What to Know if Considering a Safe Room in Your Residential Home

by Nick Kuhn on February 1, 2016

Safe Room

Until recently, disaster-protection products and features were too expensive or not an option for homeowners and buyers to consider in their residential homes. However, the real estate industry is now seeing a shift and these types of features are becoming more obtainable. In these unsettling times and when Mother Nature has an ever-changing weather pattern up her sleeve, safe rooms are becoming more and more popular, and in fact, were featured recently at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.

These safe rooms are constructed of materials that will protect occupants from such things as tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, home invasion or terrorist attacks. There are a variety of safe rooms and intended purposes, whether for residential, commercial or community properties. Safe rooms can also be designed to protect valuable documents and collectables.

In residential circumstances, a safe room is often used for protection from weather related disasters. In fact, FEMA offers guidelines for the design and construction of such shelters seen here: www.fema.gov/safe-rooms. There is also a growing demand for safe rooms for personal protection from intruders or bomb attacks. Wealthy condo owners in New York City, for example, have incorporated elaborate safe rooms in their properties, as they are in fear of dirty bombs, kidnapping or even being taken hostage.

When considering a home with a safe room, some key features and options to think about include:

  • Cinderblock construction materials on all sides
  • Floors and ceilings with steel reinforcement – Consider a location above ground level in situations when there is a fear of flooding.
  • Steel door – This is one of the most important construction components. It needs to be made of steel with adequate locking devices and always open inward. In a disaster, material may fall against the door or block an entry.
  • Make sure the safe room meets your needs – Make sure your safe room will protect you from the specific hazard(s) you want to be covered by and incorporate the appropriate features into the space.
  • Pre-made shelters – These are available for a reasonable cost or you can contract for elaborate rooms that function like a hotel suite. It is best to check FEMA guidelines or your local municipal building and zoning office to be sure your safe room meets the requirements.
  • Air supply – This is a crucial component of a safe room. In more basic designs, a pipe is inserted in the structure to allow for ventilation. More elaborate rooms have their own independent HVAC system, usually with a generator as a power source.

Common supplies needed in a safe room include non-perishable foods, a supply of water that will last multiple days, some type of bathroom facility, often a marine toilet can be used. Other supplies include all prescribed medications/prescriptions, flashlights, batteries and blankets. It is most important to have a plan in place for all family members to know how to access the safe room and how to remain in communication with those outside.

Approaching security needs in a way that matches both budget and likely scenarios is key when considering a safe room as a design feature.

Photo Credit: Global Security Experts

This entry was posted under Home Inspiration, Real Estate and tagged , .
Nick grew up in Northern Virginia and has a wealth of experience in the local real estate market. He is widely known as an expert in Arlington, Alexandria City, Fairfax, Falls Church, McLean, Washington, D.C. Vienna, Great Falls and Mount Vernon. Nick works with a diverse clientele; he is very familiar with the needs of seniors, first-time buyers, empty nesters and people relocating to the area. He attributes his noted success to decades of referral business from satisfied home sellers and buyers. Nick prides himself on excellent personal service and individual attention. He is a proponent of Buyer Representation.

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