Safe Rooms: Building Affordable Panic Rooms for Occupants’ Safety

The world seems less and less secure nowadays. Many people face the threat of home invasion or strong natural disasters. Thanks to these concerns, safe rooms are emerging. These rooms — also called panic rooms — serve as a place where families can fortify themselves during a time of crisis.

However, many homeowners, contractors, and designers often find panic rooms to be too expensive to build. Can builders make these rooms more affordable? Is there a way to design them to be more hidden without the added costs? SOSS delves deeper into this topic to answer your questions. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is a Panic Room?

In the simplest sense, a panic room is a safe and secure room fortified against external threats. It is a type of secret or hidden room. Similar rooms under this classification are primarily for entertainment purposes. However, a panic room offers protection and refuge. If a criminal enters a house, the family can go into the panic room and avoid risking their lives. The panic room can also serve as a shelter during natural disasters, such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

History of the Panic Room

The earliest example of “panic rooms” is the castle’s keep. This was a fortified room where kings or feudal lords could hide during a siege. Priest holes were also a precursor to panic rooms. These served as hiding rooms where priests could shelter, especially during the height of Catholic persecution.

The modern panic room traces back to storm shelters in the 1920s. These also served as secret rooms for hiding illegal booze. However, today’s designs come from the 1960s, when people feared nuclear attacks. Architects and builders designed fallout shelters to house people if a bomb exploded near their location. From these designs, the modern panic room emerged.

Are Panic Rooms Affordable?

Many people associate panic rooms as a luxury for rich people. Only mansions with big enough space and many rooms can afford to have a hidden safe room. In addition, the bank-like vaults are also expensive to install.

However, this sentiment may no longer hold true. Many architects and designers can incorporate inexpensive panic rooms into house plans. These designs remove the frills, such as the need for bank-like vaults and over-the-top fortifications.

Instead, the focus is on keeping the hidden room hidden. This step takes 50% of the effort needed to make panic rooms secure. Since criminals won’t be able to find the panic room in the first place, they won’t be able to access it. It will be up to the designers and builders to use solutions that truly hide the panic room.

Why People Want a Panic Room

There are several reasons why modern families may want a panic room. Here are some of them.

Security and Protection

Home intruders, thieves, and other criminals may enter homes and threaten the lives of occupants. A hidden panic room can become a refuge where families can stay out of sight and protect themselves.

Shelter From Natural Disasters

Many American homes cannot withstand high-velocity winds from hurricanes and tornadoes. That’s why many panic rooms have robust construction. They have fortified materials that remain durable, no matter how strong the winds blow.

For Peace of Mind

The simple fact that a homeowner has a panic room can bring immense peace of mind. Knowing that family members have a place for refuge can lower anxiety and stress.

Key Features of a Panic Room

What are the elements that make a panic room serve its purpose? In general, they have the following characteristics.

Hidden Construction

First and foremost a panic room needs to be hidden. If someone knows where a panic room is located, then resources and effort can be focused on breaching the door and gaining access. If a criminal doesn’t even know such a room exists in the first place and never finds it, then half the battle is already won. Using invisible hinges to hide the entryway is how you can accomplish this. SOSS has several hinges that would work for these purposes including the SOSS 518 Wrap Around Hinge, which will completely hide the hinge and the reveal line between the door and jam.

Reinforced Construction

Most panic rooms have reinforced concrete walls or other materials that can withstand physical attacks. These secure materials should remain intact during earthquakes. The most expensive types of panic rooms are made entirely of thick metal. They are essentially large safes that could accommodate multiple people.

Secure Entry

Many people associate panic rooms with huge vault doors. Others also have security panels that require access codes. These features are usually present in the more expensive types of panic rooms. Most people may not be able to afford advanced entry mechanisms. Thankfully, a panic room can have a secure entry without having to invest in expensive technologies. You can use low-cost solutions as long as they serve the intended purpose — to remain hidden.

Appropriate Ventilation

Panic rooms usually need vents and other systems to keep air flowing. People need enough air. If they have to stay inside the panic room for prolonged periods, then ventilation is essential.

Space for Supplies

At the most basic level, a panic room should have first aid kits. Occupants may suffer injuries on the way to the room. Having first aid kits can save their lives, especially if help won’t come immediately. Food and water are also necessary for longer stays inside the panic room.

Means for Communication

Since the occupants will be locked from the outside world, a means of communication is necessary. Having a two-way radio or a landline can help people maintain a connection to the outside world. These devices can also help with contacting authorities.

Designing a Panic Room

Whether you’re a homeowner or an architect, there are a few things to consider when designing a panic room. Here are the most fundamental aspects to remember.

  • Location: In general, a panic room is in a home’s central area. This location helps it become more accessible to all members of the household. However, this may not be possible in all scenarios. Consider having the panic room in an area that everyone can easily access. It should also be away from windows and exterior walls.
  • Materials: As mentioned, panic rooms have walls made of strong and durable materials. Unlike the drywall used in many American homes, these safe rooms usually have reinforced concrete, but other materials that are less expensive and easier to work with, such as heavy-duty plywood reinforced will work for short periods of time. The plans should also take design cues that take advantage of the materials’ properties to increase security.
  • Size: A panic room should have enough room for the occupants to move around comfortably. A spacious room could also help avoid panic attacks. Being in a stressful situation and staying in a cramped space may make people more likely to have a nervous breakdown. Having enough space not only provides comfort, but the added breathing room can relax the occupants.
  • Communication Systems: Landlines and signal boosters may need to be included in panic rooms. Two-way radios may work, but the former options provide a higher guarantee of clear communication.
  • Building Code Compliance: Architects and contractors may already be aware of local building codes. However, a homeowner who plans to take the DIY route must look up these codes to remain compliant. These regulations exist to ensure that what you’re building isn’t a safety hazard. If you don’t follow these codes, then your project defeats the entire purpose of a safe room.

Using Invisible Hinges

We’ve mentioned earlier that half of the work for panic rooms can be done away with if they’re effectively hidden. Hulking vault doors or colorful passcode locks won’t achieve this. Instead, you can hide a secret room just by using invisible hinges.

Concealed hinges help hide the entryways for panic rooms, so intruders will have a harder time figuring out where occupants are hiding.

However, the more underrated benefit of using invisible hinges is how it makes panic rooms more affordable. Installing thick vaults or passcode systems is expensive. With a concealed hinge, even homeowners can DIY the entryway without spending too much. Security is still guaranteed since the room is hidden, but the costs are way lower.

If you’re looking for invisible hinges engineered for this very purpose, there are many in the market. Check out SOSS’s product, the Model 218 Invisible Hinge. It’s one of our best-selling items thanks to its durability, customization options, and compact size.

Final Thoughts on Safe Rooms

Having a safe room or panic room helps keep occupants safe from home invaders and natural disasters. While these rooms were once only for the rich, advancements like invisible hinges have made them more accessible to all. Using these innovations and the right kind of design removes the need for expensive entryways. All you have to do is hide the door to prevent criminals from accessing it.


Can I Use Invisible Hinges for a Panic Room?

Yes. Invisible hinges hide the entryway, removing the need for vaults or passcode systems. These hinges make panic rooms more affordable and DIY-friendly.

Where Should I Install a Panic Room?

Make sure that it’s located in a place that’s easily accessible to all occupants. This includes people with disabilities, the elderly, and children.

Should I DIY a Panic Room?

For homeowners, we recommend working with an architect or contractor to build a purpose-made panic room. However, if you simply plan to hide a room that doubles as a panic room, then installing a door with invisible hinges can be DIY-ed.