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  • Jason Gunderson

Let's Talk About Safe Rooms

Updated: Mar 6

TLDR: Safe rooms come in many varieties, from tiny steel tornado vaults dug into the ground to full-featured panic rooms with tunnels leading to multiple bedrooms. Let’s design the one that’s right for you.


You already know what a safe room is: a room to keep you and your family safe in an emergency. Generally, when we speak of “safe rooms” we are talking about a place you can go to remain safe from natural disasters, like tornados or hurricanes. A subset of safe rooms is sometimes called the panic room, which is designed to keep its occupants safe from people who want to harm them. Both safe rooms and panic rooms have hardened exterior shells and usually some emergency supplies (e.g., medical kit, water, and snacks), while a panic room may also have dedicated communications equipment and a home surveillance and automation station. Let’s take a closer look at various types of safe rooms and panic rooms.


Severe weather is the most common reason to install a safe room in your home. A safe room is essentially a fortified bunker that will withstand the forces of a home coming down around it, keeping the occupants safe inside. The simplest safe room is a pre-assembled steel vault that one would install under the floor of, say, the garage. This is a great way to put shelter into an existing home. We would cut out some of the garage floor, dig a hole large enough for the vault, put the vault in and backfill around it, then install a trap door in the garage floor. The whole installation takes only a day or two. Toward the other end of the spectrum, there are many places in a home that can do double duty: walk-in closets, storage rooms, large bathrooms, under-stair spaces, wine cellars, and basements all make great locations for safe rooms. The hardened shell of a safe room can be finished in many different ways. Done properly, most people wouldn’t know they’re in a safe room if the heavy steel door didn’t give it away.



The National Weather Service currently issues tornado warnings that give residents in the affected areas about nine minutes to react. Since this is an average, some people get less while others get more. Tornadoes are fast storms. If you get nine minutes’ warning, you may only be in your safe room for 15 minutes total. In that case, a smaller space might make some sense. A safe room constructed out of a pantry, small bathroom, or the aforementioned vault under the garage floor would do the trick. If you want to be able to stay in your safe room longer, (e.g., to wait out an entire storm system), consider finishing a larger safe room as a bathroom with built-in storage for emergency supplies and enough floor space to throw down an air mattress. If you live in an area at risk for hurricanes, a larger safe room is appropriate since hurricanes are massive; you might be in that safe room for 12 hours or more. Here are some things you may want to consider putting in your safe room:

  • Toilet and sink.

  • Medical supplies and flashlight.

  • Snacks.

  • Extra clothing and blankets.

  • Device chargers and extra batteries.

  • Television.

Panic rooms take the safe room a step further by adding communications and possibly home automation and surveillance. Think dedicated land line, home automation master panel (like Control4), and closed-circuit TV. A backup generator is also a must. The panic room must also be located in a place the family can get to before intruders can. You could even go all out and build hidden tunnels from the kids’ rooms to the panic room. Here are some things to consider putting in your panic room:


  • Full plumbing.

  • Extra clothing.

  • Emergency rations and the kitchen tools necessary to use it all.

  • Medical supplies.

  • Device chargers and extra batteries.

  • Generator.

  • Dedicated land line.

  • Cameras outside the room.

  • Gas masks and oxygen.

  • Weapons.

Your safe room or panic room may not get used a lot in its capacity to keep you safe but as a bathroom or closet, you’ll use it every day. Give us a call at 615-898-9115 and let’s build a beautiful and functional room that will give you peace of mind knowing you’ll be safe in an emergency.

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