3 Considerations to Build an In-House Safe Room
Oklahoma is considered one of the most notorious states for tornado activity, yet basements are rare in the Sooner State.
NPR reported in 2013 that less than one percent of homes in the southern part of the state have basements. Freeze lines, water tables and higher construction costs impede builders from including basements regardless of obvious need. Most Arizona, Florida and Louisiana homes also lack basements, as do newer constructions in California.
Whether it’s a violent act of nature, government manipulation or nuclear disaster, a safe room is essential to protect your family. You neither need to dig a deep hole on your property nor add a room to your existing home to make this happen. There’s already an area in your home that you can use for this purpose.
- The primary advantage of retrofitting your current home with a safe room is that it gives all occupants immediate access to it when disaster strikes. It’s also less expensive than building an external, above-ground room.
- Pre-fab shelters (typically 5×10 for three people) run upward of $8,000 installed. But if you’re willing to spend that much, it’s best to just fortify an existing room in your home. A safe room cannot have windows. Once windows break out of a house during tornadoes or hurricanes, it’s a matter of minutes before the air pressure destroys everything inside and out. It’s also preferable to build a safe room somewhere that does not touch outside walls.
- Large walk-in closets and bathrooms on ground levels are the best places to build when basements aren’t available. The door to enter the room should be graded for exteriors and have a deadbolt.
- There is no such thing as a 100 percent “safe” room, unless it’s a fortress-type dwelling that can withstand missiles. But FEMA publishes step-by-step, detailed, up-to-date instructions on how to build International Code Council (ICC) 500-compliant safe rooms that anyone can download for free.
- Building a safe room in your home comes down to feasibility and need. Those living in areas prone to tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes and the like are good safe room candidates. There’s also the potential of martial law, wartime regulations or some other SHTF scenario that makes safe rooms a necessity. But these latter types of safe rooms are more like in-house bunkers.
- Survivalists and so-called preppers stock safe rooms with non-perishable foods, water, weapons and everything else needed to survive societal breakdown. Some even install multi-camera surveillance systems to see exactly what’s going on outside the room and around the perimeter. Construction of your safe room comes down to personal needs and preferences.
- Costs will ultimately dictate whether a safe room is realistic for most families. There are several federal grant options you may qualify for depending on locale and risk assessments. Alabama and Minnesota have their own hazard mitigation grant programs for both individual families and communities. Check with your state’s hazard mitigation officer for details on local programs and to determine eligibility.