Safe rooms, also known as emergency shelter rooms or panic rooms, are not a new concept. However, these safe rooms are regaining popularity in light of several months of unrest in our country. With so many unpredictable challenges and crime rates rising in neighborhoods that never had such statistics, families are choosing to add these extra security measures to their custom home or remodel blueprints!
“Burglary affects all 50 states in the United States, as burglary was the third most common type of crime in the United States in 2019.” Statista
If the current state of our world has your anxieties skyrocketing, you aren’t alone! The fear of being burglarized, property destruction, home invasion, and even severe weather dangers are all legitimate reasons for concern. To put some of these worries to rest, you may want to consider installation a fortified room, otherwise known as a safe room.
What are safe rooms used for? A few common reasons include:
- To hide from burglars/criminals. The protection of a safe room will allow residents life saving time to contact police.
- To hide from would-be kidnappers. Many professional athletes, actors and politicians install safe rooms in their homes and places of work.
- Protection against natural disasters, such as tornadoes and hurricanes.Unexpected storms can cause major damage to your property or loved ones. Underground tornado bunkers are common in certain tornado-prone regions of the United States.
- Protection against a nuclear attack. While safe rooms near the blast may be incinerated, those far away may be shielded from radioactive fallout. This type of safe room, known as a fallout shelter, was more common during the Cold War than it is today. Modern fallout shelters are now considered protection from possible terrorist attacks.
- To provide social distancing in the event of a serious disease outbreak or pandemic.
What is a Safe Room?
A safe room is a secret fortified emergency room within your home. The purpose of this secret room is to keep the family protected ifn case the need arises! These rooms could possibly save the lives of all those within your home. There’s an array of safe room styles for each household’s individual needs. Safe rooms have a multitude of uses, for example some serve as fallout shelters, weather bunkers, panic rooms and doomsday shelters. To determine which specific kind of safe room your family requires, you need to look at a few things. Some of theses factors will affect the design of your safe room.
“The type of safe room you select depends on your ultimate goal. If you’re looking for security from a home invasion, an upstairs bedroom can be converted into a safe room to protect the entire family. Those wanting to secure firearms or other valuables may opt for an underground bunker.” New Home Source
If the crime rate in your state is rising, your safe room may require special design details. Your safe room may need to be a converted guest room on the same level of all the family bedrooms. Easy to access for everyone to run into if ever needed. These rooms protect against home invasion crimes. Once all family members are secure within the room, a separate phone line is within it to call for help. These types of safe rooms generally have reinforced doors, battery backups, electrical outlets, security cameras and servers inside. This will allow you to monitor what’s going on outside of the safe room and you can share the details with the 911 operators.
Even if you consider your location to be relatively safe, remember crime travels. Your beautiful home may be targeted because of all the valuable possessions it potentially offers desperate criminals. “Shootings and murders have risen over 50% in 2020 compared with the same period last year.” Chicago Suntimes
Where you live plays a major role in deciding which level of your home the safe room is on. Each state and county has its own zoning codes. They all should follow the FEMA guidelines for safe rooms when determining how and where to build your safe room. For example, if you live in a state prone to flooding, your zone may require your safe room be built above ground. States that have tornado and hurricane seasons tend to build weather bunkers which can sometimes be on the outside of the home or on basement levels. Other zoning factors include how many people are allowed within maximum spaces etc.
A safe room can also be a weather bunker. Is your area prone to tornadoes, hurricanes or even flooding? When a tornado or hurricane strikes, you’ll need a place of shelter ASAP! This shelter needs to be easy to access quickly. Could you get there within seconds? Safe rooms provide life-saving protection during destructive storms; especially for homes without basements. After the recent outbreak of tornadoes and severe storms, safe rooms are increasing in popularity and in some areas.
Your contractor will help you determine what type of safe room/weather bunker is ideal for your area based on the likely storms in your zone. Learn more about weather bunkers with FEMA “taking shelter from the storm” PDF here.
“Every safe room is built to withstand 250 mph winds and over 3,000 pounds of force, more than an EF-5 tornado. They’re usually constructed in basements or garages. A typical safe room is made of steel and fiberglass to provide the highest level of protection from wind. All shelters also use concrete foundations as anchors.” Midland
Think about how many family members and pets need to fit into the room – for hours or even days. For example, when a safe room is used during major storms, FEMA recommends each person within the safe room has enough water, food, and basic necessities to last for three days. Knowing the maximum capacity for your space will give you are clear gage of the amount supplies your room should hold. Your family needs to be able to fit comfortably within this space. Majority if not all of safe rooms have their own source of power and ventilation systems.
Maybe you only want this room to fit one person? Or maybe it’s for the whole family and possibly the addition of a couple of neighbors too? The amount of people within the well design space is a major design factor. When planning your perfect safe room think through multiple scenarios and the needs of the people who will most likely be within the room. There are regulations to consider when designing…
“A safe room can be sized differently as long as it complies with the guidance in FEMA P-361. When changing any details of the prescriptive plans in FEMA P-320, consult a licensed design professional to verify that the modified plans still meet or exceed the design criteria of FEMA P-361.” IN.gov
Small details that can have a big impact…
If someone in the family has special needs or take medications, having spare medications and things for their comfort within the room will possibly be the difference between life or death. Install a small appliances like a fridge that can keep food, baby formula, and medications at the proper temperature. It is extremely wise to prep your safe room for a wide range of possibilities. Make sure it is accessible to disabled or elderly loved ones. “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.” Check out Be Prepared’s detailed list of safe room essentials!
Creative Safe Rooms
Remember watching a James Bond movie where the spy pulls a book off the bookcase in a private library, and a hidden door would appear and open? Our imaginations would be in awe of these secret, handy spaces. These ingenious creative spaces are no longer a thing of fiction! Safe rooms can be hidden in some seriously creative ways. Architects like Tom Len and his team can help you design a space that is hidden and only the family will know where to look to find it.
Some ideas to consider:
- Beneath your bedroom bed: Some safe rooms have amazingly hidden entrances in locations a criminal would never think to look. This is one. Hidden rooms where the entrance is within the floor are great for hiding your escape.
- Behind a double large mirror: The full length mirror your checking out your outfit in may very well be the entrance of a fortified safe room. Small locking mechanisms only the owners know will allow the mirror to close and open.
- Rock wall: What looks like a decorated wall in someone’s home may actually be a hidden door to their well placed safe room.
“Should the owner of this property find themselves needing to lie low, they have just the place ready and waiting! Hidden behind this seemingly ordinary stone wall is a highly secure safe room, designed for escaping or waiting out an intruder. What’s even better, the space cannot be spotted at all from the outside…” Love Property
Design the Room According to Your Lifestyle
It’s not a dungeon to hideout in, it’s a living space! Gone are the days when bunkers looked gloomy and only held wire cots and limited access to the outside world. Modern safe rooms and bunkers now look like lavish living areas, fit for large families. These well designed spaces now seek to comfort families while in distressing times. It’s just as important to maintain your mental health as well as your physical safety! Deep inside these protected structures are comfortable bunk beds, showers, kitchens, fully stocked pantries, TV’s, games, and radio/WiFi servers. Include comforting decor that you’d find in the other parts of your home and paint the walls welcoming colors. Some owners even make space for gun lock boxes and safes for valuables. Tom Len’s Pinterest board highlights examples of these lavish, high functioning rooms!
In the chance that you’re planning to sell your home in the future, adding a safe room definitely increases property value! “In the luxury home sales market, a property with a safe room is even more desirable to prominent buyers, particularly if it’s able to serve double duty.” Architectural Digest
A Safe Place for Valuable Items
Safe rooms are not only for protecting loved ones. They’ve also been used as a stronghold for valuable assets. Many people with safe rooms store expensive or precious belongings within this protected space. Installing a safe for emergency money, jewelry, art, guns and even special family heirlooms may be a wise decision. Consider the possibility of a burglary happening when you aren’t home, the criminals are unable to enter the safe room which holds the things you care for the most.
Safe rooms can also be fire resistant. So in the unfortunate chance of a house fire, you can rest assured that your valuables will have another layer of protection! “By putting any valuables in your home in a safe, it keeps them out of sight and makes your home less of a target. If burglars can’t see anything out in the open worth stealing, then they’re less likely to break in.” MNS
Give Yourself & Loved Ones the Gift of Security
Whether you are planning a major home remodel or building a new luxury custom home, now is the perfect time to build the best investment you can make in your personal safety. 2020 has been a tumultuous year. We want to help protect the community and give clients a peace of mind. You should always feel safe in your home, no matter what’s going on in the outside world.
Sleep soundly at night knowing you have a safe space for your family’s safety in case of any type of emergency. North Shore’s premier custom home builder Tom Len specializes in creating the custom luxury home that’s designed uniquely for the family that lives within it. Let us make your new year a safe one!
Tom Len Custom Homes proudly serves the following areas in Chicago’s North Shore: Northfield, Glenview, Glencoe, Deerfield, Wilmette, Winnetka, Highland Park, and Riverwoods.