Taking care of yourself and your family is a continuous, ongoing process that requires you to constantly assess and reassess your security situation and needs.  In other words, one must be constantly thinking about how his or her own security needs are changing, and then one must adapt to the current threat environment.

Take, for example, the scourge of public shootings and stabbings that have plagued the United States and many other countries for the past few decades.  These require you to think about your everyday carry requirements, and to plan out how you will survive a mass shooting should one happen around you.

There is also the relatively more recent example of terrorist attacks that have broken out across the globe.  These often involve suicide bombers, shootings, knife attacks, and even vehicle attacks.  We have seen examples of all of these in recent years.  Again, these events require a specific response on your part to survive, all of which starts with preparedness and situational awareness.

Another, less common threat to consider is the home invasion, wherein your castle is stormed by armed invaders, be they thieves, rapists, or the like.  Additionally, consider an eruption of civil strife in your country or city, where your neighborhood turns into a battleground, and the streets become unsafe.  In both of these examples, you will need to hole up within your house and wait out events.

In the case of the latter, you might want to consider the installation of a “panic room.”  The most famous example of such a space can be found in the 2002 Jody Foster movie of the same name, in which the protagonists hide out in a panic room to escape home invaders.

Now, you might think to yourself, ‘do I really need to go this far?’  Is it likely that you will be the victim of a home invasion, or a total collapse of society, or a zombie apocalypse?  The odds are admittedly low.  Conversely, the price of installing such a room can run high.  Given those factors, perhaps such a room is not worth it.  You can be the judge, there. That is a worthwhile conversation to have within your family, and within your own mind.

Active shooter response: The reality

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If you do decide that a panic room is right for you, and fits your security needs, then here are some things you might want to consider as you plan to construct one:

Cost

Obviously, construction of a panic room can be pricey.  According to one site, prices can range from $3,000 for converting an existing closet or room to a panic room, up to $500,000 for construction of a high-end panic room with lots of amenities.  If you are going to enlist the aid of a professional designer, then the cost of that person can range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000, or more.  The costs can definitely add up.

Construction

Here, you have some options to offset the costs.  If you are going to go bare-bones, and convert an existing room or closet, than you simply need to decide what level of threat you want your room to withstand.  If you merely want to ride out a home invasion, perhaps you need simply invest in plywood sheeting to reinforce the walls, a steel door jamb, and a Grade 1 lock to keep out the bad guys.  The Grade 1 locks are the hardest to pick or disable, and are equipped with hardened cylinders, unique pin configurations, and other defenses.

If you need your panic room to withstand more substantial threats, such as tornadoes, floods, or God forbid, nuclear or biological disasters, then you will need to obviously research more extensively and spend a lot more money constructing your panic room.  You can do this during the construction process of your home, with the assistance of a security professional, or you can buy a prefabricated room, such as a tornado shelter, that you have installed under the existing garage floor, for example.

The possibilities really are limited only to your own imagination and how much you want to spend.

Supplies

Again, what you put into your panic room to help you ride out the threat all depends on what kind of threat most concerns you.  You might only need enough time to wait for the police to arrive, such that some water, a weapon, ammunition, and a telephone line (or cell phone) would be enough to keep you safe.

Active shooter response: The reality

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Or, if you are planning on riding out a long-term event, such as a societal upheaval or full-fledged Red Dawn-style hostile invasion, then you will obviously need many more varied and abundant supplies.  In this case, think food, water, an air exchange system (with filtration capabilities), power source, comfort items, ballistic protection, communications systems, sensors and cameras to tell you what is happening outside of the room, and even external security measures like command-activated pepper spray dispensers.

The supplies you will want will all depend upon how long you will be in there, and the level of threat you want to repel.  As for me, I would also need some decent wines and bourbons, just saying. 

Level of hardening and nature of the threat

As mentioned above, your level of security within the panic room depends on how “hard” you want to make it.  You can stick with simple plywood reinforcements, or you can go all out with kevlar-lined bullet, blast, and fire-resistant materials.  If cost is no concern, then you can probably find whatever you need out there with a little internet research.

Communications

In today’s cell phone-dominated world, you might not think communicating with the outside world would be a problem.  However, imagine if the cell system is down, or you cannot get a signal within your panic room.  What then? 

You will need some kind of a way to communicate with the world outside your room.  This might entail a simple intercom system to communicate with someone right outside of the room, or it might entail a more elaborate system of radio communications, for long-range communication. 

Bottom line, you don’t want to be locked away in there with no way to find out what is happening outside.

Duration of stay

This should again be a major consideration in your planning as you think about your own panic room.  If you want 30 minutes of protection until authorities can arrive, you should plan your room accordingly.  On the other end of the spectrum, if you are planning to ride out a dirty bomb detonation, then you need to plan for up to a month or more inside the room.  These two options obviously present very different requirements for construction of your room.

Capacity

Another consideration is how many people you plan to stuff inside your panic room.  If you are a family of six, then you likely need a space larger than a converted closet.  If it is just you and the wife or husband, then you can get away with a smaller space.  Do not forget to factor this in as you plan your panic room design.

Ease of access — for the good guys

Finally, ease of access to your panic room should be a major consideration.  You do not want to have to cross back through the most likely entry point for the invaders to make it to your panic room.  If you are upstairs, they are on the main level, and your room is in the basement, then that is not going to be very helpful. 

You need to be able to get in there quickly, through an easily accessible entryway, and one that can be locked up quickly.  Consider how long it will take you to do this in your planning, and maybe even drill it once construction of the room is finished.

In sum…

That really is it for your initial planning for your very own panic room.  Obviously, much more will need to go into it once you begin, but these points should help get you started.  If you find yourself thinking that it would be beneficial to keeping you alive to have a panic room, then maybe it is time to start doing some more research and putting some money away toward a security room adequate for the needs of you and your family.

(image courtesy of Creative Home Engineering).