Safe Room Design: What is a Safe Room?
Safe rooms are like fire extinguishers, you take them for granted and hope you never have to use them, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have them as they can save your life. Many people question how to build a safe room, especially in the Southeast United States, since it is so prone to various major weather events such as hurricanes and tropical storms, as well as other full-blown natural disasters. Rarely do we go a year without seeing at least one hurricane, not to mention the multiple other storms the region experiences every year. Because of this, as well as new affordability, safe rooms are becoming more popular in residential and commercial applications, but many wonder how to even get started with a safe room design process.
A safe room is a shelter, detached or built within a structure, that is strong enough to provide safety from catastrophic events, including major weather events. They have also become popular for other applications such as safety from a terrorist attack, break-in, home invasion, or protection from other traumatic events such as tornados.
What is a Safe Room
For those who have studied history, you will remember the historic use of these rooms from the early 1900’s wars. For centuries prior, some elements of safe rooms existed in the castle, forts, and other protective structures. These safe rooms hid and provided safe passage for people of importance for many years and that concept has to continue to modern-day. For those who are movie buffs, you will remember the early 2000’s thriller movie Panic Room, where Jodie Foster’s character brought the concept of having a room to shield a family from a home invasion that came to the mainstream. What these historical and movie references did not tell you is how common these rooms are now. Today, they are modern, easily designed, easily installed, and affordable. Installing them only inexpensive homes or to protect leaders in times of war are things of the past. Today, most of the population can incorporate these elements into their home at an affordable cost without an overly interrupting or lengthy construction process.
A safe room is a hardened structure built to meet the FEMA criteria for providing near-absolute protection in extreme weather events. Safe rooms protect the people inside from a variety of dangerous weather elements like extreme winds, hail, and flying debris. They are imperative safety measures in areas of the United States that are prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe and life-threatening weather. After a deadly tornado outbreak in Kansas in 1999, FEMA began to press communities in disaster-prone areas to build safe rooms in residences and public areas like schools and businesses.
A safe room is essentially a storm shelter, detached or built within a strong enough structure to provide safety from catastrophic events, including significant weather events. They have also become popular for other applications such as safety from a terror attack, break-in, home invasion, or protection from other traumatic events such as tornados was FEMA’s goal.
With market-wide adoption comes a wide range of quality. Safe rooms now come in all shapes and sizes, but that does not mean they are all of the top or even middle of the road quality. Today, you can buy a safe room to fit multiple people for a few thousand dollars at Sam’s Club and other discount retailers or sources. These options are affordable and are prefabricated however they are off the shelf and a “one size fits all” option. They are not custom-built to your home and more than likely not the top option for your location. To reach the top quality, you must trust the top rating agencies and lean on their long studied and prepared guidelines. The top professionally assembled rooms meet guidelines for both FEMA and also the International Code Council (ICC) Standard 500. These rooms provide an extremely high probability for protection against injury or death, regardless of the weather event’s size. No one can guarantee protection, but construction expertise in this field and their designs are strong enough these days to come very close.
Safe Room Installation
Safe rooms can be either above ground or below ground; however, FEMA recommends above ground, heavy-duty safe rooms with anchors for the most reliable protection. Safe rooms are built to specific standards to provide ultimate safety. Currently, the highest-grade safe room design is the FEMA P-320 and P-361. These safe rooms can be located inside or outside a residence or public place and protect against extreme winds up to 250 mph and flying debris that is associated with severe storms.
Though safe rooms are not mandatory in residences and local jurisdictions, the government does provide grants in some states for funding to build safe rooms in schools and other public areas. In the event of a tornado or hurricane, a basement may provide adequate protection, but a safe room is always the most protective choice. Even houses that are built to local codes to withstand high winds are not meant to hold up in disastrous weather such as tornadoes and extreme hurricanes.
Design criteria and installation of these rooms is key to their effectiveness and resilience in the event they need to be used. Most are built above ground, but they can be built below ground as well. In addition, their location is flexible for installation both indoors and outdoors. They can also be installed in both residential or commercial locations, and even in public places if need be. Rooms constructed to the appropriate standard have the ability to protect against extreme winds up to 250 miles per hour as well as a variety of flying debris and structures, which are often seen in major storm events. We have all seen the viral videos of the peaks of major storms where cars, debris, trash, and countless other things turn from normal day to day items to extremely dangerous flying objects. Appropriately designed safe rooms will protect against these. Generally, the construction of these shelters is not mandatory, in fact almost always 100% optional. That said, their affordability and major safety protections have made their presence increasingly the norm amongst those with the ability to house the extra space for these structures within their property. They are affordable and achievable, so why not install them to avoid potential risks.
Our team has extensive experience designing and constructing these life-saving measures. We can provide flexible designs to meet your needs. All of our safe rooms contain basic life saving structural elements along with ventilation, telecommunications equipment, and connections which will allow those inside the room to communicate with the outside world before, during, or after an emergency situation. These allow those inside the room to communicate with the outside world before, during, or after an emergency.
Beyond these basic needs, we can provide flexibility on the number of people that can comfortably fit in these spaces. We can create room for just a few or fit up to a small crowd. The room can be built to house just a few up to the room to fit a small crowd. The dimensions themselves can vary in terms of size, height, and width. Inside the room, the built out of the interior can vary in terms of design, lighting, look, and feel. A safe room can be extremely safe and well-assembled while also providing for aesthetically pleasing designs and a comfortable layout within. Just because you are shielding from a storm or an invasion does not mean the physical space needs to be uncomfortable. We will work with you to both create a safe space and also create a comfortable environment within. In worst-case scenarios, you will need to stay in place in this room for a long period of time, so why make this experience more challenging by building an ugly uncomfortable metal can? The internal fit-outs provide and ability to include seating or sleeping arrangements to your liking but also in a safe manner. Multiple rooms can be created within the “safe room” to allow you appropriate separation and room to stay for a fairly extended period of time.
From an external aesthetics standpoint, we understand that nobody will like to see a sizeable clunky box in the middle of their home or other commercial property. With our team, that will not be the case. We design around this by incorporating architectural and decorative elements that will either completely hide the room or allow it to blend in with the flow of the remainder of the property – depending upon your preferences. Many of our projects tie into new construction homes; however, we often take existing spaces or structures and incorporate this new safety feature while achieving an attractive layout. The remainder of your area is uninterrupted and aesthetically attractive. Call us and allow us to provide you with detailed materials and samples of our work. The expense in today’s world is limited, and the cost of this extra safety feature to allow you to rest easy is very affordable.
There is a common misconception that these rooms can only be placed into the newly built structures. That could not be further from the truth. While new construction is certainly ideal, incorporating these into existing structures is certainly achievable. Your goals can be achieved for the space while achieving an attractive layout so the remainder of your space is uninterrupted and aesthetically attractive.
Safe Door Design
The safe room door design is the single most important aspect of a safe room. In the event of a tornado or hurricane with extreme winds, the door to a safe room is the one wall that links the people inside to the elements outside. Doors that are not adequately designed to withstand damage and heavy winds can easily come off their hinges and be torn away from the safe room. Though the door usually weighs several hundred pounds in order to offer substantial protection, it also must be easy to operate without failure. Adequately designed safe room doors feature heavy-duty hardware and security locks in order for the door to be locked quickly from the inside.
The safety and peace of mind benefits to this installation are unparalleled with any other security systems or home safety features. In addition, this will help lower your carrying costs. Safe rooms will help keep your upfront and ongoing insurance rates as low as possible, providing you with cost savings that will help balance the costs of the installation. As part of our process, we will evaluate the installation and discuss with you how it will affect the other elements of your life. You need to walk into each decision’s eyes wide open. How will this affect your home’s long term value? The answer is usually positive, but we will help you quantify this. How will this affect your insurance and how do you incorporate these new features into cost savings with your different plans? With our background in the industry, we will guide you there.
Safe Room Benefits
The elements that go into designing a safe room offer protection on all sides: floors, walls, ceilings, and doors. The ground on which the safe room is built is able to support a heavy concrete top layer and several hundred pounds of metal walls.
Residential safe rooms vary in size from 3 to 10 people, whereas large community safe rooms are generally built to hold up to 200 occupants. Safe rooms are ventilated with covered vents at the top to prevent debris from getting into the vent work. Many safe rooms feature fold-down benches and shelving for comfort and storage. While safe rooms offer excellent protection from tornadoes and hurricanes, they also have other uses. They are bulletproof and ventilated, so many homeowners use safe rooms as panic rooms in the event of a burglary or other intruders entering the home. They also offer protection in other disastrous situations, like earthquakes. Safe rooms can be designed to suit individual families’ needs and different climates.
They can be built into existing homes or new construction and be customized to match the home if built outside. Home values in certain areas can actually increase if there is a safe room somewhere on the property. If homeowners don’t want to build a safe room outside or in the basement, they can easily convert an existing area into a safe room, and even have a safe room built around construction so the room interior remains the same.
Call us and allow us to provide you with detailed materials and samples of our work. The expense in today’s world is limited and the cost of this extra safety feature to allow you to rest easy is very affordable.