A safe room is an ultra-secure location within a residence. The concept of a safe room is simple…prepare a room within the interior of the home where the family can safely retreat during a home invasion or other terrorist threat and summon help.
Sealing A Safe Room
- Pick a room with few, or if possible, no windows. Higher stories are better because chemical agents sink.
- If possible, pick a room with water, toilet and a phone.
- Set aside plenty of duct tape for sealing, doors, windows and vents.
- Prepare a 72 hour kit and keep it in the room.
- Keep inexpensive breathing filters in the room, rated at N95 or better for each family member.
How to Prepare the Sealed Room
All supplies should already be in the room.
To seal a room in a bio-chem emergency, first shut off all air intakes into the house (heat, air, attic fans, ceiling fans, etc.). If your home is heated with gas or uses gas appliances, shut off the gas. Get into the sealed room and take your gas mask with you if you have one. In the selected room, run sturdy duct tape along any windows where the glass joins the sill, where the sill meets the frame, and over all window seams and joins.
Entirely cover the windows with polyethylene sheeting, anchoring the sheeting on every side on the wall around the window, and seal the sheeting to the wall thoroughly with duct tape.
When all the members of the family have entered the room, complete the sealing of the room by using adhesive tapes between the door and the frame and between the frame and the wall. The space between the door and the floor should be covered with a wet towel. I’d pack that in firmly and seal it with duct tape as well.
Leave the front door unlocked, so as to allow rescue units to get
into the house if needed.
Your room is still not perfectly air tight, but the air intake is quite diminished. Turn on the radio to get information. Everybody needs to sit absolutely still, against inner walls or with their backs towards the outer walls, heads down on their arms with knees drawn up.
Wait for an “All Clear” from the radio or from local municipal rescue/defense. The wait could last for several hours.
Ideally, a sealed room has its own emergency filter that blocks particles and purifies the air from toxins. I don’t think you can buy any “quick-install devices” that you can simply hook into an open window and rely upon (and you would need one that can be manually powered as well as electrically powered). But if anybody knows of a manufacturer, please notify me and send me the information, and I will post it here.
Risk Factors for a Bio-Chem Attack:
All biological weapons have a high failure rate in terrorist attacks because even though they are quite deadly dispersal/delivery of them in an effective way is difficult. Changes in ph of air quality, changes in temperature and humidity, changes in environment, and life span of the entity itself make efficient delivery of these bacteria and viruses difficult.
For example, Anthrax is, for all intents and purposes, 100 percent deadly when it enters the lungs of human beings. The minimum fatal dose for a person is one Anthrax spore. Yet spores that are small enough to infiltrate the blood vessels of the human lungs also tend to be highly static. They clump together and adhere to dust and dirt particles, which then make them too big to infiltrate the lungs. This problem of Anthrax delivery means that any people at “ground zero” of an Anthrax attack would probably be infected if they were directly exposed to a cloud or vapor falling on them. But those who get a warning signal and retreat into sealed rooms would have a good chance of survival.
Anthrax has a very small rate of “secondary uptake,” which means that once it hits the ground, it tends to end its delivery cycle. People who shelter in sealed rooms would have the unpleasant task of waiting it out for hours (as long as 24 hours) before they could move, and then would have to wait for days to see if they were infected or not, but as long as they remained calm and secluded from sprayed or “treated” (ie, infected) areas, they could escape infection.
Smallpox is far more persistent than Anthrax, (though less fatal, with a mortality rate at about 33% - 66%), and people at ground zero of an attack would fare the worst. But once it has been identified, people secure from the initial infection would have to be prepared to quarantine themselves to avoid contact from victims whose symptoms would not appear for several weeks. As difficult as this is, our society is better equipped to do this than it’s ever been before. Telecommuting is a fact of life.
Dispersing biological agents in a crop dusting plane is currently the quickest, most effective scenario yet envisioned. But the plane would have to fly quite low to drop enough of a concentration in a stable medium. From the evidence of one would-be terrorist who was arrested on September 22, 2001, using crop dusting equipment has at least entered the minds of some terrorist planners. But as of this writing, it has not yet been attempted.
The more likely and dangerous alternative is for a biological weapon to be entered into the water supply. Filtering and water purification in the home may hinder the effectiveness of such a plan, and certainly boiling water for six minutes would probably kill any biological entity. But poisoning could occur and last for several days before symptoms appear. Drinking bottled water or at least boiling all water that comes from the tap (for six minutes) before you drink it might be a good precautionary step, if you fear a biological attack.
Chemical warfare terrorism is much more likely in terms of past successes with chemical agents. Mustard gas canisters can be opened and their vapors simply allowed to disperse—no explosions, no bursts of munitions, just quiet vapors. Their damage would not be known for a couple days. An unsuspecting and crowded public could suffer catastrophic pain, injury, blindness, and loss of life two days after the fact of exposure. This, to me, is one of the most realistic and horrifying of scenarios. Yet it is one that an educated public can prevent. Do not stand in any area where vapors are escaping. Teach your children not to stand in plumes of smoke or run through any vaporous substance. Iraq used mustard gas in smoke bombs, thus enticing Iranian soldiers to run into the smoke to pursue supposedly retreating enemy soldiers. It was a highly successful ruse.
People in crowded or enclosed places are in the greatest danger of a terrorist chemical agent attack. Granted, a city might just get bombed by chemical warheads, but that scenario is not nearly as likely as a crowded building being sealed off from the outside and a chemical agent introduced into the ventilation system or simply opened up in the corners.
We know from the Tokyo subway attack that subways, terminals, even trains and planes are in the most danger of attacks like these. As are crowded buildings—especially theaters, which have no windows and are dark.
People do buy gas masks, but chem-bio weapons can strike when a gas mask and bio-suit are out of range. And for the terrorist, that’s the ideal situation. So the answer is to be smarter than terrorists. Avoid crowded and dark, enclosed building interiors that rely heavily on a ventilation system rather than open windows and fresh air. Visit enclosed buildings only when it’s necessary, in their off-peak hours. (Remember, as we learned on September 11, our enemies like to make grand displays in very public places.) For example, I go to the mall as soon as it opens or at around three in the afternoon on weekdays: NOT on Saturdays at noon. If you are in a crowded, enclosed building, always know where the exits are and your path to reach them. Don’t linger; just complete your tasks and leave. Simply being very aware of your immediate environment has always been the first good defense against crime, and terrorists are just another version of criminals.