Tommy Goff got a call two years ago that gave him pause. On the line, he said, was a rep for a superstar touring musician who had safety concerns and wanted to set up a panic room during a show.
A similar call from another well-known performer soon followed. Goff, the owner of B’Safe Shelters of Cheyenne, Wyoming, had for years been providing weatherproof and bulletproof safe rooms for Fortune 500 companies like Southwest Airlines and NBC – but until then had never considered offering a portable safe room for those in the music industry.
‘These were two of the largest entertainers in the world,” Goff told Amplify. “They convinced us we should look into this.”
Goff and his team began developing prototypes. They recently started offering safe rooms for rent that can be set up at a concert or music festival, behind a stage or in another area that a musician, band and crew can get to quickly in the event a shooter or bomber attack.
Goff recently posted a Craigslist ad looking for staff to help set up the safe rooms at concert venues around the country because, “now we need it more than ever.”
Goff was referring to, of course, the horrific events that happened well after he took those prophetic phone calls: the May suicide bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead, and last month’s attack on the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, when a gunman opened fire onto the crowd as country star Jason Aldean performed. With 58 people killed and over 500 wounded, the Vegas incident is the largest mass shooting in modern American history.
As NPR reported, both events frightened everyone in the music industry, from venues to musicians to fans themselves. Police and private security experts have been grappling with how to prevent more attacks from happening – and how to protect people if they do.
For now, the folks who make safe rooms say that for now, they’re only available for musicians and their crew and families. It would cost millions to install a safe room that can fit a large crowd.
Even so, some venue managers are considering their options, the safe room manufacturers told Amplify.
“I can certainly see (safe rooms) happening at live events,” said David Davis of U.S. HazMat Rentals, a North Carolina-based company that builds storm shelters and safe rooms for commercial businesses and private citizens. “We’ve had some serious inquires from across the country.”
Added Roney Monteiro, owner of Los Angeles’ The Ultimate Handyman, which among other things builds safe rooms for celebrity clients: “One major venue has already contacted us and had a design all ready to go. They were looking for it to be blast-proof and ballistic-proof.”
The idea of a safe room became a part of pop culture in 2002, with the release of the Jodi Foster film “Panic Room.” It is what it sounds like: a secure room added on to a building, or an existing room that has been converted. Safe rooms are typically constructed with sheets of steel, Kevlar, or bullet-resistant fiberglass that protects people from high-caliber ammunition. They double as storm shelters; Goff’s safe rooms will withstand a EF3 tornado or a Category 5 Hurricane.
“When you are inside, you are safe from anything,” he said, including bullets and bombs.
Every time Monteiro builds a safe room for a famous person concerned about intruders and stalkers, he’s had to sign a non-disclosure agreement because very few people can know where it is. The same would absolutely go for a concert – even more so, he said, so a musician or band would be protected in the event of a shooting or a bomber’s blast.
“Few people would know how to get to it and how to get in and out of it,” Monteiro told Amplify. “But once inside, they can live in there for a while if they need to.”
Goff is building shelters at factories all over the country – his largest facility is in Oklahoma. He now has his team working on a prototype of a safe room that can withstand a low level radiation attack, often called a dirty bomb.
For now, Goff has three different-sized mobile safe rooms a musician, band or venue can rent for a concert or festival. He has one that can comfortably fit 10 people, one for up to 20 people, and one for up to 30 people that rent for $7,500, $32,000 and $110,000, respectively. All three are equipped with food, water and furniture, and have air conditioning and heat. Many are as nice as a star’s dressing room, Goff said.
“We envisioned them being decorated and comfortable because it’s pretty traumatic to have to go inside of one,” Goff said. “Yes they are expensive, but everyone wants to stay safe. What’s the cost of a life?”