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The safe rooms that weren’t safe on 7th October:

Findings, lessons learned and recommendations

By: Itzick Simon

The 2023 Gaza War raises many questions concerning the effectiveness and resilience of safe rooms (“mammad”, see in private homes in the face of non-projectile threats (such as rockets or mortars) of the type we experienced on 7th October – terrorists breaking down front doors and mammad doors and setting fire to houses in the Gaza envelope area and the south of Israel.


Does a mammad really provide sufficient security against threats such as bullets, incendiary devices, fire, smoke and even anti-tank weapons? Is the mammad suitable for prolonged stays?

In order to consider this in more detail we met with Dr. Benny Brosh, an expert in security, who lectures in construction engineering in the civil engineering department of the Ariel University. Dr. Brosh has specialised in this field for many years and he recently visited the Gaza envelope in order to comprehend, analyse and present his findings concerning the functioning of the mammad in unprecedented scenarios, and formulate recommendations for improvements and effective measures that are both feasible and practical.

The mammad as a safe room

First and foremost, Dr. Brosh emphasises that the mammad was a major pitfall in the 7th October event since people viewed them as safe spaces. “People ran to the mammad after hearing the sirens”, he explains, “and it transpired very quickly that the missiles and rockets were not actually the central threat. Many people sheltered in the mammad at the time of the ground invasion, where they sheltered, in certain cases for more than 20 hours”.

To date, the only tangible threats we have had to cope with where purely conventional rather than non-conventional (since the First Gulf War). In most areas of Israel these threats were quite limited and most of the population had not had a need to stay in the mammad for long periods of time (other than to sleep when it was used as a bedroom).

“One of the most significant and notable conclusions we have reached since 7th October regarding the mammad” says Dr. Brosh, “is the need to adapt them for much longer stays, and this can be done quite easily, mainly by adapting the existing rules, regulations and approved specifications for the mammad and other civil protection means”.


Is the mammad bullet-proof?

The question of whether the door of the mammad is bullet-proof depends on the type of door, and there are two types – standard and reinforced. Only the reinforced doors, which are thicker, provide protection against most bullets, again, depending on the type.

The “reinforced” doors have been around for the last decade and are designed to be resistant to conventional threats of blasts and shrapnel, although most homes in Israel have the old standard door. In many areas in the Gaza envelope, bullets penetrated the mammad since they had the older type of door, injuring and killing the people inside.


The resistance of the mammad to fire and smoke

“Shortly after 7th October I visited one of the settlements in the Gaza envelope area and I will never forget it for the rest of my life” says Dr. Brosh, “We bore witness to cases where terrorists had set fire to houses with the sole intent of murdering people and destroying their property, and in many cases we saw that the mammad had been broken down using explosives and ammunition”.

In most cases the fire itself did not penetrate the mammad when the door was closed, although smoke entered through open ventilation pipes. In some cases, people were forced to try and escape through the window to avoid asphyxiation by smoke, only to find that the terrorists were waiting for them outside”.

“We found that the rubber seals on the doors remained partially intact even from direct fire, in cases where the door was open and exposed to the fire.


When the door was closed, and all the more so when it was sealed, the seal was found to be effective in preventing the entry of smoke. Since there is usually an entrance porch outside of the mammad, largely due to the regulation standard reinforced concrete walls, there is only a small amount of furniture and other articles near the door such that the fire didn’t have anything to catch alite near the door of the mammad. The ventilation and filtration systems can prevent smoke entering the mammad, and this is what happened during the ground invasion. These systems are also effective in minimising the entry of smoke because of the way they operate, which includes a mechanism that creates positive pressure in the room. The ventilation and filtration systems can also be effective in supplying general air circulation and reducing heat loads”.

Improvements and other considerations for the future

The mammad in the Gaza envelope area and cities in the Western Negev has proven to be partially resistant to the prevailing threats. On the other hand, there is a lot to improve and Dr. Brosh outlines several ways to do so in the future:

  • Installing a “wet room” including a toilet, sink and shower – for long term stays – The events of 7th October emphasise the need to find solutions for staying long periods of time in the mammad. Dr. Brosh believes that the mammad should contain a wet unit with a toilet, a sink and even a shower. Incidentally, he is not alone and a bill has just been presented to the Knesset.

  • Locking the mammad – The possibility of fitting a lock on the door, especially from the inside, is a standard feature of nearly all doors in Israel. Locking the mammad would prevent attempts to break in either manually or mechanically. This is a solution that can be implemented quite easily since the investment required to develop a bespoke mammad lock is not high. Dr. Brosh emphasises that it is important that the locking mechanism does not affect the impermeability of the door in the case of a powerful blast which causes the lock to fall out. During the ground invasion of 7th October, people had to hold the handle down to prevent the terrorist entering and a lock would have helped, especially since holding down the handle exposed them to firing at the door, especially in homes with the non-reinforced type door.

  • Internet connection – In many cases the reinforced concrete walls of the mammad create a block that interferes with the wi-fi connection. There are several relatively simple solutions to this problem such as wired connections or wi-fi extenders.

  • Reinforced-type doors – If we conclude that the threat of gunfire is now one of the threats, the mammad needs to have a reinforced door and there is still some room for improvement in the development of such doors. These doors are sometimes very difficult to close due to the rubber seal, and the same applies to the steel window to the mammad. It would be advisable to increase awareness of the benefit of arranging for a technician to fix this problem where necessary and to place a greater emphasis on quality control before new doors leave the factory. In certain cases, people who have renovated their homes have tampered with the mammad for technical reasons, in some cases affecting its very integrity to the point of basically turning it into a regular door, a situation which is in most cases neglected, and in any case quite difficult to reverse.

  • Periodic maintenance and inspection – The integrity of the mammad and its components is checked by the Civil Defence Authority in all new homes and this is a precondition to obtaining a certificate of occupancy. In view of the events of 7th October it appears that periodic maintenance, inspection and servicing once every few years would be worthwhile, at which time it would be possible to consider replacing the old type door with a reinforced door, inspect and replace rubber seals where necessary and the like. The 9 point checklist that need to be completed by the authorities before a certificate of occupancy is issued can be downloaded (in Hebrew only) from

To conclude,

The tragic events of 7th October make it vital to rethink various aspects of the mammad in Israel and make it a more robust and effective security room. Dr. Brosh emphasises that we should remember that the presence of security rooms and protective spaces in Israel is one of the means to increase national, family and personal resilience and enable the economy to continue to function without interruption, factors which are important to both the individual and society as a whole.

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