A safe room is a room in your home where you can keep your family safe during a crisis until help arrives and, if need be, make a final stand against violent intruders. It differs from a bunker. A safe room is temporary retreat until help arrives, while a bunker is intended as a long-term alternative shelter when your entire home is unsafe.
An intruder stealing your valuables will likely leave quickly and without violence if they get what they came for. Get out if you can, leave your valuables, rather than risk your life trying to save them. Barricading yourself in a safe room is the last ditch effort but also leaves little doubt for a self-defense claim if you are forced to shoot.
Obviously plans for a newly constructed home can include a specially constructed safe room. But in most cases, you will need to identify an already existing room in your home as your safe room. Guest bathrooms, a pantry, walk-in closet, or basement rooms can all double as ideal safe rooms with some simple modifications.
A room that holds all members of your family and is easy to get to from any area of your home is best. Basic must haves for your safe room include one fortified window that doubles as your escape route, a fortified entry door, and a supply of drinkable water. Some type of toilet (a bucket of dirt or sand) is critical as you may be trapped for hours or even overnight.
In addition to the fortification measures we outline below, make sure that you and your family all know and practice getting to the identified safe room. Practice middle of the night drills and mock phone calls. Review the tips in this video for more detailed information on getting your family to your safe room and calling for help:
Fortify Against Attack
The primary purpose of a safe room is protect your family by keeping danger at bay until help arrives. Over 80% of intruders gain entry from the ground floor and 34% of those come right in your front door. The key to keeping danger out is to fortify all entry points to your home, and fortify any entry point to your safe room. This includes the doors, any windows, and even walls that could be breached.
Our first recommendation is to replace all exterior wood doors and frames with reinforced steel. Invest in reinforced locks to stop an burgalar from merely smashing in the door. Do this for your safe room door also. Fox Police Locks are dependable, require little maintenance, and won’t make your home look like a prison.
A window in your safe room is only ideal if it’s impenetrable from the outside and doubles as an escape route. Ground floor windows need window bars more than upper floor windows unless a fire escape or nearby tree make outside access easier. A rope ladder in your safe room will help you climb down from upper windows.
Reinforce all external windows in the home with shatterproof Plexiglass which should hold up to most penatration attempts. Or go all out and install bulletproof glass. Use black-out curtains where possible. It’s more difficult for an intruder to shoot you if they can’t see you.
If shooting begins, fight your instinct to move to the farthest wall, the path of bullets widens as it leaves the gun, which means you are actually safer crouched against the wall nearest the shooter. A sledgehammer against a brick wall or even the weakest caliber firearms will penatrate a standard wall though so these must be reinforced so budget for this expense.
Invest in steel stud walls or Kevlar disguised with drywall or other wall coverings if budget allows. Remember to reinforce any other access points to the room such as for plumbing, light fixtures, or duct work.
For basement safe rooms, choose the room where solid earth surrounds at least two walls and reinforce others. Remember to consider the possibility of an intruder shooting down into the ceiling from the first floor and reinforce at least the area of ceiling directly over your safe room with chicken wire or steel sheeting.
Cement walls are great barriers and fireproof walls in between apartments in high rises are typically cement. Of course if budget is not a concern, you can bomb proof your safe room with steel plates in the walls. A low budget option is to use heavy furniture against the walls to slow down and maybe stop a ballastic attack.
Call for Help
Once safe inside, call 911 for help and give as much detail about your family, safe room location, and the intruder as you can. A landline is good but can be cut from the basement or outside unless it’s separate or buried. Most prepper EDC includes a cell phone and charger, but storing a fully charged back-up cell and ham radio is good too.
Keep in mind police will hesitate to enter your home during an active stand-off unless you make it clear they can do so without putting your family at additional risk. Consider a walkie-talkie that can be left with a trusted neighbor as the ultimate back-up plan to get help and provide situation updates to help police.
Stock your Safe Room Well
Once you and your family are barricaded in your safe room, you won’t come out until help arrives or the threat is gone. This could be be several minutes to several hours, or even days in a SHTF scenario. Stock your safe room well so that you and your family have what you need to ride out a dangerous situation.
The first priority, as mentioned above, is communication so you can call for help and get frequent updates on what’s happening outside of your home. Make sure the room you’ve chosen not only has an extra cell phone and charger, but an electrical outlet to plug into. A second security system alarm panel and direct-dial phone are good to have.
Next, you need to have supplies of food and water, any needed prescription medication, weapons and extra ammo. A first aid kit with items needed to treat gunshot wounds and other injuries is a must. A flashlight will come in handy if power has been disconnected.
If possible, set up your home security system so that you can view it from a monitor inside your safe room. This will let you know when an intruder is close and update police on the intruder’s location and help you determine what weapons you are up against. Record images of the intruder will also help in identifying him if he does get away.
Include personal hygiene items as well as some type of mattress and blankets and a couple of chairs if space permits. In case of a radiation event, stock potassium iodide tablets. Protect against tear gas or other chemical methods to flush you out with a hospital-type ventilation system. Gas masks are a good alternative for the average prepper.
If the intruder manages to get into your safe room, you will have no choice but to fire your weapon. A gunshot, or several, in a small room will be deafening. Agree on hand signals in advance to communicate in case hearing is affected. Stock ear protection for you and your family as well as bullet proof vests and some type of portable shield against gunfire.
After an intruder invasion, be prepared to recover financially. Keep copies of any important documents, a list and photos of valuable items, and some cash tucked away in your safe room. Have at least one credit card with open credit as well as a list of any credit card numbers the intruder may have so you can cancel those quickly.
The best way to avoid an attack is to not be there so get out safely whenever possible and use your safe room when there is no other option. With a little advanced preparation, any average person can have a predetermined safe room to protect their family during a home invasion or other unexpected threat.
Which room of your house will make the best safe room? What’s one thing you can you do right now to make sure it’s ready for use?