How to Build a Safe Room

How to build a safe room or panic room can seem like a confusing task but it doesn’t have to be. Building a safe room or a panic room as some like to call it can be broken down into small doable steps if done right. Let’s discuss the basic steps then.

Determine safe room size requirements

Are you building this safe room for yourself or for multiple people. How many things do you want to store in your safe room. A safe room should really serve two purposes. The first should be to store some of your valuables out of sight. This is the “safe” in safe room. Most of the time people build safe rooms and they are mainly for protecting themselves but if you never use it, then what good is it. You could put tens of thousands of dollars into building a room that you don’t get much use out of. But you may rationalize that if you do need it, then it is there. That is a good argument, but why not have it serve a dual purpose as well and have it actually protect your valuables.

So then if you know how many valuables you have, then choose how to store them. Then also choose how to store some food as well. How long will you be in your safe room?  This would determine how much food you might need down there. Ideally you would want to have some time for help to arrive. You can’t stay in the safe room indefinitely though.  Remember all of those sieges done long ago. The people in the castles couldn’t really outlast a determined foe. The safe room gets you safe for a moment in time and then you try to get from there to somewhere else safe or await until rescue comes.

Determine safe room exit routes

Do you want to get from your safe room to somewhere else? If so, then you will need an exit route from there. An ideal safe room should have an exit route that cannot be seen by others. That allows you to convince others that you are still inside the safe room while you are getting away.

This might sound like a lot of work though but consider this idea. If you build your house on the side of a hill, then you can use the natural layout of the hill to put in the safe room exit route. This doesn’t have to be complex but it needs to be sturdy. That is because with dirt on the sides, your walls need to be very strong. For this I would use pre poured concrete walls. The types that are used for basements. These are reinforced with rebar and are very strong. You would essentially want to build a tunnel and then have the shaft come out underneath your safe room. Your exit would be through the floor.  This is actually not that expensive if you are doing new construction. If you are doing existing contraction or a retrofit, then you might want to consider alternatives.

Determine safe room ventilation needs

Safe rooms can serve a multitude of purposes. It may not be that your home is being invaded but you are trying to ride out some natural disaster. If that is the case, then the safe room acts as a protected area to keep you out of harms way. If the air though is contaminated though, your ventilation to the safe room needs to be purified. That can get quite expensive but it’s important to think about. You can get filtration systems that filter out harmful pollutants. Water based filtration systems work well by cycling the air through the water and return back purified air. You can get chemical based filtration systems as well. These are more expensive but are one time type use systems. But then again, when you need a system, then you need to have it.

Determine safe room door needs

Doors to safe rooms can be simple or complex. I  know of people who have purchased used bank vault doors to put on their safe rooms. These are very expensive and you need to consider that if you are going to install something like that, that you will need to make some renovations to allow for the install. Retrofitting something is often times more difficult that just buying it outright. You can get a company to install a safe room door for you. That option works well. You need to consider how airtight you want your safe room to be. Do you want to allow contaminated air to come into your safe room? If you want to keep it safe from outside pollutants, then that is something to consider.

Determine safe room power needs

Do you need to have 120 power or higher? What types of equipment will you have in your safe room. Usually 120 power is enough for most needs but you should determine where this power is to come from. I would recommend setting up a backup power source. This could be a car battery. Where is your power source found at and how does it make it into the safe room? If the power coming into your safe room can be easily compromised then you are without power and in a locked room. That is an isolation from the outside. That is not a good position to be in. So consider how to protect your power inside your safe room if you need to. That brings me to my next point.

Determine safe room your communication needs

How will you communicate with the outside world when you are in your safe room? This is an important thing to consider. You can use a phone line if you want but phone lines can be cut. One of the better options is to have a backup communications type system. Most people have cell phones today but cell phones don’t always get the best reception. Go simple and get a radio system.  Radio system can reach a long ways. You can easily communicate over long distances and can get you help. These can be CB radios, two way radios, or HF radios. HF radios are easy to buy and work well but you need to have an antenna system going out to the outside world. Consider how to secure the antenna as well because you don’t want someone to tamper with that.

Determine safe room camera needs

In the movie Panic Room with Jodie Foster, she had cameras setup in her safe room. That was a nice setup because she had some visibility to what was going on out there. You can do this too if you setup cameras outside your system. This means that you need to go back to one of he prior items above, how much power do you need to have in your safe room. No power means no cameras. No cameras means you just wasted your money on the cameras.

Are you starting to see how all of the items tie together now. If you miss out on one, then you may be stuck with another issue later on.

Plan out your safe room carefully and then when you are all done you will be happy with the results. This is just like any other building project. You need to first consider your priorities and then consider how you want to use the space and go from there.