Panic rooms or safe rooms originate far back in history. Depending on the situation these could be a great tool for women's self defense.
The idea of a panic room was adapted for personal security as well as the safety of our material treasures.
Castles had “castle keeps” and in 17th century England the Catholic
Priests had “priest holes". In the 1800s the United States used such
rooms as part of the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves. These
rooms are now evolving into “safe cores” in newly constructed residences
consisting of a fortified part of the ground floor or even basement.
A panic room or safe room can be used during break-ins or weather emergencies.
The 2002 movie “Panic Room” starring Jodie Foster demonstrated the upper end of panic room construction. One of my favorite scenes was when one of the bad guys tries to stop the door with his hand and looses his fingers- YIKES! Of course, only in Hollywood would a guy continue through the most of the movie with a bloody rag on his hand and finger stumps.
Most of us do not have the money at our disposal to construct such an elaborate safe room. A room like that could cost between $50,000 and $500,000, especially when you include the electronic surveillance system. If you do have a panic room installed it is best to keep it as much a secret as possible.
Let’s say that your house is already built and you don’t have a lot of spare cash lying around. Here are some suggestions to turn an existing room into a panic room.
First decide what exactly are you going to hide from; intruders, dangerous weather or both? For the sake of thoroughness, let’s go with both.
Weather concerns dictate that the room be in the lower center of the house- no windows. This could be a current walk-in closet or a bathroom or even a basement. A bathroom could be useful with its water supply and access to personal hygiene products. A bathtub has saved a few lives during a tornado. A closet is generally more comfortable (carpeting and clothing) and larger with places to store extra food and water supplies. A basement is probably the largest yet with lots of room to store supplies.
Whatever choice you make for your safe room the door will take the most special care. You will need to install steel door jams. The frame and strike plate will need to be upgraded. The door must be solid, no hollow like most interior doors. It should be installed so that the hinges are not exposed when closed. Install a dead bolt. If you are able to disguise the door so that it is undetectable, all the better.
There should be a telephone or ham radio in the safe room. If it is a land-line phone it should be a totally separate line from the rest of the house- so if the other line is cut you’ll still have this one working. Having a cell phone and charger would also work if you remember it in your rush to get to the room.
How long do you expect to be in this room? In the case of a break-in, just long enough for the police to get there after you have called them, or until the robbery is over. Hopefully not long enough to worry about food and water.
For weather emergencies we’re probably talking a day at the longest for a tornado. The actual storm is just a few hours (a few minutes for the actual tornado), but if you are trapped by damage you could wait a day for the rescue personnel to get you out.
For social distancing due to a pandemic disease outbreak- 6 weeks. O.K. that’s a whole other issue.
Depending on the area of the room available for storage and the threat that is causing use of the room here is a list of possible supplies to stock in your panic room:
I also read a suggestion to have a high voltage stun gun under a rug
just inside the door in case the intruders do manage to break into your
safe room. I like that idea.