What's Inside a Real-Life Panic Room?

ByABC News via logo
April 1, 2002, 9:51 PM

N E W   Y O R K, April 2 -- In the new movie Panic Room, Jodie Foster barricades herself in a high-tech bunker inside her New York brownstone, while burglars try to get in.

The movie apparently struck a chord with audiences, becoming the biggest Easter weekend opening in history, grossing a record $30 million.

(If you haven't seen the movie but plan to, you may want to stop reading here because the experts reveal some details from the film.)

Real-life panic rooms, which security companies actually call safe rooms, are becoming increasingly common in the homes of the rich, who fear they may be targets of stalkers, kidnappers, home invaders, assassins or terrorists.

They have become something of a status symbol in posh areas like Los Angeles' Bel Air and Holmby Hills, where there are believed to be thousands of such rooms. The rooms range from the simple a reinforced door with a phone and a fridge to the elaborate, with video banks, computers, air-cleaning systems and even protection against bacterial warfare.

A wide variety of people and businesses are in the market for bunker-type rooms, said Bill Rigdon, the vice president of Building Consensus, a Los Angeles company that specializes in safe-room construction. Customers can choose features like "isolators" that tie into steel girders so if there is an explosion beneath the floor, it will still hold together. Safe rooms also come with pressure-resistant windows and Kevlar bulletproof panels that look like normal walls.

"Customers are anyone from wealthy Kuwaiti businessmen to celebrities, producers, directors, guys who head software companies and Fortune 500 companies," Rigdon said. "They are attracted by the fact that they are safe in their homes."

Increasingly, businesses are considering installing safe rooms too, as the rooms become the bomb shelters of the early 21st century. All government offices and buildings have something they consider a safe room where employees can be safe in the event of an emergency.