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Building a Safe Room vs. a Sanctuary

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One of the most common inquiries we receive from potential clients is the feasibility of building a safe room in their house. We don’t mean to brag, but yes — of course we can. We can design anything you want. However, we’re not going to recommend a safe room (or a panic room) in your house.

The reason we say this isn’t because we think you don’t need it. We’re not passing judgment on your security situation — especially when we don’t know all the details yet. Plenty of our clients legitimately need a safe place where they can go in the event of an emergency. Many of them have used their designated safe place during actual emergencies. 

The issue we take with safe rooms or panic rooms is that — among other things — they’re a waste of valuable space. There are so many things you could have done with that depressing, windowless space than make a panic room out of it. 

Here’s why we don’t recommend safe rooms to our clients, and what our preferred solution is instead. 

The Downsides of a Safe Room

The terms “safe room” and “panic room” are often used interchangeably to describe a room that people go to when an intruder is in the house. These rooms are often impenetrable, hidden, and frankly, depressing. 

Some people put them in their basements so they can double as a natural disaster hiding place. This is most common in tornado-prone areas like the middle of the country, but isn’t suitable everywhere.

A photo of a set of double bedroom security doors elaborately decorated with real wood and frosted glass.

Many of our clients are in Florida, where basements aren’t possible for the majority of homes. The water table is simply too high, and in the event of a hurricane, a basement won’t do you much good. It would be flooded before the worst part of the storm even made landfall. 

Clients who can’t build a safe room in their basement choose to build one on the first or second floor of their luxury home. Safe rooms can be hidden behind a secret door that looks like part of the wall, or a bookshelf that moves. In these cases, the safe room doesn’t even appear to exist, which theoretically should make them very effective — if the intruders don’t know where the safe room is, they can’t exactly break in.

Safe Rooms are Usually Small, Scary, and Sad

If (Heaven forbid) the horrible moment arises where you have to actually go to your safe room, you’re stuck in a windowless box for an unknown period of time. If the entire purpose of a safe room is to hide, then you’re probably trying to be as quiet as you can, so you’re not going to put on a movie and try to escape. You’re going to be sitting in there, straining your ears to hear anything you possibly can. 

The end result of this concept is that safe rooms become windowless boxes with really nothing inside. After all, who wants to furnish a room they hope to never need?

Safe rooms are where people go when they’re scared, and yet they’re hidden away in a part of the house that you’re hoping no one ever finds. You’re behind a coat closet or a bookshelf or a corner of the basement that you’ve left unfinished in hopes that intruders don’t give it a second thought.

Residential safe rooms are also typically pretty small. If the room is on the first or second floor, you’re wasting valuable real estate, so homeowners will often make these rooms as small as they can handle in order to preserve as much living space as possible. 

Even if the safe room is hidden, the possibility remains that someone will find it when they realize that there is an expanse of wall that cannot be accounted for. Why is there all this space behind a closet that only seems to be three feet deep? Determined intruders — especially those with personal vendettas — may just pause to ask these questions. 

Regardless of whether you’re claustrophobic, spending enough time in your safe room will eventually feel like the walls are closing in on you. Staying in a five-foot by six-foot box for an hour will easily feel like five hours, especially if you can’t see what’s going on outside the room, or your phone isn’t getting very good reception. 

Whether you call it a “safe room” or a “panic room,” it’s still a room where you go when you’re terrified. And when you get into the room, it provides no comfort whatsoever. 

Do You Need a Safe Room?

Don’t get us wrong — when clients ask us about building a safe room in their home, we don’t shut them down and tell them safe rooms are pointless. Many people need safe rooms, particularly those in the public eye who unfortunately have to deal with stalkers and potentially violent threats. 

The list of celebrities who’ve taken security measures to prevent physical harm from a stalker is incredibly long — far too lengthy to try and list here. To name a couple high profile cases, Sandra Bullock and Taylor Swift have both had intruders break into their homes. Swift was fortunately not home at the time that someone broke a window to gain entry to her Manhattan home and laid in her bed.

A photo of a safe room door disguised to look like an alcove.

But Bullock was home when someone slipped through a door that had accidentally been left unlocked. She had a security door on her bedroom, which she quickly locked, and then hid in her closet to call the police, who arrived 16 minutes later.

Her instinct to hide in the closet is a fair one — that’s probably something most of us would do if we saw a stranger prowling around our home. She had no idea who the person was or if he was armed. She did the right thing — she locked her security door and then hid in her closet in case he managed to get through it.

What we want for people in this position is to have complete faith in that security door so they can try to relax in their bedroom — their Sanctuary™. 

The Solution to Safe Rooms: The FBS Sanctuary™ 

Our solution to the small, sad safe room is what we call the FBS Sanctuary™. 

Essentially, it’s a system that incorporates a custom security door, custom security windows (and BallistiCrete on the walls if you’d like), as well as state-of-the-art technology in order to make a room in your home feel completely impenetrable. 

Typically, clients choose their bedroom as the room to convert into a Sanctuary™ because it’s already designed to be a place where they can relax.

Furthermore, many of our clients are more afraid of what will happen when they go to sleep, as opposed to what will happen when they’re awake and alert. Since you’ll already be sleeping in your bedroom, it makes sense to just make that your impenetrable fortress.

The Custom Security Door

We’d start with your bedroom door because that’s how someone would likely try to enter your bedroom during the night. Frankly, it’s the easiest, and typically the quietest way to gain entry.

So instead of a regular bedroom door, we’d replace it with a custom security door. It can be designed in any way you’d like, but regardless, it will have a lock that simply cannot be picked, and that will withstand the brute force of someone trying to break it down. 

Additionally, at no point will you need to lock an FBS custom security door. It defaults to locked at all times, so unless you intentionally leave it open, no one will be able to get through it. You can also upgrade to our Stealth Closer™ to make sure your door automatically closes (and therefore, locks) every time you open it.

Custom Security Windows

Windows are often a weak point in security, especially if they’re older. Some glass isn’t difficult to break at all, and if someone is determined enough, you can bet that they’ll try to break your window. The way we solve this problem is through custom security windows.

Clients often give us funny looks when we say words like “custom windows.” Isn’t every window custom? They ask. To some extent yes, but definitely not to the extent that ours are.

Our custom security windows are custom made from the inside out, every single time. We offer three different types of windows (security, hurricane, and ballistic), which all require a different type of glass in order to pass certification.

Depending on your needs, we can build you windows that will withstand not only brute force, but gale force. If you live in South Florida and need hurricane certified windows, but also want to make sure that no one can break in, we can make windows like that for you. 

If you feel the need for ballistic protection, we can help with that, as well.

Technology

The next piece of the Sanctuary System™ puzzle is the technology. Biometric screenings are very popular for our Sanctuary System™ because it cuts down on a lot of hassle for homeowners.  

A photo of an oversized pivot door decorated in a mosaic-style.

If you have our facial recognition panels installed, your bedroom door will open for you when it reads your unique facial structure. There’s no need to carry around a key to your bedroom in your own home, nor do you need to waste time putting in a PIN. Our top-of-the-line facial recognition works in seconds, getting you through the door and to safety as quickly as possible.

Another excellent feature of our Sanctuary Management System™ is that you can program special allowances for guests as you see fit. For example, if your housekeeper comes two days a week, but you only want them to clean your bedroom once per week, you can program the system to only allow that person access during certain hours on certain days. 

On the other hand, you could refuse access to everyone. It’s entirely up to you. It’s your Sanctuary™.

Just try to imagine how much less stressful such an experience would be if you were able to relax in your own bed with books, magazines, a television, and anything else that helps you stay calm. 

The Sanctuary Management System™ is the best type of solution for people who have to navigate such stressful situations. And knowing that we’ve made people feel safer and more comfortable in their own homes is something that helps us sleep better at night. 

Trust us when we say that no one is getting through your security door, nor your windows.

Don’t Forget the Walls

The final piece of the Sanctuary™ puzzle is the walls. Walls are the last weak point in any security situation. It’s possible to break through them with enough determination, but it’s also possible to shoot through drywall (though perhaps without much accuracy, since you can’t see).

Not all of our clients choose to install BallistiCrete on their walls, but the ones who do are often those who’ve experienced violent crime in the past. We’ll be the first to tell you that not everyone needs every single security measure we have at our disposal, but for the price and its high quality, it’s a very good deal if your threat assessment leads you to believe you need bulletproof walls.

BallistiCrete is either sprayed or plastered onto existing walls in order to make them bullet resistant. The thicker the coating, the more protection you have. 

What we love about this product is that it makes people feel absolutely safe in their Sanctuary™. With the door, the window, the technology and the walls, it would be extremely difficult for someone to actually be able to break into your Sanctuary™. 

Essentially, your Sanctuary™ becomes your safe room, except that you’re comfortable in it, you can entertain yourself, and you don’t feel like you’re suffocating in a small space.

Threat Assessment and Security Analysis 

Another important aspect of this discussion is the actual risk versus perceived risk to your safety. While one could certainly argue that there’s no difference between the two — fear is fear, whether real or perceived — some people can probably get away with spending less than others. 

This is one of the reasons we’ve partnered with LionHeart International Services Group. The team at LionHeart is made up of men and women who have dedicated their lives to keeping people safe, whether that’s through law enforcement, the Secret Service (yes, including the President’s personal detail), Homeland Security, or the military. 

A photo of a very elaborate safe room entrance, complete with a custom security door.

LionHeart was founded on the principle that people who are prepared can better protect themselves. Therefore, their team completes a comprehensive security assessment that includes past and current threats. They also discuss concerns with the family members and existing security teams, and then they make recommendations as to what can be done to make the family even safer. 

The LionHeart team will even train your family on how to react when faced with these terrifying, hopefully rare occurrences. Furthermore, they’ll make sure everyone in your household knows what to do in the event of an emergency, such as fire, natural disaster, or even data breach. To that end, they’ll also help you figure out the best way for you to secure your private data.

People who undergo training for emergency scenarios are absolutely more likely to experience a better outcome than if they hadn’t. There’s a good reason our military recruits go through so many drills — training kicks in during times of stress. And that split second the training saves you could literally save your life. 

Our favorite thing about the LionHeart mission is that it empowers people to take matters into their own hands. Training and preparedness are excellent ways to combat fear, so even when you’re scared, you have a plan that you can execute.

If you’re ready to see what LionHeart could do for your family, or if you’d like to see how a Sanctuary™ System could be incorporated into your home, please get in touch with us today. We’d love to help you feel safer and more at peace in your luxury home.

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