (if second story)
- Defensive weapons if you choose to have them
Additional items to consider, depending on the size and purpose of your room, could include:
- Reflective blankets for additional warmth
- A battery-powered fan for cooling and circulation (you’ll want lots of extra batteries)
- Books or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook, loaded with material for whatever ages you have in your family (and a way to charge electronics)
- Electronic or board games
- Bowl, water, and food for pets if they’re likely to be with you. Folded newspaper or a small litter box
- A bolted-down safe for valuables—cash, passports (thieves love to get hold of these, they sell very well on the streets), jewelry, etc.
- Potassium Iodide tablets in case of a radiation threat
- An alternative way of contacting authorities quickly, such as a safety medallion like those often used by the elderly
Some schoolrooms have safe rooms at one end, built to accommodate and protect the students and teacher in case of an intruder. They are often stocked with drinking water, food bars, and portable toilet facilities (often behind a privacy screen). Offices could also install reinforced safe rooms for workers—perhaps several, depending upon the size of the building and the number of employees.
A few tips for creating a safe room from an existing room include the following:
- Replace hollow-core doors with solid doors that have strong locks.
- Install a one-sided dead bolt lock at a different level than the regular lock.
- Hang the door so that the hinges are on the room side rather than the outside, where they could potentially be removed.
- Either install bullet-proof glass in your windows or reinforce your existing glass with shatterproof laminate.
- Hang heavy, lined curtains so that the potential intruder can’t see through them.
- Install a security system—whatever you can afford—from inexpensive door and window “squealers” that screech if they are moved to a complete system with alarms and connection to the security company.
- Make sure your safe room has a vent that can be opened or closed for fresh air.
- Owners of some large homes with several levels and multiple entries invest in a home-monitoring unit with closed-circuit TV that can be patched into a set in the safe room so that the residents can observe what’s happening in and around the house.
Suggestions to consider if you’re creating a safe room in new construction:
- The safe room door should be solid, open inward, and be secured with a good lock.
- You don’t need to have a secret room installed (though some do), but it’s best if your safe room blends in with the rest of the house without standing out and calling attention to itself.
- You can pre-wire your safe room for an alarm panel, lights, and power. Have a direct-dial phone in addition to your cell.
- Install either chicken wire or steel sheeting under the drywall for extra protection.
If, in spite of all your best efforts, someone is trying to shoot into your safe room, position yourself against the window wall if he’s outside the window. It’s much safer there than across the room where bullets might spray you. If he’s in the house and shooting through the door, position yourself against the door wall at the farthest point from the door.
Make certain that all the people in your home, schoolroom, or office know how to access the safe room, and hold training exercises to see how quickly they can assemble there. Teach children that the safe room is not to be used as a playhouse or a place to lock themselves away from parents or teachers!
Do you have other ideas for items that would be important to include in a safe room?