The box-office success of the Hollywood thriller Panic Room has inspired a flood of requests for similar hideaways from people building new homes, contractors say. Such rooms have long been popular among wealthier homeowners (and in Israel, where bullet- and fire-resistant security rooms have been mandated for all new buildings and apartments since 1992). But real-life panic rooms are not necessarily like the one in the movie. For one thing, they're usually called (less alarmingly) safe rooms. Most are smaller and less elaborate than the model in the film. For $10,000 to $15,000 you can get a just-the-basics shelter with blastproof Kevlar lining the walls. Higher-end models ($50,000 to $250,000) can include amenities such as mini-bars, fold-down beds, TVs and DVD players. In some homes, that's known as a den. --By Roy B. White and Laura A. Locke
1 SURVEILLANCE In the movie, Jodie Foster monitors the bad guys on a bank of closed-circuit TVs. In real life, the video feeds would likely be channeled to one screen. In the film, the surveillance cameras are easily spotted; usually they are camouflaged.
2 COMMUNICATION Foster has to dash outside for her cell phone. Most people keep one inside their room (though the phone may not work), along with a land line and possibly a ham radio.
3 WALLS Made of wood and steel, often with lightweight bullet- and fire-resistant Kevlar panels. In high-end rooms, motion detectors stop doors from shutting on you.
4 SUPPLIES First-aid kits, flashlights and batteries are standard emergency supplies. The more survivalist minded may also store days' worth of food and water and even weapons.
5 AIR CIRCULATION In the movie, the crooks pump gas into the room's vents. High-end rooms have a filtration system for biohazardous air and dummy air vents to fool malicious intruders.
6 GENERATOR A self-contained power system is standard in most higher-end safe rooms.
7 PLUMBING Safe rooms built on a budget often don't have a toilet. One builder recommends a bucket as a low-cost alternative. Jodie Foster would not approve.