BULLET PROOF HOMES: STORM CELLARS, BOMB SHELTERS, PANIC ROOMS, AND SAFE CORES

It’s vital to feel secure in your home. For most of us this means fresh batteries in the smoke detector and well-organized supplies in the basement tornado shelter. But for many Americans, this means something a little more robust: bullet proof walls, solid-core doors, and a secure line to the outside world.

 

EVOLUTION OF THE SAFE ROOM

The earliest “panic rooms” evolved from the traditional American storm shelter (vital throughout middle America, where extreme storms and tornados are a regular seasonal occurrence) and the 1950s “bomb shelters”–which seem laughable now, but were a prudent response to the bombastic rhetoric of the Cold War.

In the 1970s, as violent crime rates steadily climbed (U.S. homicide rates peaked in 1980), many families felt the need for bullet proof “safe rooms.” At that time bullet proof Kevlar paneling was in its infancy, so the only real choices for a blast and bullet proof wall was poured concrete or hardened steel–neither of which can be supported by the wooden frames of most homes. Subsequently, safe rooms were small, and usually confined to the ground floor or basement–inconvenient to a sleeping family attacked in the night. Adoption was not wide spread.

Following Jodi Foster’s 2002 film Panic Room safe rooms (rebranded as “panic rooms,” naturally) enjoyed renewed interest.

 

21ST CENTURY PANIC ROOMS: THE “SAFE CORE”

Materials advances meant that the 21st Century “panic room” was a far cry from it’s 1970s predecessor. Gone were the steel and concrete bullet proof walls, replaced with bullet resistant fiberglass panels and modern bullet proof doors. These new materials–orders of magnitude lighter than their older counterparts–meant that bullet proof walls no longer needed to be confined to ground-floor cubby holes, and thus the “safe core” was born.

A “safe core” is an entire interior section of a house–several regularly occupied rooms–that have bullet proof walls and doors, and can be sealed off from the outside world or any intruders, even those equipped with safe-cracking tools and advanced chemical or biological agents. While most bullet proof security is about deterrence–armed robbers see that this bank or gas station has bullet proof glass, and move along to an easier target–safe core systems are perfectly concealed, and focus on guaranteeing safety against assailants who won’t be deterred by a challenge.

 

PRACTICAL BULLET PROOF WALLS

Although Total Security Solutions doesn’t regularly design safe cores–which are more the domain of established home security experts–they’ve supplied ballistic materials to safe core builders, primarily bullet resistant doors and the fiberglass panels for bullet proof walls.

Total Security Solutions vice president Jim Richards has found safe core designers to be especially conservative and practical. “Despite what you maybe see online and in movies, they aren’t going with super high-end or high-tech; they stick to reasonable budgets and proven materials.”