10 Steps to Create a Safe Room for Emergencies

Digital Door lock or Electronics knob door for access living room security, Selective focus

Prepare for emergencies with a secure safe room. Follow these 10 essential steps to build a safe room that offers near-absolute protection from extreme wind events.

Step 1. Determine the Purpose and Location

Interior of a clean garage in a house

The first step in building a safe room is to determine its purpose and location.

You need to decide on the type of natural disaster you want to protect against and the location of the safe room.

A safe room can be located in the basement, garage, or an interior room on the first floor of your home.

You need to choose a location that is easily accessible and provides near-absolute protection from high winds and flying debris.

factors to consider when choosing a location

You should consider several factors when choosing a location for your safe room.

The location should be easily accessible and not too far away from the main living areas of your home. The room should be located in an area where it will not be affected by falling trees or debris.

If you live in an area prone to flooding, you may need to build an elevated safe room to protect against water accumulation.

The location should also be chosen based on the amount of protection needed for the type of natural disaster you are protecting against.

Step 2. Choose the Type of Safe Room

3d rendering minimal scandinavian wood walk in closet with wardrobe

There are several types of safe rooms that you can build depending on your needs and budget. The most common types of safe rooms are above-ground and below-ground safe rooms.

Above-ground safe rooms can be constructed in a closet, pantry, or bathroom.

Below-ground safe rooms are usually built in the basement and provide the most protection from high winds and flying debris.

advantages and disadvantages

Above-ground safe rooms are less expensive to build than below-ground safe rooms and can be constructed in an existing room without major modifications.

However, they provide less protection from high winds and flying debris.

Below-ground safe rooms provide the most protection but require excavation and concrete pouring, making them more expensive to build.

Step 3. Plan the Construction

Male architect or engineer working at home drawing the construction project.

The construction of a safe room requires careful planning to ensure that it meets FEMA criteria and provides near-absolute protection from high winds and flying debris.

You should hire a professional contractor or engineer to help you design and plan the construction of your safe room.

This will ensure that the room is constructed according to local building codes and meets FEMA criteria.

materials needed for the construction

The materials needed for the construction of a safe room include reinforced walls, doors, ceilings, and anchors to secure the room to the foundation.

The walls can be made of concrete, steel, or wood with steel sheathing. The door should be made of heavy material like solid wood or metal and should swing inward to prevent debris from blocking the entrance.

The ceiling should be constructed of reinforced concrete or steel and anchored to the walls.

Step 4. Reinforce Walls

The walls of a safe room need to be reinforced to provide near-absolute protection from high winds and flying debris.

Concrete walls are the best option for constructing a safe room, but if you are retrofitting an existing room, you can reinforce the walls with steel sheathing.

The walls should be able to stand up to high wind pressure and resist penetration or crushing from flying or falling debris.

the materials used for reinforcing walls

The materials used for reinforcing walls include steel sheathing, concrete blocks, and rebar.

The steel sheathing is screwed into the wall studs and provides additional strength and rigidity to the walls.

The concrete blocks are stacked and mortared to create a solid wall that can withstand high winds and debris. The rebar is used to reinforce the concrete blocks and provide additional strength.

Step 5. Fortify the Door

The door of a safe room is the most vulnerable point of entry and needs to be fortified to prevent intruders from entering and to protect against high winds and flying debris.

The door should be made of heavy material like solid wood or metal and swing inward to prevent debris from blocking the entrance.

The doorframe should be reinforced with steel to provide additional strength and security. HomeRepairTutor says to:

  • Get an Easy Armor door reinforcement kit from Lowe’s that comes with 3 shields and screws to secure door hinges, jamb, deadbolt, and lock.
  • Install hinge shields first by replacing existing small screws on middle hinge with longer 3.5″ screws into door jamb.
  • Position jamb shield, mark holes, and use 3.5″ screws to secure it over door frame insulation strip.
  • Make sure reinforced door still closes properly before proceeding.
  • Use longer screws if needed so deadbolt and lock shields fit over existing hardware without hitting jamb shield. Test closure after installing.

materials used for fortifying the door

Materials used for fortifying the door include solid wood, metal, and steel reinforcement for the door frame.

Solid wood doors are a good option as they are durable and can withstand high winds and debris.

Metal doors are even stronger and provide better protection against intruders.

Steel reinforcement for the door frame ensures the door remains secure even under extreme pressure from high winds or impacts.

Step 6. Provide Ventilation

ventilation duct, 3d Illustration

Ventilation is essential in a safe room to ensure that fresh air circulates and prevents the buildup of dangerous gases and contaminants.

In the event of a prolonged stay in a safe room, proper ventilation is crucial for the health and safety of the occupants.

types of ventilation systems available

Several types of ventilation systems are available for safe rooms, including passive vents, mechanical ventilation, and air filtration systems.

Passive vents allow natural airflow through the safe room and require no power.

Mechanical ventilation uses fans or blowers to circulate air and may require a backup power source.

Air filtration systems remove contaminants and particulates from the air, providing clean air for occupants.

Step 7. Ensure Communication

Helsinki / Finland - JANUARY 3, 2022: Closeup of pair of mobile two-way radios for Amateur radio operators against dark background.

Communication is vital during an emergency situation. You need to be able to communicate with the outside world to receive updates on the situation, call for help, and let others know you are safe.

A reliable communication system in your safe room is crucial for staying informed and connected during an emergency.

the communication equipment needed

Essential communication equipment for a safe room includes a landline phone, fully charged cell phones, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and a backup power source for charging devices.

Two-way radios are also useful for communicating with neighbors or emergency personnel. In addition, a whistle or air horn can be used to signal for help if communication equipment fails.

Step 8. Stock Supplies for Survival

Survival kit on a wooden table

Stocking essential supplies in your safe room is necessary for survival during an extended stay.

Food, water, medical supplies, and other necessities should be stored in the safe room to ensure the well-being of occupants during an emergency.

types of supplies needed for survival

Supplies needed for survival in a safe room include nonperishable food items, water, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, blankets, warm clothing, personal hygiene items, and any necessary medications.

Store at least three gallons of water per person and enough food for a minimum of three days.

Periodically rotate your supplies to ensure nothing expires or becomes unusable.

Step 9. Enhance Security and Protection

Half open door of hotel room.

Enhancing the security and protection features of your safe room is essential to ensure the safety of its occupants.

Installing additional security measures such as cameras, entry keypads, and reinforced locks can provide extra peace of mind during an emergency.

the security features that should be installed

Security features that can be installed in a safe room include entry keypads for instant locking, reinforced locks, and deadbolts for added door security, and surveillance cameras to monitor the exterior of the safe room.

In addition, installing an alarm system connected to emergency services can provide quick assistance if needed.

Step 10. Test and Train

Hands closing the double door. A man carpenter checks the door sheet closing and a handle with a lock during installation.

Testing and training are vital components of emergency preparedness.

Regularly testing your safe room’s security features, ventilation, and communication equipment ensures everything is in working order.

Training family members and occupants on how to use the safe room and its features, as well as practicing emergency drills, will ensure everyone is prepared when an actual emergency occurs.

how to test and train for emergencies

To test and train for emergencies, regularly inspect and test your safe room’s features, including the door, locks, ventilation, and communication equipment.

Conduct family meetings and drills to practice using the safe room and discuss emergency procedures.

Make sure everyone knows the location of the safe room and how to access it during an emergency.

By Anita Brown

Anita Brown is our go-to contributor to our emergency preparedness website. Anita brings a wealth of personal experience and professional expertise to the table, having weathered several awful natural disasters. Anita is currently working towards obtaining her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification.