How Panic Rooms Function

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Home Improvement

Building and Expenses of Panic Rooms

Workers in Sioux City, Iowa, are creating a tornado shelter with walls filled with cement foam.
Dave Gatley/FEMA Photo

The most convenient and cost-effective way of installing a panic room is during the construction of a new home. It is possible to collaborate with a secure facility architect or bring in a security company during the blueprint phase. As few people as possible should be informed about the panic room, so the designer usually does not tell the contractor about it. On the blueprint, it might be referred to as a “mechanical room,” and then after the contractors leave, a security team can be brought in. To protect the secret room, it is necessary to have confidentiality agreements signed by both the architectural and security firms.

In existing homes, bathrooms, closets, and wine cellars are often converted into panic rooms. A security firm can help you fortify a specific room so that it is easily accessible to you but not to intruders. Some companies produce personal safe rooms in bulk as well.

The primary decisions depend on the purpose of the panic room. If you’re concerned about intruders, most experts say that the room should hold up for long enough for the police to arrive, usually 30 minutes to a couple of hours. For protection against weather-related disasters, placement is the most crucial factor. The ground floor or basement is the safest against a tornado, but high ground offers better protection against floods. Supplies and stability are essential.

For protection against nuclear or biological attacks, long-term protection is necessary. The Department of Justice Emergency Preparedness manual states, “Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient air to prevent the buildup of carbon dioxide for up to five hours” [source: U.S. Department of Justice]. If you want to be able to hide out for even longer, check out fallout shelters: One German company, ABC Guard, claims it has made a portable fallout shelter that can house seven people for up to a month.

Costs of Panic Rooms

While panic rooms tend to be costly, it is not surprising since they are mainly marketed to the wealthy. The construction of a high-end panic room typically starts at $50,000 and can exceed $500,000, depending on the facilities.

On the lower end, converting a closet or an extra room into a panic room usually begins around $3,000. Plywood reinforcements for a closet cost approximately $2,500, and bullet-resistant electronic doors start at $22,000. If it’s professionally designed, add another $3,000 to $10,000.

According to an estimate on, adding bullet-resistant Kevlar, a dedicated phone line, backup generator, and keyless entry to an existing room can cost $40,000 to $60,000.

In the following section, we’ll learn who has panic rooms and where they are most popular.

Panic Room 101

Chris E. McGoey, a security expert, offers the following advice to create a simple panic room:

  1. Select a windowless interior room or a large closet.
  2. Replace the wooden doorjamb with a steel one.
  3. Install a keyless Grade-1 deadbolt (the American National Standards Institute tests all locks with an arsenal of tools, and then grades the lock: Grade 1 is the best and toughest).
  4. Stock the room with emergency items, as well as a way to summon aid or defend yourself.

[source: Crime Doctor]

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1. What is a panic room?

A panic room is a secure room within a building designed to provide a safe haven in case of emergency situations such as home invasions, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks. Often made of reinforced steel or concrete, the room is typically equipped with communication devices, food and water supplies, medical equipment, and other necessary supplies to sustain occupants for a prolonged period.

2. How does a panic room work?

A panic room is designed to be impenetrable, with reinforced walls, doors, and windows. It is typically equipped with a backup generator, air filtration system, and communication devices such as a satellite phone or two-way radio. In case of emergency, occupants can lock themselves in the room and communicate with the outside world for help. The room is also stocked with supplies necessary to sustain occupants for several days until help arrives.

3. Why would someone need a panic room?

A panic room provides a safe haven in case of emergency situations such as home invasions, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks. It is particularly useful for high-profile individuals, such as celebrities or politicians, who may be targeted by criminals or terrorists. It can also provide peace of mind for families living in areas prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

4. How much does a panic room cost?

The cost of a panic room varies depending on the size, level of security, and the features included. On average, a basic panic room can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, while a high-end model can cost upwards of $100,000.

5. Where can I install a panic room?

A panic room can be installed in any room within a building, although it is typically located in a basement or other secluded area. It is important to ensure that the room is easily accessible in case of emergency, and that it is equipped with a communication device that can reach the outside world.

6. Can a panic room be breached?

While a panic room is designed to be impenetrable, there is always a possibility that it can be breached. This can happen if the room is not properly maintained or if the security system is not up to date. It is important to regularly inspect and maintain the room to ensure that it is working properly.

7. How do I choose the right panic room?

Choosing the right panic room depends on several factors, including the level of security needed, the size of the room, and the features included. It is important to work with a reputable company that specializes in panic room installation to ensure that the room meets your specific needs. You should also consider the cost of the room and any ongoing maintenance expenses.

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