New Program to Make Safe Rooms Affordable for All

SDEROT, ISRAEL - DEC 26 2008: Construction workers are constructing a security room, which is a house internal bomb shelter in the Southern city of Sderot. Photo by Gili Yaari / Flash 90 *** Local Caption *** ????? ????? ??? ????? ??? ???? ???? ???? ???
Construction workers are seen constructing a security room in the southern city of Sderot. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The murder of Dafna Meir, Hy”d, who was murdered Sunday night in Otniel, highlights an important issue that security authorities have been struggling to deal with for years – the vulnerability of Israelis who live in older homes that do not have “safe rooms”.

Three of Meir’s six children were home at the time of the attack, when a Palestinian worker stabbed her outside her house. One of the children – a four year old – witnessed the entire incident; two older children hid in an inside room, with one of the children’s screams apparently keeping the Arab terrorist from entering the house.

Had he entered, though, he might easily have found the children – and gotten into the room where they were hiding, as it was not securely locked. Had the house been equipped with a safe room, however, the door could have been locked from the inside, officials say.

New homes built in Israel generally include safe rooms as a feature, but there are hundreds of thousands of older dwellings that do not include them. The safe rooms are meant to be used in case of home invasion, or in the case of a missile or chemical weapons attack. For those latter purposes, Israelis who live in dwellings without safe rooms can avail themselves of community safe rooms in their neighborhoods, but many of these, according to recent studies, are in poor shape, or are being used for purposes other than community shelter.

But the Homefront Command announced in a press release Monday that it may have found a safe room solution for those who live in older homes. A new method of equipping homes with smart security systems has been developed that will enable Israelis to make any, or even every, room in their house a safe room. The technology includes doors that can be locked from the inside using digital smart-home technology, and windows that can be sealed with metallic shades that close off access and air intake from the outside.

Details of the plan were not announced, but officials said that a safe room using the technology could be built for about NIS 40,000 ($10,500) – instead of the NIS 120,000 ($31,500) needed to build one now, according to the Homefront Command announcement. The government will soon issue a tender inviting companies to bid on a contract under which Israelis will be able to borrow money interest-free from the government to build their own, in-house safe rooms using the technology.