Call me crazy, but I’m of the opinion that the world is a generally good place full of decent people who wish you no harm.
But I’m also a realist. There’s a small handful of creeps out there who like to ruin it for the rest of us, and we should all take steps to protect ourselves from them.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a tutorial on how to fortify your home against intruders by building and stocking your very own safe room for a lot less than you'd think.
Choosing Your Room
According to Brinks.com, the first step in creating a solid safe room is to find an area of your home with the following qualities:
No windows – The number one rule is to reduce the points of entry. This goes without saying. Look for an interior room with no outside-facing windows.
Thick walls – Interior rooms, unfortunately, also tend to be thin-walled, with just dry wall and framing. The best safe rooms have solid walls. Many basement walls are made of concrete, so look there first if you have one.
If that’s not an option, you can price out armored steel panels—fair warning, they’re expensive. Ballistic fiberglass can be attached to existing walls and is a more cost-effective option, but still requires a budget well north of $1,000. Concrete board is cheaper still but might require some help from a professional to install. As a final option, you can install chicken wire under the drywall for extra protection.
If you’re not in a position to invest that kind of money in solid wall protection, don’t worry too much. Intruders won't necessarily be determined enough to bust down a wall. And if they are, it takes a while to fully penetrate a standing wall. This should give authorities plenty of time to come to the rescue.
If in spite of all your best efforts, someone is trying to shoot into your safe room, position yourself against the door wall at the farthest point from the door. It’s much safer there than across the room where bullets might spray you.
In a live shooting scenario, you’ll also be grateful to have body armor. As long as you don’t treat it as an invincibility vest, it can make great back-up protection. It’s gotten surprisingly affordable in the last few years.
Ventilation – If you can, make sure your safe room has a vent that can be opened or closed for fresh air.
Room suggestions – Storage rooms, walk-in closets, under-staircase areas, wine cellars, or basements can all make good safe rooms.
Creating Your “Fortress”
The door – Here’s your one clear point of entry and the biggest weakness in any safe room. Interior doors are usually hollow core—easy enough to break through for a determined intruder.
The good news is that replacing a light-weight door with a solid-core model is easy and affordable. Make sure you paint over it so it matches the other doors in your home. It’s best if your safe room blends in with the rest of the house without standing out and calling attention to itself.
The door frame – Interior door frames are also flimsy. As long as you’re replacing your door, we recommend switching out the frame with a steel one. Again, make sure the paint matches.
Door lock – The first step in locking the door securely is to make sure it closes into the room—most doors do, so no big worries there.
Next, you’ll want to layer your locking mechanisms. Start with a quality bolt lock. After that, look into floor-mounted door bracing. This will probably do permanent damage to your floor but is super low cost and amazingly effective. If you want to take things a step further, you can also add a functional door bar. With a combination of those layers in place, no one’s getting through.
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.
Pre-wiring – You can pre-wire your safe room for an alarm panel, lights, and power.
Monitoring system – 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.
Practice, Practice, Train – 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!
Safe Rooms in Alternate Locations
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.
Inside Your Safe Room—15 Top Items
With your room secured, the next question is: what are the 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 can’t-miss basics include:
- A phone and charger—either a dedicated landline or a cell phone. Don’t plan to grab a 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 hunkering down with you).
- 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. Don’t forget a safe, deodorizing chemical treatment.
- 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 radio that's battery-operated or hand-cranked.
- 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:
- Body armor for personal protection
- 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
- Pet bowl, water, and food if your cat, dog, etc. are likely to be with you. Also stock 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 communication method for contacting authorities quickly, such as a safety medallion like those often used by the elderly
Let the Conversation Begin!
Do you have other ideas for items that would be important to include in a safe room? Let us know about them in the comment section.
"Security camera" by Ervins Strauhmanis is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/