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Panic Rooms, Safe Rooms and Shelters... Oh My!

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  • Panic Rooms, Safe Rooms and Shelters... Oh My!

    Recently, I watched a program on a cable channel such as Discovery Channel (not exactly sure which channel it was). The program discussed panic rooms/safe rooms/fallout shelters and overall increased home security, along with building techniques associated with these rooms. I found the program to be quite interesting. However, it has raised some questions.

    For those that wish and have the money to pay for it, they can significantly increase the level of security within their homes to almost a fortress level. The program discussed the construction of one particular room that was sealed against chemical attacks, protected against nuclear attacks (nuclear-proof), protected against gunfire and other hazards.

    Basically, the room is constructed with Type VN - typical wood framing. Plastic sheeting is attached to the wood frame in a manner that “seals” the room from chemical attacks. Lead plates are attached to the walls over the plastic, providing the nuclear attack protection. Kevlar tiles are then attached over the lead plates to offer protection from gunfire at least up to a 45-magnum slug. Then finally the room is rocked and taped.

    Apparently there are windows that can be placed within these rooms that offer protection of a blast twice as greater than the one in the Oklahoma City bombing.

    Does anyone see any firefighting concerns? How would access be gained into such rooms? Would access even need to be gained into such rooms? How would you ventilate such windows? If fire started in the floor below such rooms, would it have a greater affect on the structural integrity of the structure supporting the increased loads of such rooms? What about search and rescue? If these rooms are to withstand a nuclear and chemical fallout with an adequate supply of clean air and fresh water, would search and rescue in such rooms be a priority? Or would you consider “shelter in place”?

    I don’t have even a basic knowledge of such rooms and construction practices, but after watching this program, a bunch of questions have been raised.

    Any Brothers have experience with these?

    This post is similar to another post I have started (Green Roofs and Firefighting Ops - http://cms.firehouse.com/forums2/sho...threadid=51657)
    "In Omnia Paratus"
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    "Men resemble Gods in nothing so much as in doing good to their fellow creatures"
    IACOJ Member #235

  • #2
    I don't have any experiance with this type of construction, but based on the description you've posted I see no extreme concerns with getting into the room.

    Its actually probably not all that much to get through with an axe. The Kevlar might be interesting, depending on how big the sheets/panels are and if they are cloth or solid panels (the smaller the panel and the more ridgid it is the easier to punch through). Which ever they are, find an edge and work on it, should give fairly easy. The lead sheeting can't be very thick, it just's just too heavy to hang much without seriously beefing up the framing. 1/4 sheet lead is not very tough (I've seen an X-Ray room being set up with this stuff) and would slow you down about as much as sheet rock would with an axe.

    Besides, the construction of the room is moot if the door is just a typical fire rated door with a good lock, no tougher than any other security door. Rabbit tool, K-saw, even a good crew with a halligen/sledge hammer should get through in a couple of minutes.

    I don't think you'd be able to cut through the walls with a vent saw, chain saw chaps are made with kevlar and will stop the blade pretty quick. Brute force and pointy tools would eventually win.

    The windows might require a saw to get through, but give me a fire axe and a little time and I'm sure I could find the weak point in the window frame.

    Where it could be an issue is if a firefighter was attempting a "get out alive" manuver, that is going through the wall into a "safer" space and picked the wall with the safe room on the other side.

    The rooms which would concern me are the safe type, with reinforced concrete walls and vault type doors. Time and power tools there.

    As to the protect inplace question, I guess it would come down to the ventilation system. If their air is not compromised it might be best to get a quick attack done. However, if you're loosing the place you'd need to make contact with the residents quick.
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