2016-01-01 / Business

Demand for ‘panic rooms’ growing

Industry keeps local man’s company ‘busy full time’
By Hector Gonzalez

It’s a business that requires client confidentiality, and even most satisfied customer isn’t likely to brag about their purchase.

A safe room is a highly secure space inside a home designed to be discreet and to offer protection during a home invasion, terrorist attack or other life-threatening event. Most safe rooms include some type of communication system or closed-circuit television so those inside can contact the police.

The 2002 movie “ Panic Room” with Jodie Foster gave instant publicity to safe rooms, and a New York Times article in May reported the industry continues to grow.

Nick Paster of American Saferoom Door builds panic rooms, but he’s tight-lipped about the number of rooms installed in a year, saying only that he has “enough business to keep us busy full time.”

“We do see it fluctuate, depending on what’s going on in the world,” Paster said.

Clients reach out to him for a variety of reasons, and with the phenomenon of workplace shootings, businesses are also installing safe rooms. Security experts say it’s just good common sense to have a room inside a home where a family can hide in the event of a break-in.

Although Paster declined to say whether he’s received more inquiries since the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, safe rooms have been in higher demand since Sept. 11, 2001.

Orders can range from a $20,000 custom-built safe door to a fully equipped safe room costing several hundred thousand dollars, he said.

“It depends on what the client wants,” Paster said. “Some people only want a safe door, and we have some that are $10,000 to $20,000. Or they might want cellphone access, electronic surveillance—we custom-build to their specifications. It’s pretty much a full-scale solution.” His grandfather, Frank Paster, a World War II veteran, founded Los Angeles-based Paster Construction in 1948, building homes for the rich and famous of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

His sons and grandsons continued the construction business and in 1981 turned to the panicroom business.

Unlike tornado and hurricane safe rooms and the bomb shelters of the Cold War era, a modern safe room is designed to meet a variety of client needs.

“We’ll even incorporate the local police response time” to calibrate automatic locks, Paster said.

It’s not only celebrities and titans of industry who are installing safe rooms. Clients include many across the U.S. who build the fortified rooms to protect themselves from natural disasters. According to news reports, sales of safe rooms often spike after tornadoes and hurricanes, which was the case after deadly storms in Texas and Oklahoma in 2013.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency devotes a section of its website to safe rooms to be used in case of extreme weather. The site includes building guidelines. The federal agency offers funding for safe rooms through Community Housing and Development block grants and other programs.

FEMA says a safe room should “provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events.”

Regardless of how elaborate they are, safe rooms are built for one specific purpose: providing a way to keep out of harm’s way until help arrives.

“A safe room is not a bunker,” Paster said. “It’s to keep you safe for a limited period of time until the cops respond.”

Return to top