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Houston Safe Rooms

What is a Safe Room or Panic Room?

A safe room is an access controlled, fortified or “hardened” room (walk-in-vault) where you and your family members can go, quickly sealing the door behind you and remaining safe until police or law enforcement officers can assist in clearing the premises.

These rooms are quickly becoming a standard design in new, larger homes and a common retrofit in existing homes, where business owners and executives want to provide a safe area for family members to gather in the event of a break in or home invasion. Combined with alarm activated roll-down walls, your family or, in a commercial application, employees will have additional time and opportunity to get to a secure location.


Commonly located in or off of the master bedroom closet, newer designs are incorporating multiple paths from other bedrooms to a small closet sized room with protected walls, ceilings and floors. Additionally, safes, weapons and vaults can be located in or connected to a safe room so that access is protected.

The doors are usually steel or hardened and re-enforced to prevent someone from breaking through or shooting into the room.

A single button activates access and automatic closure and can only be opened from inside or by electronic access on the outside. The outer walls are either steel plate and plywood or concrete block with steel re-enforcement to make them bullet and battering ram proof. Options may include:

  • Access doors behind bookshelves, faux walls and under stairwells.
  • Bullet proofing fabric or steel
  • Waterproofing
  • Separate ventilation systems and air infiltration
  • Battery backup powered lights and power supply for communication and camera system
  • Cameras to view activities in and outside the home. Interior cameras should be covert.
  • Hidden roll down walls to protect additional areas of the home
  • Electric toilets for longer duration stays for severe weather or standoffs
  • Noise deterrents – Sound generating devices that make it physically impossible to remain in the home

There is usually phone, cellular and backup communication, back up power and other options to keep you in communication with law officials. Additionally, lights and sirens can selectively be activated to alert neighbors and passerby’s. For longer duration stays AND in the event of hurricane’s and tornado’s, an accessible water supply and toilet is necessary.

Secure Safe Core Concept

When it is impractical to provide access to a safe room for all occupants of a residence, the Safe Core concept comes into play. Safe Cores are areas of the house most commonly occupied that can be “Shut Off” from access when a threat is recognized or alarm systems are activated.

One example is to shut down access to the second floor when the alarm is activated. Using a non-evasive design, the top of the stair case can be secured in seconds using a drop down gravity barrier that locks. This would prevent access to the bedrooms on that level from within the house. Second floor access and windows need to be reviewed to assure this design can be implemented.

Optional Closed Circuit Surveillance Camera’s provide views of the exterior and interior of the residence to assist in the location of the intruders.

Pre Alarm System

Electronic devices can provide “pre alarm” notification to the home occupants. From driveway sensors, Infared Photo beams, exterior camera’s with motion activated alarm outputs, all allow a pre-alarm activation to alert of a possible threat. If your home’s compound is fully fenced, then electronic penetration detection systems can provide those few extra seconds needed to get to the safe area(s).

These systems can also communicate with systems to turn on additional lighting, activate strobes, activate voice drivers to warn off intruders or lock electronic locks securely on all exterior doors. If you are planning a new residence, these designs can be incorporated in the design to save additional time and cost in installation.

Although a good panic room should be used for only a few minutes until help arrives, some have additional features for longer stays, including electric toilets, water supplies and propane gas operated refrigerators.

Once you have created a safe room in your home, remember the following:

Create a family plan for when and how to use the safe room

Keep your perimeter security system active whenever possible.

Have non-threatening drills with young children

Stock the safe room in advance with emergency supplies

If possible, have a trickle charge UPS for power and light or buy some battery operated stick up lighting.

Assume power and phone lines will be cut, so have a dedicated cellular phone in the room and keep it charged. Buy Purchase a pre-paid Walmart phone to avoid monthly bills..

Call the police and confirm your security monitoring company also called.

Refuse to come out of the safe room until police arrive

Remain calm…remember it’s not a panic room, it is a safe room.

Commercial & Industrial

Provide your staff secure passage to a safe “zone’ and reasonable security from the general public or disgruntled employees. Start with your public access areas, protecting receptionists, management and executives.

When considering the benefit of such a room for your business or executive offices, be sure you also enhance your existing electronic security system with backup cellular communication and additional perimeter security.

Any device allowing early detection of a threat can increase the time allowance to get to safety. In a gated, fenced area, this “pre-alarm” feature can provide several seconds head start. Conference rooms can be quickly converted to a secure mustering point.

Please read my blog on safe rooms above for additional information.

Call me if you have any questions.


Steven Carr

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