I live in a two-story house, and so my safe is downstairs. But what about stuff I want quick access to in the night – upstairs? Well, my closet – being four feet from my bed – is a good place. I can lock up my knife and gun collection and not have to worry about the kids getting to them, but secondly, I can use it as sort of a panic room if the need ever arises. Some of the modifications I’ll discuss here were done for mere practicality and storage solutions, while others were done in the interest of being prepared for the worst.
Firstly, and I think one of the key notes in creating a safe house in the closet is to make sure the light switch is inside the door. If this isn’t the case, you will need to move it. I had to move mine. It’s fairly easy. Just measure the exact distance from the jamb to the edges of the rectangular cutout, and replicate that measurement directly the other side of that wall, inside the closet. Make sure your breaker is tripped before you start messing with the wires! If you make the cut right, you can use that piece of sheetrock to fill in the hole on the outside, so don’t destroy it! Once you’ve got the hole cut on the inside, pry the switch box away from the stud and twist it toward the inside of the closet. On the inside, pull the plastic switchbox into the cutout where it’s nice and snug, and screw your switch back in along with the cover plate.
On the outside, put the cutout piece in the old hole and patch it in place with some masking tape. Cover over with wall and joint compound, texture to your liking, then paint. Step one is finished! Flip your breaker back on and try the light. Don’t forget and touch that compound before it dries though. In this picture, I’ve not yet sanded and painted it, so it’s still a little rough.
The next step is to build some shelving that satisfies your needs, on the wall with the easiest access to the door. Since I sleep four feet away from my closet door, I put the top shelf about thirty-six inches high, so my handgun is right at waist-level just inside the door, in case I need it in the middle of the night. If you don’t keep a gun in the house, maybe this would be a good place for the phone. You can either plug a splitter into the nearest phone jack and run an extra cable into the closet, or just get yourself an old cell phone. Federal law requires that any cell phone is still able to call 911, activated or not.
The shelves don’t have to be terribly strong, but if you plan on loading them down, you’ll want good wood. I used prefabricated MDF shelving boards cut at 1×12, six feet in length. I bought three of them from Home Depot for less than 20 bucks. This comes with a rounded front edge. Make pilot holes before you run the screws though – this stuff will split.
If the need ever arises in the dead of night, I can send the wife and kids into the closet and know they’ll be safe because of some of the following mods I made. Keep a gallon or two of water on your shelf for starters; closets aren’t usually ventilated, and they can get stuffy pretty quickly. Keep a flashlight and a landline too, if possible. I keep my gun and knife collection locked up in boxes in my closet, but you may also consider purchasing a vault door. This will turn the whole closet into a safe. And some of these vault door companies offer models that look like regular closet doors. With properly reinforced walls around the door, your closet or other room will be impenetrable.
The last mod I made is a pretty simple one – not anything fancy. I just took a piece of panel board and cut it with my jigsaw 24×5 inches, and rounded off one end. I then tapped this into the bottom of the stock shelf support board. This has the effect of giving you a small lip to put little gadgets, trinkets, keys, wallets and knives on where you can still see them, but kids can’t reach them.
Now I’ve gone crazy in my closet, because I tend to go a little extreme with safety and stuff – so I’ve not listed everything I did in there. But there are many things you can do that make your closet a safe place to keep kids out of, as well as a safe place to stay until a threat is neutralized. I like cutting sections of floor and wall out and planting safes and then hiding them. I like creating trapdoors with rope ladders so you can escape to the lower level without being detected – then slip out between the pantry and the utility room. But again, I go crazy with cool shit like that. Hope this has been helpful.