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Do you have a safe room? Do you even know what it is? Having a safe room in your home can be so important for your personal security.
Most people are completely unaware of safe rooms and why they might be important. We don’t have one, per se, on our little rented farm, but would like to have one in the homestead we plan on buying in the next few years.
What is a safe room?
According to Wikipedia a safe room, or panic room, is defined as, “a fortified room that is installed in a private residence or business to provide a safe shelter, or hiding place, for the inhabitants in the event of a break in, home invasion, tornado, terror attack, or other threat. Safe rooms usually contain communications equipment, so that law enforcement authorities can be contacted.”
A safe room is typically in the basement or on ground level. This is the safest place in the home due to its resistance to turbulence and high winds. Basements are especially beneficial places for a panic room with their concrete floors. In the case of tornadoes, authorities usually suggest seeking shelter in an underground room or basement. Storm shelters are a prime example of this, a fortified bunker-type shelter built securely underground. A sturdy root cellar can also double as a storm shelter or panic room.
The most practical safe room is accessible from inside the house, without needing to go outside. It is also the most practical if the room can double as a utility room. The “safe room” in our current home is our sunken utility room. It has concrete floors and a small window. Since this house was built in 1916, it was originally the over-sized pantry room. As such, it has wood shelves lining two walls. It also houses the washer, dryer, water pump, and water heater.
With its concrete floors, small window, storage shelves, and access to water, this room lends itself perfectly to a makeshift panic room. As such, I have a variety of emergency supplies, and food and water storage in this room.
What should you keep in a safe room?
Every safe room should contain various emergency supplies. To stock it, think about your main reasons for having a panic room. It is there so that you and your family can ride out whatever “storm” or emergency drove you in there. Think about this subjectively: you and your kids may have to sit it out in your safe room for hours, maybe even days. Do you have pets? You’ll need to provide for them as well, if you plan to keep them with you.
Camping supplies are great to store in your panic room! You need access to water storage, no-cook or easy-cook food, an emergency toilet, and even entertainment. You will need alternative lighting in case the power goes out. Maybe even a heat source. And a first aid kit. And don’t forget personal security! The safe room should have weapons inside to further protect yourself.
Not sure what to keep in your safe room? I have a checklist that you might want to check out here. Even without a specific emergency room, each family would benefit from having a secure location for their emergency supplies and food storage. Make sure you check out my post on emergency preparedness here!
Are safe rooms expensive?
Adding on a safe room is more expensive than having one built when you are building your home. A small-sized room is approximately $4,000 to $6,000. A larger room can run upwards of $10,000 or more, depending on the amenities and reinforcements.
Some people go all-out when designing a panic room, with secret entrances, and bullet-proof windows and doors. In my opinion, this is moving into the realm of being over paranoid. But if someone is extremely wealthy, and/or has had threats on their life, this may be a “necessary evil”.
How can you build a safe room?
You can hire professionals, or you can DIY! I am always the one to go the DIY route, because I’m cheap, but only you can decide if you have the resources and knowledge to do so.
If you have a basement, you can set up the whole thing as a big safe room, or you can partition off a smaller space. Remember, this will be a place that you could potentially be staying in for hours or days. So make sure it is a suitable living quarters for a short time period.
Keep in mind that “normal” walls are surprisingly easy to break, and someone to get in to. Studs are usually placed far enough apart that someone could get in between the studs. You might want to consider double-lined walls with studs placed closer together.
Windows should be reinforced glass, or even lined with a steel gate that can be locked. The safe room door should be solid, preferably steel, with a locking knob, a deadbolt, AND a chain lock.
It will be helpful for organization purposes if your panic room has some shelves to store your necessities on. You will need places to keep food off the floor and less accessible to pests.
If you can fit it, a nice addition would be a small bed or a cot. That will allow you to sleep a little more comfortably, if need be.
Does it improve the value of your home?
Having a safe room in the home is pretty uncommon. Unfortunately, it doesn’t improve the monetary value of the home much. It would, however, give potential future buyers a greater sense of security.
In terms of improving the monetary value of your home, an underground storm shelter is a better investment. Which, of course, can double as a safe room! According to The Journal Record, the average storm shelter adds about $2,500 in value to the home. Underground storm shelters cost an average of $3,000 to $5,000 to put in, and you receive about 2/3 of the investment back in added value to the property. That’s a pretty good return on investment, with the added security of the storm shelter while you’re living there.
Are there any monetary incentives?
Safe rooms and storm shelters may be able to get a tax exemption, so homeowners can improve their homes without worrying about their property taxes going up. FEMA also has a program that is called Hazard Mitigation Assistance. In this program, homeowners can qualify for a grant through their state, to offset the cost of building a safe room or storm shelter.
Why do you need a safe room?
A safe room is truly a useful commodity for any home and homestead. Nearly every family would benefit from this ultimate measure in personal security. And no, it’s not just for the overly paranoid!
Does the area you live in experience earthquakes? Hurricanes? Tornadoes? Any one of these occurrences could prove that a panic room is beneficial for your family. And in this modern society, full of turmoil and hate, the possibility of burglaries and terror attacks is more prevalent than it ever has been.
A safe room ultimately mitigates many risks that your family may face. If you have the space, and can afford it, I would strongly suggest setting up a safe room in your home.