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Many companies offering high-end home security systems routinely incorporate the latest and greatest in high-tech innovations, but few achieve a level of unforgettable high style. In this regard, one of the simplest (but often overlooked) philosophies in maintaining a safe room or secure storage area in a home lies in the age-old adage “Out of sight, out of mind.” It is with this core principle in mind that Steven Humble, a mechanical engineer and lifelong tinkerer, founded perhaps one of the coolest home security and personal safety enterprises on the planet while quite literally opening the door to a new industry altogether.

Humble’s business, Creative Home Engineering, is the longest standing and most sought-after design and fabrication firm in the world specializing exclusively in the creation and installation of hidden entryways and safe rooms. His hidden doorways have been installed in the residences of royalty, heads of state, celebrities, Fortune 500 entrepreneurs and professional athletes as well as in countless other security-conscious and survival-minded clients’ homes throughout the world.

When concealment is the name of the game, Humble sums up the winning move by noting, “A thief can’t burglarize a room if he doesn’t know it’s there.”

custom safe room
The door to this safe room serves as a book shelf as well, so as not to give away its true purpose to an intruder.

 High-Tech Shelter

Humble says that he was always intrigued seeing hidden entryways in films and television shows as a kid. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a degree in mechanical engineering and developing robotics for top-tier aviation, medical and home automation outfits, he pursued an opportunity to try something out on his own home renovation project that he’d always wanted to try: create a fully functioning hidden door just like the ones he’d seen in the movies. His test project was so successful that Humble founded Creative Home Engineering in 2004, and he has completed about 500 secret door projects all over the world since then.

When asked about some of the ideas that he is approached with, Humble said a lot of people draw from what they see in the movies. “People come to me all the time having seen Batman and wanting me to replicate it for them in real life.” The great thing for those with an appreciation for this combination of high-security and high-artistry is that no idea is too far-out to be ruled out by Humble and his team. 

“At Creative Home Engineering, there is no fantasy,” Humble said. “You dream it, we build it.” Per Humble, his clients have requested devices ranging from rotating fireplaces, moving staircases and levitating pool tables to covert escape slides, spinning wine racks and emergency exits disguised as everyday furniture. Many of these secret features are designed to be retrofit into existing homes, so clients can make unused bedrooms or storage rooms into super secret hideaways and safe rooms. This level of concealment and cover in a home-invasion scenario is priceless, as one can quickly retreat to their hidden room and monitor activity occurring in the home through video feeds while also arming themselves and calling for help. All from complete safety and without exposure to whatever the threat may be within the common area of the home

safe rooms
To an intruder it this looks like a well-stocked bookshelf, but you know that it is the entrance to a secret room.

Controlled Access

If you think the doors leading to these hidden areas are impressive, then the icing on the cake is truly the method(s) by which you may gain access to the hidden rooms. Triggering or unlocking features for these clandestine passages can be activated by any means the client wishes, such as twisting a candlestick, selecting a favorite book title from the library shelf, moving a chess piece to the right position on a chess board, or even knocking on the wall in Morse code. Biometric security devices like fingerprint readers and iris scanners ensure that only those authorized to access the space may enter. For the highly cautious survivalist, any sequential combination of access points can be designed to require triggering before the door will unlock as well. Make no mistake, though, these 007-caliber doors and access mechanisms are as novel as they are security rated in the majority of cases.

The doors and rooms that Creative Home Engineering designs come with a number of ballistic- and blast-resistant armoring options. From NIJ-level bulletproofing to certified nuclear-blast-resistant, bank vault-style doors, Creative Home Engineering has a solution for its clientele, and no job is too big or carries too high a level of confidentiality. Recognizing how serious the business of survival is, and how critical it is to maintain secrecy regarding the designs and locations of secret doors within homes, part of the process for contracting with Creative Home Engineering often includes extensive customer-mandated non-disclosure agreements and secrecy protocols. 

Confidentiality is par for the course and is simply part of doing business with security-conscious clients. It is not unheard of for those commissioning work from the company to hire contractors from other  areas of the country to perform the necessary installation of the doors as a necessary security protocol.

When asked if he could share any general details about some of the most elaborate or extensive builds that the he has completed in recent years, Humble said, “As far as the most difficult, we’ve done several large underground nuclear shelters with multiple entrance points. Right now, we’re working on one project that has 10 secret doors that access the shelter area. A different project we’re currently working on has a shelter area of around 10,000 square feet (that’s not the house, just the shelter) and we’re building some secret doors that are extremely large so that they can conceal the existence of some equally large, dedicated blast doors.” 

custom safe room
While walking through this wardrobe won’t bring you to Narnia, it will bring you to an ultra secret, ultra secure safe room for you and your family.

Building Safe Spaces

Humble’s work clearly comes off as that of a consummate perfectionist, evidenced by the company’s product samples on display in the immaculate design office and fabrication space in Gilbert, Arizona. With every detail having been meticulously engineered and crafted by certified tradesmen, Humble oversees every aspect, beginning with ensuring the finished project will blend perfectly with the existing décor of the home. Humble isn’t satisfied if each concealed production doesn’t pass an up-close-and-personal inspection. He said, “No one should be able to tell that anything is there, even if they are looking right at it with a magnifying glass.”

It’s serious business. Having your refuge discovered by an assailant in a close-quarters scenario could be the difference between life and death in some cases.

An aspect to the craft of concealment that Humble elaborates on with great pride includes the technical design challenges that are inherent to sensitive engineering projects. If any measurement in the design and craftsmanship are off by just a fractional amount, the doors may not operate as fluidly as intended, or could potentially be visibly detectable to the human eye, thus defeating their intended purpose. 

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As most of the jobs the company is approached with are retrofits of hidden entry points into existing architecture, oftentimes

 other challenges arise as well. Regarding one of the recent nuclear-blast-rated shelter door projects, Humble said, “That project has been technically challenging because of the size of the components involved, the logistics of getting it all installed underground, and the strict requirements for the project (earthquake-rated, forced-entry resistance).”

As detailed in the company’s installation procedures overview online, “Our secret passageways are designed to be installed in minutes anywhere in the world. They come pre-hung in their own doorframes, which simply slide into the rough door opening as though it were a typical appliance. If you can install a conventional pre-hung door, you can install one of our secret passageways.”

The visit to the Creative Home Engineering headquarters also featured a look at two of the company’s smaller pre-fabricated concealed entry points in the lobby, which took the forms of a full-body mirror and a dresser. Each opened to reveal secured doorways. The company portfolio features photos of numerous styles of concealed doors and rooms that have been installed, housing all manner of valuables and provisions including bank-style closet vaults, full-sized room firearm collections, hardened panic/safe rooms and bunkers that could also hold plenty of long-term food, ammunition, medical  supplies and critical, life-saving survival gear. 

Armored Sanctuary

Rooms designated as short-term safe rooms can include security video monitoring hardware, separate telephone lines or emergency cellular capabilities, food and water supplies, as well as fully stocked first-aid kits and chemical toilets.

The long-term survival bunkers fitted with concealed entryways can be stocked with similar provisions and amenities, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) air filtration systems and comparable levels of personal protective gear.

There’s no doubt that the high-grade materials and level of engineering that go into each of Creative Home Engineering’s doors and concealed rooms presents a substantial investment to the customer. To that end, the question any true survivor must raise when evaluating what resources to invest in for completely his or her preparedness plan is, “Can I put a price on my life or those of my family members?” For more information, visit hiddenpassageway.com or call 480-899-3477. 

This article was originally published in SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Winter 2015 magazine. Print and Digital Subscriptions available here.

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