It seems like having a shelter and an indestructible bug-out vehicle is the ultimate in preparation dreams. There are several companies manufacturing shelters just for preppers, as well as lots of people who are buying shipping containers and burying them to use as shelters. However, I’m not so sure that building an underground shelter is the best idea around.
I grew up during the Cold War, where I got my start in prepping. Actually, we were called survivalists back then. I remember the bomb shelter we had under out house when I was a kid. We lived across the river from New York City and that bomb shelter had been built during World War II. Even though it wasn’t enough to protect us from a nuclear blast taking out New York City, we had it stocked and ready, just in case.
When I look at the shelters being built today, I have to ask myself, “Why are they building them?” Granted, if you want to protect yourself from any sort of a bomb attack, a shelter is definitely the way to go. However, the only type of bomb blast I’m hearing about in the prepping community is an EMP. You don’t need a shelter to survive an EMP.
Of course, if the country is attacked by a nuclear blast, chemical warfare or biological warfare, a shelter might just save your family, while everyone else dies. To be able to save you in that case, the shelter needs an air filtration system which will keep everything out, so that radiation, chemicals and biological agents can’t get in. Air handling systems like that can be made, but they are hugely expensive things, normally reserved for research facilities and government shelters.
The most commonly stated reason for building a shelter is to give the family a safe haven from attack. That sounds good, but what type of attack? If people are coming at you with handguns and rifles, that shelter will probably stop them; but that doesn’t mean that they’ll give up and go away. There are many other ways they can get you if you’re in a shelter.
Every shelter has to have an entrance somewhere. That’s probably going to be fairly secure. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense to have a shelter with a door that anyone could open from the outside. But what about the air snorkel? How secure will that be? Will it keep them from putting smoke or poison into your shelter to get to you?
The only way that the shelter will truly protect your family is if they can’t get anything into it through any entrance. In that case, you can hope they will get tired of trying to get to you, give up and go away. That’s the only way that a shelter will truly protect your family.
It is basically impossible to defend yourself from inside a shelter. The same features which keep people from shooting into them also keep you from shooting out of them. The shelter itself becomes your first and last line of defense. While shelters are strong and can do a lot to protect you, if it can’t protect you, then you will probably end up dead.
If you want a bug-out location that is defensible, then the shelter is probably not your best option. You would be better off with an above-ground or partially buried structure made of concrete or concrete and steel. It could have firing positions, as well as protected areas for non-fighting members of the family. Sufficient supplies would have to be included, as well as a source of water that you could access from inside.
In ancient times, armies would put walled cities and castles under siege, camping around it and trying to starve the inhabitants out. Eventually, the food and water that the people had stored up inside would run out. When that happened, it would be easy for the attacking army to get victory.
While I doubt that anyone who is trying to attack your family to steal what you have will have the patience to put your home or shelter under siege, there’s still a valuable lesson to be learned here. The only way that the defenders could withstand the siege would be to be sure that they had enough food inside their walls to survive the siege, along with a well for water. With that, they had a much better chance of survival.
Likewise, whatever type of defensive structure you build for your family, whether a shelter or a castle, needs to have a well inside it, as well as ample stores of food to last your family longer than any attackers might be willing to wait. That will force their hand; either to attack or to leave. Either way, it gives you the advantage, as you will be behind your fortress walls.