Safe rooms have become all the rage recently. If you cannot afford a security system for your whole house a good option is to create a panic room. A panic room creates a challenging barricade between yourself and an intruder in your house. It is a safe place for your family to hide out until external help arrives.
A panic, or safe, room can be just a closet or even a bathroom. However, you can go as big and as fancy as your budget allows. Some panic rooms have bathrooms attached, generators, and televisions. There are even panic rooms that have nuclear filters to protect the occupants from radioactive fallout. There are professional companies that come out and construct these types of expensive panic rooms, but what is involved if you do it yourself? Can you create a DIY panic room? Let’s take a look and see.
First Things First
Choose a Room
Obviously, the first thing you need to do is decide which room in your house you are going to change into a safe room. You need to plan your panic room to coincide with your lifestyle and the routines of your family. The room should have only one doorway and only one window or, preferably, no windows. Keep in mind that easy access is imperative. The panic room should be located on the same floor as the rooms where your family spends most of their time. It should have walk-in access – i.e., no stairs to climb to gain entry.
Experts agree that a panic room built for the purpose of protection against intruders should be built to hold for at least 30 minutes to a few hours – long enough for the police to arrive.
You might choose to build your panic room in the basement. Keep in mind that if you do this you will need to place an air purifier in your basement. This will ensure proper ventilation.
The purpose of the panic room will help determine where to put it. Placement is very important in panic rooms built for protection from weather disasters. For safety against tornados, build your panic room in the basement or on the ground floor. For protection against flood, a first or second floor is better.
What Are The Possible Threats?
Are you wanting protection for your family or for valuables? Do you expect home invaders to be armed with hammers, pipes, axes, or guns
and rifles? Are you looking for protection against weather events? The answers to these questions will determine how you build your DIY panic room and what you put into it. In this article, we will concentrate mainly on what you will need for home invasion protection.
This is the most important thing to secure in your safe room. It is the first place that intruders will try to gain access through.
Most interior doors have a hollow core. A door meant for security will need to be a solid core door. The best material to use for a safe room door is iron or steel. These materials can withstand a lot of abuse and provide excellent protection against battering or kicking.
Ensure that the hinges, strike plate, and hardware of your door are all secure. Hinges and strike plates can be improved using 3-inch set screws.
Make sure the door frame is secured properly into the surrounding wall and that the door itself fits tightly against the door frame to hinder any attempts at prying it open with crowbars and similar tools.
There are a few things that will determine the door-locking mechanism you choose.
If you are using the room to secure valuables, then the door needs to be able to lock from the outside. The unlocking mechanism must be of such a quality that it is extremely difficult for intruders to break it.
If you are securing people in the room, the door need only have a lock on the inside.
If the panic room is being used for both reasons you will need to look for a lock that is easy to use on a day-to-day basis while also being robust enough to protect your valuables when you are away from home for any extended period of time. You can consider putting more than one lock on the door.
Make sure the lock you choose has a high metal content. One of the best locks to consider for a panic room is a double-sided deadbolt.
If an intruder can’t come through the door or window they could attempt to come straight through the walls. There are a few ways you can make your wall stronger. You could replace your current walls with brick or concrete walls but, as a DIY project, this could prove a bit much especially as you are then messing with the structure of your home and will possibly need permits. An easier option is ballistic panels fabricated from fiberglass or Kevlar. Kevlar is the stuff they line bulletproof vests with – it is a manufactured plastic made of poly-para-phenylene terephthalamide.
Cheaper options for reinforcing your walls are to line them with plywood over the drywall and secure the plywood by attaching it with screws directly to the studs. You could also add chicken wire to your walls for added protection.
Some people decide to camouflage their panic room. This can be done by decorating ideas or concealing the doorway in a creative way.
Check that your window locks are working properly. Make sure the lock cannot be bypassed on the outside of the house.
Windows can be reinforced using security film or security bars.
Security film will prevent the glass from shattering completely. Good quality film can prove enough of a deterrent to a burglar when they see that their first attempt at breaking in through the window failed.
Metal security bars are a good solution for window security, but they do give away the fact that that particular room is being used to house something of value.
If you want to up the ante a bit, you can replace your window with a ballistic or blast window.
Although this might be a bit of an added expense, if you are wanting to be able to see what is going on outside your panic room while you are safely inside, you can install security cameras outside the room. Being able to see what is going on outside could help you anticipate further possible dangers. Security cameras can be linked to your Smartphone which means you don’t need to set up a monitor inside the panic room – just keep your phone with you. Being able to see what is going on outside can also mean that you are able to inform the authorities of the dangers thus assisting with containing the threat efficiently.
What to Put Inside a Panic Room?
Now that your room is selected and made optimized for security it’s time to choose items to place inside the safe room.
It is essential to have a phone in your panic room. Once you are secure inside the room you will need a way to contact the authorities. Landlines should not necessarily be your first choice as they are affected by power outages and the lines can be cut. It is better to use a cell phone. In the USA cell phones can make emergency calls even if you don’t have an active account. Make sure there is a phone charger in the room and that you have a strong signal.
Having a good internet connection can also prove essential. Make sure that you have a strong Wi-Fi signal in the panic room.
It might take time for an emergency response to arrive. Find a way to make lots of noise to attract the attention of people walking by or of neighbors. You can install an alarm that isn’t connected to a security system. The switch can be placed in the panic room and activated once you are safely inside. If you have not soundproofed your room, keep some earplugs handy! Noise not only attracts attention, but it can deter intruders from staying in your house too long.
If the panic room is breached, you need to have means available to you to fight back. Pepper spray or a Taser might be items to keep in your safe room. If you are trained to use a firearm you could keep one in a safe and secure place inside the panic room.
- Food and Water
While a panic room is not meant for use over very long periods it is a good idea to keep a small stock of food and water in the room. Utensils and a microwave can also be placed in the room. You could possibly be there for a couple of hours and having some food available will not only calm the nerves but while away the time until help arrives.
- Medical Kit
Keep a small first aid kit in the safe room. Minor cuts or scrapes could have been suffered as people rushed to the safety of the room. Medication that could be needed over a 12-hour period should also be stocked in the panic room.
- Emergency Items
Consider keeping a flashlight in the room in case of a power outage. Other emergency items like a battery-powered radio, blankets, and towels, and a spare set of clothes might come in handy. A portable toilet might also be useful if your room doesn’t have an attached bathroom.
Now that your room is built and kitted out it is important to create a plan for what happens in an emergency. Make sure each member of the family knows the plan.
The plan should include:
- When to go to the panic room – If strange noises are heard at night should your family go to the room immediately or go to the head of the family first for instructions?
- What gets taken into the room – Each member of the family can be given the job of taking something of value – jewelry, important papers, etc. – into the room in an emergency.
- How will you alert the authorities – Make sure everyone knows to always keep a cell phone inside the panic room.
- All clear – How will you communicate this to those inside the room? What will the signal be?
Tornado-safe rooms can increase the sale price of your house by approximately 3.5 percent. A true panic room however can cost a bit more to construct and kit out than a tornado-safe room. Check with your local realtor to see if the cost of adding a panic room to your home will add to the equity of your house.
With a bit of thought, planning, and budgeting you can make your own panic room. What you are planning to use it for will determine how secure you need it to be and what you need to stock it with. It is not something that is likely to be used very often – hopefully! – so a good idea is to keep the room multifunctional; a flex space within your home that serves the purpose of a panic room when needed.
If you are in an area susceptible to wildfires, you can construct your panic room with materials that are fireproof thus saving lives as well as important documents, family photographs, and other items of value.
A panic room can provide you with peace of mind knowing that you have done the best you can to take care of your family in an emergency situation. If you are truly security conscious, a safe room is an ideal solution to many security needs.