VIDEO INTERVIEW: Safe Room Placement and Materials

Interview between Mark W. Gabel, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Salus Secure Environments, and Kris Coleman, Founder, President, and CEO, Red Five.

Mr. Gabel: When you’re specifying security doors or windows into a project is there anything in particular that you look for in them to meet your guys’ needs?

Mr. Coleman: Absolutely, I mean coming from the government world we’ve looked for very specific ratings on doors and windows or glass in general for, whether it be for vehicles or buildings. And our approach was: Has it been tested? Did it receive a rating? Was the testing valid? How recent was that? And is it tested against what are truly active threats today? We’re looking at a forced entry or ballistic rating. How hard is it, what effort does it take to get in, break in, force your way into it? What kind of ballistic rating did it get? How many rounds in a certain surface area did it withstand before it was actually penetrated? You can see behind us here, the glass, you know, that actually took quite a few. But how long, how many did it stand up to the actual threats, that’s what we’re looking for. Forced entry, ballistic rating. Was it tested and rated at a reputable facility? And then frankly, aesthetically it’s got to fit. You don’t want some door that looks like a safe vault to be your front door of your house. It’s just not practical, no one wants it, and I think the third thing there is about in some instances we kind of like to hide in plain sight. The door or the glass or whatever the perhaps even concealment device is that hides the safe room or protects the asset they want to blend in. It may be more effective to create and element of operational security there that they don’t know that it’s secure door or ballistic glass.

Mr. Gabel: We’ve been pioneering an idea, kind of a new concept or a new take on an old concept of the safe room that’s in a single location in a home to a serenity environment or a serenity room making the master bedrooms or the kids’ bedrooms all secure environments. What are your thoughts on that?

Mr. Coleman: We come from that environment, my time with the government whether CIA or overseas we were in completely different environments and in some cases, very hostile environments. And, we did build rings of protection if you will. We’d start at the perimeter; fences and guards and move into the perimeter of the building into what we would call a safe haven inside the house. And I like the softer term, but the still very specific term of serenity room, or serenity space. I think from the perspective of that it makes sense. My take on that is very specifically, pick the right area because there is a tactical element to this. Again, going back to my time at the FBI and the CIA, there were times when we had to get into facilities and we planned for those kinds of things. We’re using the adversarial mindset to figure out how to break in and get into certain environments, either to save somebody or perhaps to do something else that was in the U.S. mission. The perspective there is, we had ways of working our way through barriers and perimeters and getting into the safe haven. We use that experience to then reverse engineer it.

We would say that serenity room or serenity area makes a lot of sense. But pick the right area because it might not make sense if your children’s rooms are on the first floor and the master bedroom is on the upper floor, you’ve got a tactical challenge there with the actual stairwell. We’ve come into homes where the whole front of the home is all glass. Well, that’s going to be an easy way in and perhaps a door doesn’t make sense because they’re going to just throw a rock through the glass and move in. Then you get into, “Well are the parents going to run to the children or are the children going to panic and run to the parents. Now you’ve got to traverse a portion of the residence, perhaps in an unsafe manner if there’s an adversarial running around the house. We really like to walk through the house and think through the tactical problems to pick the right environment. And if we can keep that serenity area a secret. That’s information that the adversaries could use against you so don’t let them know where you’re building it. And when you’re building it, use the right construction techniques so that it’s not evident where the thing is. Those are important elements of it. We would fall down, or fall back on the premise that take away all the tactical advantages that the adversarial has. And it might be that the parents are going to abandon the master bedroom and move to the children’s room and that’s going to be the designated safe haven. Even though you have to cross a hallway near a stairwell where the adversaries may be coming up, it may be better to do that or have multiple safe rooms. We’ve got clients with large homes that have four safe rooms. It’s one in each quadrant of the house based on their behaviors. We always think that the bad guys are going to come at night, but that’s not always true. We’ve seen that in Florida where they’re doing daytime invasions of homes where they’re there to steal the art or steal the electronics, hoping that they’re not home. But having that serenity room set up correctly from a tactical perspective is hugely important.

Mr. Gabel: I know we do a lot of work in private residences or private estates and one of the pushbacks that we get a lot is when we recommend a ballistic level of protection and they’re thinking they don’t need it. What are your thoughts on, because obviously when you’re dealing with government or military facilities that seems more likely that someone’s going to attack with a firearm, but when it comes to private estates, what are your thoughts on do people actually need bulletproof doors and windows?

Mr. Coleman: Yeah, I mean a lot of the crime that happens in the United States is all firearm associated, right? That’s one of the challenges is you kind of have to deal with that. I’d probably say it’s more likely in glass in a vehicle, we see a lot of armored vehicles going around. I think my challenge there is, what is the asset you’re trying to protect? And then what are the threats that are likely? And then we get into; what do we need to build into the system to protect against those most likely threats? We have a lot of clients that come in and they say, “I want ballistic doors, I want ballistic glass, I want systems, I want technology, I want safe room, etc.” And I say, “Well, what’s your threat?” And they say, “Well, we had a kidnapping threat, here are the three letters.” Okay, so it’s a justified threat, we understand it, we’ve addressed that piece of it we’ve made a good conclusion but, then my next question is, “What are you doing when you take the kids to school?” “Well, nothing, why would we?” I say, “Well that’s where you’re actually most vulnerable.” We try to look at the totality of their behavioral pattern. Are they taking kids to school, are they going to the private jet on a regular basis, is it a religious event that they’re going to on a regular basis? It could be any of those that creates a real time and place predictable. If it’s a highly vulnerable environment, then it’s not about the house. Ballistic is really important when you’re in a car and that is your only layer of protection. There isn’t a fence, there isn’t a set of guards. The first layer of protection is right at the door of the car or the glass of the car and that’s where the ballistics make a lot of sense. In the home it’s sort of the same thing, you may have a great ballistic door, but if the sheetrock next to the door is not ballistically protected it, you know. The unsophisticated attacker is going to shoot at the door because the door is the way to get in, they’re not going to think about the sheetrock. But from our backgrounds we think about those other potential weak points.

Mr. Gabel: Yeah, that makes sense.

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