Safe rooms, now all dressed up

Foreign buyers demand extreme protection along with privacy
May 26, 2015 10:00AM

It might not sound like the most appealing amenity, but foreign investors are requesting them: safe rooms.

While many people’s image of a safe room — or, as they’re sometimes known due to David Fincher’s eponymous 2002 thriller, “panic rooms” — might be more dramatic, today’s safe rooms are hidden in plain sight, between mahogany paneling or smooth plaster, according to the New York Times. In some cases, bathrooms or closets are fortified. Bedrooms can also double as safe rooms.

The world is a very scary place right now, especially for people of means; they feel cornered and threatened,” Tom Gaffney, president of Gaffco Ballistics, which has installed a number of safe rooms around New York City, told the New York Times. “When you have so much to lose, and you can afford to, you put a premium on your safety.”

Gaffney told the newspaper that wealthy buyers from countries such as Russia or the Middle East are used to a high level of security at home.

The Department of Buildings doesn’t have records of the number of safe rooms around the city. Gaffney, however, told the newspaper that his business has doubled over the last 10 years. He installs about six safe rooms a year, the newspaper reported, up from one or two before Sept. 11.

The topic came up at a recent Knight Frank breakfast, when Douglas Elliman Chairman Howard Lorber mentioned his wife’s response to seeing a “panic room” in a townhouse at which the couple looked.

“The panic room worked,” Lorber said. “She panicked right out of there.” [NYT] — Claire Moses