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So it is that good warriors take their stand
on ground where they cannot lose, and do not overlook
conditions that make an opponent prone to defeat
                                    Sun Tzu
                                    Art of War

Safe Room

On this page:
Why would you need a safe room? | External systems are your first warning | An outside door inside | Reinforced doorframe | Multiple locks | shatter proof glass | Heavy curtains | Phone | Safe/Gun safe | Monitors/alarm system/ cameras

There is an old cliché "A man's home is his castle." Nothing makes that truer than a safe room, and it doesn't matter what gender you are either. Katie doesn't have to bar the door, anyone can -- man, woman or child.

In essence a safe room is any room you select that has been modified to withstand an all-out assault by a home invader or invaders. Although bedrooms are the usual choice, any room with one door that can be locked can be used. If you live in a multi-level house you can go so far as to have one on each floor, but that would only be if you are being actively stalked or rich enough to be kidnapped. (Although, if you are working in an unstable country where kidnapping of executives is common, that might not be a bad idea).

The movie Panic Room with Jody Foster showed an extreme example of a dedicated, high tech -- and quite frankly ugly -- safe room. However, you don't have to go that far. You can create a workable safe room without 
a) destroying the decor of your home, 
b) disrupting the utility of the room or 
c) the safety measures even showing.

Yes it is a safe room, but it is also your bedroom and it doesn't have to look like a bunker.

Why would you need a safe room?
The idea of a safe room is that in case of home invasion (for whatever reason) you have a fortified sanctuary that you can retreat to and summon help. It's not to bunker down and have a shoot out, it is where a smaller, weaker (or unarmed) person can be safe while waiting for reinforcements to arrive. In one sense, it's so you don't have to have a shoot out between you and an intruder. In another, if the intruder does break through the room's defenses, it is pretty cut and dried that it was self-defense -- even in states with a duty to retreat statute.

The creation of a safe room is critical for women who are being stalked. It can be important for families with children of any age. First off, although a woman protecting her child can be the most ferocious guardian, realistically it is far more common for a woman to sacrifice herself in an attempt to protect the child -- usually by curling around and shielding the child. This way she, not the child is damaged. The problem is you cannot effectively defend yourself, while protecting a child this way. A safe room makes this whole issue moot.

Second, no child can successfully fight off an adult attacker. The adult's superior mass will overwhelm the child. However, a child can run to safety. Third, putting it bluntly teenagers do stupid things now and then. And if they do stupid things with not nice people, them having a safe room is a very good idea. (If nothing else it also gives squabbling siblings a means to end the fight).

While home invasion robberies are becoming more common, realistically, with a safe room, just closing your bedroom door at night is the best defense against waking up with a burglar in your room or a break-in rapist on top of you.

This is especially true in bad neighborhoods and college towns where such break-ins are common.


External systems are your first warning
It often appalls us the extreme nature of much of the advice that many so-called "experts" give about personal safety. We were once on a forum specifically for instructors of Women's Self-Defense (after you see this you'll know why we left). Someone asked a question that was so outrageous that our jaws dropped in amazement. She was afraid of being attacked in the shower, so her question was: How could she carry a gun while showering?

As stunned as we were by this question, it was nothing in comparison to the shock we experienced when instructors -- who, incidentally, prided themselves on their shooting training -- started answering her! Instead of telling this woman to seek therapy, they came up with ideas about plastic bags and highly placed shower pegs.

The question was paranoid enough, but the magnitude the stupidity, absurdity and extremism of the answers was  astounding. What is going on in your life that you can reasonably expect to be attacked in the shower? And yet these people thought it was perfectly normal to carry a gun in the shower "in case, you were attacked."

This went on for a few days with the arguments getting more and more absurd, until finally Marc erupted. His contention was that carrying a gun in shower is a ludicrous and paranoid idea. The solution wasn't going to be found in gun or self-defense, the answer to the problem was in home security.

Afraid of getting attacked in the shower? Try locking your doors and windows before you get into the shower. That way, you can hear him breaking in.

Immediately he was barraged with a slew of "Well what if you don't hear him break in?"

Shocked that he even had to answer, he responded with "Buy an alarm system"

Again the challenging questions came. "What if you can't afford an alarm service?"  Around this time we began to wonder what planet these people were from(1). Okay, so what if you can't afford a hi-tech service? There are cheap alternatives. For example: Get door and window squealers (little devices that sound an alarm when moved). If you are in a situation where someone is after you, then paying the $20 to equip all your doors and windows is well worth it. They aren't expensive and they aren't hard to find, we've even seen them in the check out line in Wal-mart.

But again these so-called "self-defense experts" argued for helplessness and blindness. Locking doors? Alarm systems? Door and window squealers? That would be too much trouble. The whole idea of home security as a warning system was foreign to these people, because they were so lost in fantasy. To them carrying a gun in the shower seemed like a good idea. We can just imagine them saying to themselves "Wowie kazowie, why hadn't I ever thought of that?"

Do anything you can that will give you warning and time to get to the safe room. You don't need to carry a gun in the shower  You can run  wet, naked and soapy to the safe room just as well as you can dry and clothed. The trick, in both cases, is early warning. Time that you can use to get to safety. Many means to create an effective home security system and the pyramid of personal safety are available elsewhere on this site. You don't have to go so far as to try to figure out how to keep a gun in the shower.


An outside door inside
There is a difference between inside doors and outside doors. In older, wooden doors the difference is between hollow core and solid core. Primarily for insulation purposes, a solid core door is one solid piece. This also serves as a security measure, as it is difficult to break through three inches of solid wood. Hollow core doors are for use inside. Hollow core doors are far lighter than solid core and they are less effective for both insulation and security. The reason they are lighter is because they are designed like corrugated  cardboard (like you see with larger cardboard boxes). In between the two flat surfaces there are thin struts holding them apart.

Hollow core doors are designed to provide privacy, sound buffering and climate control inside your home -- not security. The problem with hollow core doors is that they can be kicked or punched through. Worse yet, they are easily shot through and quickly fold to either body checks or blows from a heavy object. As such they are not appropriate for a safe room door. If you are in a home with older style doors, the safe room should have a solid core door.

Most modern houses however come with decorative and molded doors. But again there is still a difference between an inside and outside door. The nice thing about this modern selection is that the same type of door comes in different thickness. To have consistency in the look of the house, the same type of door can come in both indoor and outdoor models. To start your safe room, you simply take an outside door and put it inside. That doesn't mess up your decor either.

Reinforced doorframe
Any lock is only as good as what is around it. Most door locks can be simply by-passed by applying enough force until the frame breaks. Therefore, for your safe room you are not only going to put in a heavier door, but also reinforce the doorframe.

Doing this in older homes is described on the home security page in the door section. It takes some work, but if you do while re-painting the bedroom, you'll never notice the embedded security measures.

With more modern homes, the doorframe is usually sold along with the door. So when you upgrade to an outside door, you are also upgrading the door frame. Although you might want to consult with the salesman about also upgrading the frame to something bigger and stronger.

Without going into metal security doors, the general standard you are shooting for is something that can withstand the full force of a 180 pound man repeatedly slamming himself into the door. That's a lot of force and the salesman should be able to tell you how much force the doorframe is rated for.

We're going to change tracks here. When it comes to personal safety, Hollywood is our greatest enemy. Not only do they promote the concept of unstoppable bad guys, but they credit them with super-genius. The evil stalker knows how to cut the phone lines and isolate the terrified woman. How in the blue blazes do you cut the "lines" of a cell phone? Cut the power so the alarm system doesn't work? How does he know to do it exactly when you are in the shower so you don't know your alarm system is down? Much less the fact that you might just notice the lights going out ... even if you are in the shower. As such, you have warning that something is wrong. And yet, these fools were working themselves up into a frenzy because all these things "could" happen. And that is why you need to carry a gun in the shower.

When we mention safe rooms, most people's minds flash to all the movies where a damsel in distress desperately tries to close the door against an evil attacker who is body checking it from the other side. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but that's called "Drama." That scenario is far more dramatic and vivid than heading towards the safe room while the attacker is trying to get in. You don't wait until he is in the front room, you run when he is crawling through the window. That is what early warning systems are for! So you can get the door closed and locked before you end up in a shoving match over closing the door.


Multiple locks
First off you are going to be replacing indoor door knobs with heavier outdoor locking knobs. A one-sided deadbolt is also not unreasonable. After the doorknob lock is engaged you throw the deadbolt. Multiple locks distribute the impact over a greater area thereby reducing the chance of frame failure. They also share the load between locks thereby lessening the chance of lock failure.

Speaking of lock failure, we are not big fans of "different distance" locks. By this we mean secondary measures like chains or the flip style of locks that you find in hotel rooms. These supposedly allow you to open the door and peer out in safety. Unfortunately these locks consistently prove themselves ineffective against full body assaults; they tear out of the doorframe too easily.

The same physics make them unreliable for secondary lines of security. Any number of people will put these on after locking the door thinking they are added security. They aren't. The truth is, if your primary locks fail, these will not stop the door from being opened. All it is going to take is another body check.

Therefore, any additional locks that you put on the door must further secure the door into the doorframe. Deadbolts are good, so two are floor bars and foot locks. What you want with safe room locks is once they are thrown, if you don't have keys that door isn't going to budge. Anyone on the outside trying to get in is going to have to take the doorframe out of the wall.

If you have kids in the house (or are currently being stalked) you might want to consider putting in a keypad lock. While they are not particularly attractive, they can be set so they automatically lock when the door is closed. If, on the rare chance, you find yourself in a race to the safe room all you have to do is slam the door. This is especially important for kids who might not remember to close and then lock the door. The keypad makes it a second's work for you to get in without a key. (This is also why we recommend them for the front door too...especially if your kids are always forgetting a) to lock the door and b) their keys). From the inside the door opens as easily as a regular knob so there is no hindrance getting out in case of fire or other nighttime crisis. A keypad lock is also useful for avoiding embarrassing explanations to your kids why the door was locked when you and your SIG want privacy. It was locked because the door was question?

If you are really determined that nobody is going to batter their way into your safe room there is the old style Fox Police Locks. In essence these are a steel bar  contraption that you barricade the door with. One end goes into the floor and the other end into the door. The bar sits at an angle and serves as a brace. The nice thing about this kind of system is that when not in use, the bar sits unobtrusively behind the door. The only thing you see is the groove in the floor and the slot on the door. Or there is the ugly side-to-side version that literally bars the door. In either case, nothing short of a police battering ram is going to come through that door.


Shatterproof glass
Going back to the movie Panic Room, Jodie Foster had an entirely enclosed, video monitored, high tech control room for her safe room. Well, unless you are a rich paranoid or you just won the lottery, it really isn't necessary to go that far. However, since -- for a variety of reasons -- the bedroom is the most common choice for a safe room, you're going to have to address the issue of windows in your safe room.

Instead of upgrading and reinforcing existing windows, you can buy complete security windows. These come with shatterproof glass and are a bear to break in through. While it would be ideal to replace all the windows in your home with such a system, realistically the only windows you really have to replace are in your safe room.

While it might not seem easier to replace an entire window, the fact is that what you will get by doing so is more complete protection than if you try to piecemeal a solution onto your current windows. If you do not want to go the expense of replacing the windows, then the window security information on the home security page should be followed. However, whatever else you do or don't do, at the very least, we strongly suggest that you put shatterproof laminate on the windows. While security glass is better, this transparent sheeting prevents the window from being easily shattered. As such, he cannot reach through and open the locks.

Heavy curtains
It is important to keep an attacker from being able to see into your safe room. After his attempts to get through the door has failed, odds are he is going to go after the window. While for some unexplained reason there is a tendency not to shoot through doors and walls, the same doesn't apply to windows -- especially if he can see you. That is why heavy curtains or blinds are necessary. They not only cut his view off of you, but you of him.

Let's take this to the worst case scenario. The odds are against him hitting you while firing blindly through the window -- especially if you are either hunkered down or laying in a corner of the wall that the window is in (2). It may sound strange to position yourself against the wall closest to the shooter, but figure that the bullets are going to be traveling down ever- widening angle lines from the shooter's position. It is easy for him standing in one spot outside the window to spray bullets into the far wall from one corner to the other. That's why you don't want to be against it or hiding in a closet opposite the window.

However, in order to hit you when you are against the window wall he would have to run the entire length of the room firing blindly through the walls or stand back with an assault rifle and hose your home with banana clips worth of bullets -- neither are particularly likely.

The heavy curtains blind him so he doesn't know where you are in the room. Nor does he know if you are now armed and capable of firing back. While he may not know where you are in the room, you know where he is...just outside the window. And unlike you, he's backlit. In another case, if he does manage to break through the window, while he's trying to get past the curtains to look around and find you, you're swinging a baseball bat...if he's lucky. If not, what you're swinging is much worse.

Those are the worst case scenarios. More realistically -- especially when dealing with stalkers -- they've juiced themselves up on liquid courage. Climbing through rose bushes or up to the second story windows or standing on a roof pitch/in a rose bush while trying to swing hard enough to get through shatterproof glass while drunk often becomes a self-solving problems. Alcohol and gravity are a bad combo, so are thorn bushes and booze. But in either case he won't see you call the cops...or the ambulance.

There is a final factor as to why heavy drapes or blinds are important. It is a terrifying experience to be assaulted...especially in your own home. By cutting off direct visual contact with him, it is easier for you to remain calm and function. Yes you will hear screaming, yelling, pounding and crashes as he beats on the doors and windows, but you won't be looking him in the eye. For reasons beyond the scope of this Web page this significantly increases your ability to function. The safe room has bought you time to call the police, activate security systems and -- if that is your choice -- arm yourself. When and if he gets in, then you will be prepared.

The most important piece of equipment for your safe room is the phone. It is what allows you to communicate with the outside world. It's what allows you to not only call the cavalry, but to communicate with them and direct them when they arrive.

Again Hollywood has filled people's minds with lurid images of juggernaut murderers who cut the phone lines before chasing scantily clad women down the hallways of their own homes. The truth is most of these clowns wouldn't know where to begin to look in order to cut the phone line. If they even had the brains to remember to do so. And quite frankly in these days of cell phones, roam phones, DSL lines, dish networks, etc, cutting a phone line doesn't do all that much. You just pick up the cell or internet phone.

Basically, most home invasions rely on their speed and ferocity to overwhelm you before you can make a call. Their problem with you in a safe room is that they can't keep you from calling out.

When you get 911 stay on the line!

Not only will you be reassured by talking to the operator, but you will be able to tell the police where he is. It also creates a recording of the incident and what is happening. This will be used in court. Staying on line is especially true if you have some kind of home defense weapon. Inform the operator that you are in your safe room and armed. Police HATE coming onto a property with an armed owner and an intruder, not only because of their chances of getting shot, but shooting you. The constant two way communication of where you each are through the 911 operator is going to go miles to keep lethal mistakes from happening. If they know you're safely locked in the bedroom than the guy who is popping up with a gun isn't friendly

Safe/Gun safe
We recommend that you have a safe -- for a variety of reasons.

First, if you have children the gun needs to go into either the home safe or a specially designed gun safe. Really, let's be truthful, how often do your children listen when you tell them to do their chores? Do you really think they aren't going to play with the gun even if you tell them not to touch it? Putting it in a safe, keeps that from happening when you are not home.

As the better modern safes have keypads, so too do the better gun safes. Gun safes come in all sizes, but the ones we recommend for home defense hold a single pistol, attach to the wall, have either glow in the dark buttons or are electronically lit (with battery back up) and can be quickly opened. A loaded pistol is in your hands in seconds, but not in your children's. Even better, you can get these safes with a "three strikes you're out" system. After three wrong codes are punched in, the system shuts down. This keeps kids from spending hours randomly punching in codes.

Second, remember we're talking safe room here. By definition you've bought time. So the need for instant access to blazin' guns is non-existent. If because of kids and the potential need to come out of the safe room, then that wall mounted unit is the best way to keep your kids safe and give you quick access. Other than that, keeping it in the safe in the closet is nice way to soothe any concerns about having a loaded gun in the house.

Third, it's a good idea to have a safe bolted to your closet floor anyway. In the old days, burglars just grabbed jewelry, TVs and VCRS, now your biggest concern isn't the burglary, it's identity theft. If a criminal gets a hold of your important papers you're in deep trouble. The problem is you don't know where it will stop. The burglar who steals your papers probably won't use them, but he will sell them to someone who will. A passport sells on the street for upwards to a $1000. Old driver licenses and credit card statements give an ID thief everything he needs. Boxes of blank checks? There's an invite to not only having your account cleaned out, but lots of bad checks passed with your name on the checks. There's even been cases of houses trying to be sold when the deed has been stolen. Keep your important paper work and your gun in a safe in the safe room.

The safe room and the safe give you an additional option for security, and that's when you are on vacation or at work. Now you have layers upon layers that a criminal must get through before he can ruin your life -- especially if you have a keypad on your safe room/bedroom door and you get in the habit of closing it when you leave.

Monitors/alarm system/cameras
As we mentioned on the stalkers solutions page advances in security technology have driven prices down to a rock bottom. We have seen a four camera, split screen video surveillance and recording system for as low as $150 dollars... at a SAMS Club (That's a Wal-mart on steroids). Such a unit can easily be patched into the TV in your bedroom to give you an exact idea where the intruder is and what he is doing. And if you are watching him on the TV, you can bet that you are not only recording it, but you are talking to the 911 operator about his exact location. And that's being passed onto the officers. How cool is that? You're both watching and involved in dispatching a real life cop show...from your safe/bedroom.

All you need now is popcorn.

Besides the cops really appreciate the information that you can pass onto them, like what he's wearing, what he looks like, if he has friends and if he is armed. This last one is important because home invasion types tend to be armed. Which is why having a safe room should be making more and more sense.

In addition, most alarm companies make their bread and butter selling you not the system (which is cheap) but their service (which is not). If you have a safe room and a phone you don't need them to dial the police for you. As such an alarm system can be rigged for internal warning (Remember early warning?). Where alarm systems that contact outsiders pay for themselves, however, is if you travel often and/or have a lot of valuable items that you could be burglarized for while at work.

On the other hand, it can be argued -- whether you have an alarm service or not -- that rooms with lots of expensive equipment should be turning into safe rooms as well. If you have  more than $10,000 dollars worth of equipment, collections or financial investments, spend an extra $500 to $1000 to protect it.

Return to top

1) In trying to find ways not to look foolish, their questions made them seem more foolish. That alarm system question ignored the counter-point of: You can't afford an alarm system but you can afford a gun? The reason this scared us is that the more they argued for this concept, the more obvious it became that many of these folks were just itchin' to shoot someone... and they really wanted to find themselves in a situation where they could justify doing it. Even if it meant that they would do things like take showers with their front doors unlocked. Return to Text

2) Basically you position yourself on the same side of the room that the bullets are coming from, not on the other side of the room. For example, bullets coming in through the door will be coming in a different direction than the window. The positioning that will keep you safe from one will expose you to the other. Trying to hide behind the bed can be problematic if he changes position and you don't. Basically a bed provides concealment, not cover. A far better place to hide is behind a full bookcase. A large loaded dresser also works. Both work better if positioned so you can crouch on either side depending on where the incoming fire is coming. Return to Text

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