Corporate safe rooms: What lies beneath?

Not just for celebrities, businesses often hardened use safe rooms for potential harboring of executives

A typical corporate safe room is built below a corporate headquarters building

Above: Corporate safe rooms are built in a hardened fashion and typically have business and living space, storage for food, water and other life necessities. Well-designed rooms also feature business tools, communications systems, and even video surveillance solutions. Many of the full-featured designs include an outside air supply, and some even feature secure, "secret" exits in the case of a large-scale incident. Designs are often determined by a corporate risk assessment and by budgets, and the rooms are meantto be used in the event of attempted attacks on corporate executives or overall life-threatening situations at the business location.

These scenarios, replete with explosions, assassinations and mass shootings, now characterize a trip to the office for scores of executives overseas. For example: the London-based Merchant International Group (MIG), a research and corporate intelligence- gathering company, evaluated the dangers to executives by collating the experiences of its clients and workers on the ground. It found Mexico was the place where most encountered problems. Following close behind were Colombia, Iraq, Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Zaire), Angola, the West Bank and Gaza, South Africa, Russia and Tajikistan.

Stuart Poole-Robb of MIG said: "One thing that was very clear was that the dangers facing executives are real and growing worse. Although there are many business people who consider themselves seasoned travelers, our research shows that one in every 10 business trips involves a difficult or potentially dangerous situation -- what we call a heart-stopping incident.”

Additionally, corporate safe rooms have economic benefits for building owners and tenants. These financial advantages are important in an economy where commercial real estate is in a massive slump. According to James Huang of commercial real estate brokerage and investing firm BRC Advisors, safe rooms can make a building more valuable and attract a more diverse array of tenants.

“I represent clients with a lot of international exposure, companies that have satellite offices in cities throughout the United States, Asia, Europe and the Middle East,” Huang said. “Some of these companies handle sensitive information, while also fielding protests from extremists in countries where security is, frankly, a daily problem. I also know that I could more easily rent a building to a large corporation should that property contain a safe room. For many clients a safe room is a priority, a non-negotiable part of a building purchase and/or signing a lease.”

A corporate safe room is an example of common sense and basic intelligence, a way to protect a brand's most valuable assets: its executives. To firms with high-profile executives who have been repeated targets, failure to build a safe room would be willful blindness. The good news is that a safe room -- the proprietary kind designed by security experts who recognize the enormity of this issue -- can help guard against outside threats. As a haven from the unexpected and unforeseen, a corporate safe room may be one of the best investments an executive can make.

About the author: Jordan Frankel is the founder and vice president of Global Security Experts, Inc. ( Headquartered in Atlanta, GSE is a leading designer and manufacturer of corporate and residential security products, as well as consultants for companies throughout the world.