Pressing the Panic Button: Essentials for Creating a Panic Room

Written by | Updated July 23, 2013

Nothing is more important than the safety of you and your family. When you feel it’s time to take security to the next level, a panic room may be just the measure you need to sleep better at night. These secure sanctuaries keep you safe in the event of a break-in and allow you to seek assistance while remaining safe and protected. And you don’t need to be a billionaire to add this security feature to your home.

Whether you’ve been a victim of stalking or simply want to feel more protected in the event of a home invasion, here are some basics for building your own panic room.

First Things First

Just because you’re putting in a panic room doesn’t mean you can overlook the importance of external security systems. The best case scenario in the event of an attempted break-in is to fend off the intruder before you have to resort to the panic room. An external alarm, security cameras and/or third-party monitoring should be a part of your home security strategy, no matter what. Use the SafeWise security system finder to discover the ideal system for your home. And if that doesn’t deter the burglar, then you have a head start to get in your panic room and call for help.

Location, Location, Location

It won’t do you any good to have a panic room that no one can get to when you need it. You need to find an interior room without windows that you can transform into a safe room. A bedroom or centrally-located closet is often the perfect choice, given that there is enough space for the number of people you need to protect. When calculating space needs, a good rule of thumb is to plan on about 10 square feet of floor space per person. While many people are tempted to build a panic room in the basement or garage, these locations aren’t easily accessible if someone is already in your house or gets in faster than you can get to your panic room.


Don’t Forget the Triple D

The triple D’s — Door, Deadbolt and Doorframe — are the foundation of creating an impenetrable space. Putting in a solid core, outside door won’t do much good if the doorframe can be broken with enough force. You need to put in a reinforced doorframe along with a new door and you should make sure it can withstand the full force of a man around 180 pounds repeatedly kicking or slamming himself against it. And make sure that you replace short screws with longer ones in all hinges.

In addition, you want to install a heavy duty deadbolt. It’s worth considering a one-sided deadbolt that you can throw closed after securing the doorknob. When shopping for locks keep in mind that your goal is to keep the door secured in the doorframe, so you may also want to add foot locks or floor bars. If the intruder has to remove the whole doorframe to get in, you’ve bought yourself precious time for help to get there.

Stay Connected

You want to stay physically separate from an intruder, but you also want to be able to call for help and you certainly don’t want to be at the mercy of a cellular signal. Make sure you have a backup phone line installed specifically for the panic room. A ham radio is another surefire way to make sure you are able to call the police. And once you get them on the line, make sure you stay on the phone. Not only do you need to keep the police updated about what is happening at your house, but the recorded phone call may be helpful if you go to court.

Monitors and cameras that can give you a play-by-play of what’s happening outside the panic room are also a good idea. You can find systems that include cameras and monitors at places like Sam’s Club and Best Buy starting at around $200.

Lock and Load

If you use a gun for home security it is imperative that you use a safe to keep the gun away from curious youngsters or other accidental discovery. With the addition of a panic room to your security plan it makes sense to keep your gun safe in the panic room. After all, you’ve put the room in to buy yourself time, so you shouldn’t need to come out with guns blazing at the first sign of trouble.


Simple Comforts

No panic room is complete without some basic essentials like blankets, flashlights, a first-aid kit, and food and water. Make sure that you regularly rotate out the food and water in the safe room to ensure freshness, as well as test flashlights and other battery-operated supplies to make sure they’re still working. Hopefully you won’t be in your panic room for more than the time it takes for help to arrive, but, just in case, plan on one gallon of water per person per day. It’s smart to have about three days’ worth of supplies on hand.

Do you think adding a panic room is a good idea for your home and family?

Written by Elli Bishop

Elli is a safety and security expert for the Safewise team. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, practicing yoga, and spending time with friends and family. Learn more

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