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Emergency Safe Rooms
According to Wikipedia a safe room is:
A safe room or panic room is 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.
Even though we probably think of celebrities and the rich when we think of these types of rooms the fact is that some version of them should be a part of every urban disaster survival plan as well.
What is a Safe Room
Although most of the time we think of safe rooms as being a fortified space the truth is that any safe room is much safer if it is also a hidden room.
By this I mean that the entrance is hidden is such a way as to keep the room safe from prying eyes, and in emergency situations, a place where you, your family and your supplies are safe from looters or others that would want what you have or hurt those that you love.
When you build one of these rooms you need to make sure that you avoid the urge to brag about how ready you are for a disaster and show all your neighbors and friends.
Your family also needs to know that this type of room is for emergency only and not for playing in or showing their friends.
These types of rooms are meant to be used as a hide away while looters or other intruders are in your home.
How Fortified Are These Rooms
They are generally pretty simple with little in the way of fortification other than the ruse of being hidden.
Although the doors are usually able to be barred and have been strengthened they aren’t meant to withstand a concentrated attack so the walls aren’t built up not are the rooms airtight.
In case the owner of the room was concerned about a gas attack of some type there are usually gas masks for everyone in the room.
Why Do You Need A Safe Room
During any urban disaster, whether it is because of unrest and riots, a terrorist attack or some type of natural disaster, it is possible that the stores could quickly empty of food and water supplies become tainted.
This means that the people that have had the foresight to store these supplies of food and water could quickly become targets of looters, desperate for those supplies.
Even though there are a lot of people that are going to tell you that the answer is to make sure that you are well armed I think that could be a mistake.
Any room, no matter how well fortified it is could be over run if the looters had enough time. And anyone – no matter how well armed could be taken by surprise or over powered.
And even though a good safe room should have some way of communicating with the outside world, whether it’s by phone or something like a CB radio, during a disaster scenario the police could easily be so busy elsewhere that they couldn’t respond leaving you to your own devices.
Plus, even if the police did respond, during a disaster situation your supplies that you bought and paid for could be taken for distribution to others.
So the best way to make sure that you, your family and your supplies is safe is by keeping them stored in a hidden safe room that only you and your family know about.
How Big Should A Safe Room Be
How big of a safe room you are going to need will depend upon your needs and the amount of available space that you have for creating one.
If it’s just you and your spouse a small room like a closet might work for an emergency situation.
But in case it’s you, the spouse, threes kids, and the family dog, you are going to need more space.
And remember, nothing is going to give away a hidden room to looters faster than you family dog sitting at the secret door trying to get in so make sure that you plan on them being on the inside with you!
A safe area in an apartment is also going to be different than one that is being built in a one family house.
But even a simple room the size of a closet could give you and your family the temporary refuge that you need if your home was being ransacked by looters.
How To Build A Safe Room
Safe rooms need to be hidden yet easy to access. Every member of your family needs to know where it is and how to get there in case of an emergency.
This means that an emergency room should probably be close to where your bedrooms are and still centrally located enough that they can be reached if there is a home invasion during the day.
Its a good idea to have power into the room if you can. Just make sure to test the room with a light on at night to make sure that no light shows around the door.
The key to this type of room is having an entrance that is well hidden. A quick search on the Internet will give you hundreds of ideas on how others have created a hidden entrance to their rooms.
It’s probably a good idea to avoid any entrance that relies on electricity or takes a long time to open and close since the power might be out and time could be of the essence during an emergency.
Make sure that you sound proof the walls, ceiling, floor, and entry to avoid giving away the location of the room.
I always like to use bookshelves that open towards the inside but I’ve also seen mirrors, large pictures, and wall hangings that have worked well.
I’ve even seen a nook that was off the living room of an apartment that had a bookcase closing it in. The bottom shelf backing dropped to allow entry then was put back in place when you were in the nook.
How Are You Going To Know What’s Going On Outside?
You need to have some way of knowing when any home invaders have left. I’ve seen some relatively inexpensive camera systems with monitors in the hidden room.
I’ve also seen some hidden peep holes that are a good way of knowing what’s going on without using any power. There was even a room that I saw that had a two way mirror where you could see what was going on outside the room even though they couldn’t see in.
Make Sure You Practice
Make sure that you and your family practice getting to and from the room in the day and during night without any lights.
Pets should be trained to come when called and remain quiet even when they hear intruders. You should practice with strangers in the house to make sure that your pet can be quiet.
It’s a good idea to have an emergency exit out of the room if it gets discovered. A wall that can be broken through or a floor you can get through a hatch work pretty good.
I had one house where the room was located in the basement of the house. One wall in the basement room was bookshelves and one of them swung into a hidden room and bathroom.
That room had an emergency exit that ran from the basement to a garden shed that was accessed through the floor.
It’s always a good idea to have a way out if you can!
What Should Be Stored In A Safe Room
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that all your supplies be stored in your emergency room since this is putting all your eggs in one basket.
It is only prudent to have multiple areas where you have supplies stored. Most of these should be hidden but I always recommend that people have some stores in their kitchens so if their home does get looted, the looters will take what they find and leave rather than spend more time looking for something.
But at the very least any safe room should have water and enough food for at least a short amount of time. Make sure that you include some for the pets too!
Safe rooms are also usually stocked with a basic first aid kit, water, packaged food, blankets, a flashlight or lantern, gas masks for every family member and a simple portable toilet.
Having some books, games that can be played quietly, paper, pens, crayons and coloring books for children would make time less stressful.
Every room that I have made or consulted on I tried to make sure was as comfortable as possible.
Even though I said above that I don’t believe in guns I also think that you should consider them or some other self defense weapons just in case you get found out.
If space is limited or if you are renting your home and are unable to make any modifications there are a lot of things that you can do with furniture that will provide hiding areas for you and your supplies.
One area that I’ve seen used a lot is pulling the material of the bottom of sofas or chairs, hiding supplies in them and then stapling the material back on.
Fake boxes that move and provide a hiding space in closets also will work well.
For hiding a person one of the best places that I’ve found is under the bed. You can build the drawers that pull out slightly smaller than the width of the bed so a person can hide under the bed.
I’ve also seen beds that lift up at the end but have a solid base around them as a hiding place.
Conclusion To Emergency Safe Room
The key to creating either a hidden safe room or using furniture to hide things is looking at the space that you have and being creative.
Remember that anyone looting your house is looking for food, water, and maybe valuables. If you give them a certain amount that looks like it’s all you have they are likely to leave without a thorough search of your home.
A safe room is just meant to keep you,your family and most of your supplies safe from those that would harm them or take them.
Many times, during a looting, if you give up what is obvious and keep the rest hidden you can escape unharmed even though you aren’t hidden away.
It’s also important to remember that if you are in a situation where you are concerned about your safety it might be wise to sleep in your safe room so that you aren’t caught unawares.
It might not be as comfortable as your own bed but it could be safer. Also remember to make sure that anyone trying to get into your house will have a hard time getting in. Make sure that the locks are heavy duty and bolted to the frame and windows are hard to get into the home through.
Anything that you can do to slow down someone who is trying to get into your home gives you just that much more time to get to your safe room. And even if you see everyone leave, give it some time before you exit your emergency room just to make sure that they aren’t waiting for you to come out.
If they think that you are hiding they just might be waiting for you.
All this also assumes that you are keeping a low profile. During a disaster its a good idea to keep your head low and wait it out rather than be the only one on the block who has lights on and is cooking food, telling desperate people that you have what they want!