8 Critical Considerations When Planning a Safe Room

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Written by Martin Banks

With hashtags like #WorldWar3 trending on social media, many of us find ourselves contemplating adding a safe room or shelter to our property. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not as easy as digging a hole in the backyard, slapping a roof on it, and calling it done.

So, what do you need to consider when planning a safe room?

1. Available Space

When planning your safe room, the first thing you need to consider is how much space you have to build. Do you have a large backyard where you can dig and bury a safe room separate from your house, or are you working with limited space inside an existing structure?

If that existing structure is a mobile home, do you have other facilities available? The area you have to work with will determine the kind of safe room you can build.

2. Permitting and Restrictions

As with any new construction project, before you can break ground or start knocking down walls, you need to make sure you have the proper permits. Local restrictions may also govern the type of safe room you’re allowed to build, based on lot zoning or a handful of other variables.

The best place to start is to check with your local building department to ensure you comply with all local regulations and building codes before construction begins.

3. Number of People Sheltering

How many people are in your family? How many do you expect to have to shelter with you in this safe room? The number of people you hope to protect in this shelter safely will determine many variables.

You want people to be able to stay safe in your shelter, but at the same time, you want to ensure everyone can be comfortable in case you end up having to spend a long time within those four walls.

4. Type of Emergency

What are you hoping to protect yourself and your family from? The shelter you design to protect yourself from hurricane winds or tornadoes will look quite different from the kind of shelter you’ll need to keep you safe if World War III happens.

A storm shelter or safe room will keep you safe from high winds, and while concrete can block some fallout, it isn’t the best option if you happen to be in the path of a nuclear strike.

A good rule of thumb is that the denser a material is, the better protection it will offer from the fallout. Choose a dense building material if you want something to protect you from WWIII.

5. Short- and Long-Term Sheltering Plans

In most cases, a safe room or storm shelter is a place where you’ll only spend a few hours at a time while you wait for a storm to pass. If you get trapped within the shelter because the house around it collapses or there’s a longer-term emergency, you will also want to consider long-term sheltering plans.

This step will tie into some of the other considerations we’ve mentioned, such as shelter space. In addition to having room to keep you safe, the long-term shelter will require things like places to sleep and a bathroom for hygiene.

6. Storage Considerations

Whether you’re in your safe room for a few hours, a few days, or even longer, you’ll want to have some supplies to keep you fed, watered, and entertained while you’re sequestered within.

The amount of space you’ll need will depend on how long you intend to stay in the safe room, but you should consider things like food, water, emergency supplies, and anything you’ll need to keep your spirits up while you wait for things outside to return to normal.

7. Air Filtration

This isn’t usually a problem for everyday situations. Still, if you’re sheltering from a nuclear strike or a terror attack, having air filtration that can remove dangerous contaminants from the air you breathe could help keep you alive.

Invest in a high-quality air filtration system for your safe room. Even if it isn’t necessary for its intended purpose, it can also help ensure you have access to clean and breathable air if your safe room ends up buried under rubble in the wake of a storm or tornado.

8. Weatherproofing

This isn’t generally a problem for safe rooms built inside existing structures, but if you’re planning to build your safe room underground, weatherproofing will be essential. Water in the soil can seep into your shelter, making it uncomfortable at best and moldy at worst.

Take care to weatherproof your safe room so you can use it should the need ever arise.

Be Ready for Anything

The point of a safe room or storm shelter is to keep you safe if things around you turn pear-shaped. Make your shelter as safe and comfortable as possible, because you never know how long you’ll need to stay there.

Keep these considerations in mind as you’re designing your home’s new safe room or survival shelter so you can be ready for anything. Things can change in an instant, so if you haven’t started building your survival shelter or safe room, now is the time to break ground.

About the author

Martin Banks is the managing editor at Modded. Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates on his work.

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Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

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  1. Is it smart to get building permits? The more who know our secrets can make us more vulnerable to thief and violence. Just wondering your thoughts.

    1. Hi Dave, The same issue was brought up earlier. Definitely an important consideration, on whether there may be a possibility you’d want to sell your home in the future (assuming nothing happens) the permit wouldn’t hurt. However, if you truly will stay put, and prefer no one else know about the safe room, then keeping it to yourself would be the way to go. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Just a thought: if someone is required to have a permit for building a safe room wouldn’t that be something the government would have access to thereby defeating the purpose of avoiding potential search and seziures by said government?

    1. Hi Racheal, That is a good point that definitely needs consideration. There is a possibility a collapse will never happen, and you end up selling your home. A permit wouldn’t hurt the value. Just something one should think about. Thanks for the comment.

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