Westchester County Business Journal

Increasing Demand For Safe Rooms

by Elizabeth Hlotyak

For the past five years Tom Gaffney, president of Gaffco Inc., has been on average installing 15 to 20 residential safe rooms each year. If all goes well, Gaffney is on his way to installing as many as 75 this year into residential homes all over the tri-state area.

Tom Gaffney shows off a unit of ballistic glass that withstood the impact from multiple rounds of a 44 Magnum.
Gaffney has been designing and manufacturing safe rooms and bullet-resistant systems for government facilities, financial centers, medical facilities, Fortune 100 corporations and individuals requiring protection for personnel and assets since 1986. By 1990, Gaffco was responsible for remodeling and building about 275 check-cashing facilities throughout the tri-state area.

"We did a lot of work for check-cashing facilities, banks and post offices," said Gaffney about his Mount Vernon company that has grown from just himself to 30 employees today. "Then we started doing work for governmental and city facilities, like police stations and parking-ticket payment centers. It was then about five to six years ago that I became involved in installing residential safe rooms."


Demand in the safe-room market has increased after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to Gaffney. Rooms like these have been in use for many years by money and financial institutions— a secured teller's booth is actually a safe room — but the demand for residential safe rooms has seen a significant increase recently.

"I think it (a safe room) is giving people a higher sense of security since 9-11," said Gaffney. "A safe room is a place to run and hide in case there is an intruder in your home. It can give a family a higher comfort level. It goes along side life insurance."

Safe rooms are typically six-sided enclosures made of bullet-resistant, fireproof coated steel and other bullet resistant materials. They're designed to protect occupants from intruders until help can arrive, generally up to 30 minutes, although various levels of protection can be added.

"A ballistic level one can stop a 9-millimeter hand gun," added Gaffney. "A level 8 can stop an AK-47." Besides providing ballistic protection, the safe room also provides force protection, withstanding forces from sledgehammers to chain saws.