Keep calm and carry on – building a panic room in your home

There’s a mystique that many mid-century homes exudes. Maybe it’s the unpretentious architecture and retro-future feel that many people find charming. However, the homes also bring us back to a different time and place; yes, these homes remind us of the cold war era. During the height of the cold war, people went about their lives aspiring to advance in their careers, buying homes, and for many – having a bomb shelter of their own. Although building a personal bomb shelter in the back yard during the cold war may not have been as common as we are lead to believe; however, those who had a shelter of their own were most likely well known to their neighbors.

Although bomb shelters are passé today, finding ways to protect yourself in your home is once again trendy, and some say may be increasingly necessary. Today’s version of the in-house shelter is called a “panic room” (also known as a “safe room”). And like the movie “Panic Room,” the room may be able to offer shelter during a home invasion; but it can also offer shelter from other emergencies such as severe weather – and possibly some acts of terror.

When you think of a safe room, you might picture an elaborate shelter with provisions and amenities that will allow you to stay put for a couple of days or even a week or two. And in fact, FEMA ( describes a safe room as “…a hardened structure specifically designed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria and provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.” FEMA offers plans and funding opportunities to build a safe room in your home.

As you can imagine, building a panic room can get expensive, especially if you are planning for long term shelter and for a variety of emergency situations. Many spend tens of thousands of dollars in designing their shelters. And even though you may not consider yourself a “prepper;” however, it is possible to create a basic shelter room with limited funds.

The Allstate Blog (Brendan ONeill; Storm Shelter? Safe Room? Build Your Own Ultimate Secure Shelter;, May 22, 2013) states that a safe room is simply “… a secure, reinforced, well-stocked room where individuals can go to avoid the risks and potential dangers that may arise in other parts of a home.” When designing a “shelter room” consider the basics. Choose a room that has no windows, impervious to flooding and is as close to ground level as possible (Allstate suggests a garage or a main level room). Consider reinforcing the room with a solid core or steel door, as well as lining the walls with plywood or other materials (some suggest metal sheathing or Kevlar). The room should be stocked with supplies that include emergency food, water, and first aid. Don’t forget communication devices, which should include a battery operated radio. A more elaborate panic room may include close circuit video monitors, a toilet and/or shower, and even a separate ventilation system.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2015

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.