You have a lot of different options when you are trying to decide what type of shelter to build for a nuclear event. The first and most important question is whether you need to build a fallout or blast shelter. Blast shelters are designed to withstand the initial explosion, and these are the kind of shelters that you will need to build if you live in close proximity to a high risk target. Think crowded cities, banking meccas, D.C., or any city or building that has been identified as a prime target in your area. If you don’t live near one of those areas, you will simply need to build a fallout shelter.
There are several really important factors to keep in mind when deciding how to build your fallout shelter.
- The government advocates keeping three days’ worth of clean water in an emergency kit (per person). Initial fallout and radiation from a nuclear explosion is likely to last a minimum of two weeks, and thus it is an absolutely imperative that you keep at least 14 days of clean water in your shelter for each person that you plan on having in the shelter. That alone should give you a good idea of how large your shelter will need to be. Properly shielding yourself from a nuclear attack is no small feat.
- If you successfully build and stock your fallout shelter, one important question remains. How do you know when it’s safe to emerge from your shelter? Radiation will be silent, and it is not followed by any marked smell or visible signs. The most valuable tool you can procure is something called a “dose rate meter.” This tool will measure the levels of gamma radiation from nuclear fallout, and that will help guide you when you are deciding whether or not it is safe to exit your shelter.
What Type Of Shelter Should You Build?
Much of this depends on where you live. If you evaluate the risk factor of your location and determine that a fallout shelter would be preferable to a blast shelter, the huge logistical task of actually building the shelter arises.
Many families without the resources to build entirely separate shelters turn their basements into shelters. Because the entire structure of the house shields the basement from radiation and basements are often constructed from concrete, these serve as relatively reliable shelters from the fallout. On the other hand, there are several significant risks posed by residing in a basement shelter for a prolonged period of time.
- Should your home collapse during the aftermath of the attack, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to escape from the basement. Because this poses a significant risk to you and anyone else residing in the shelter, it is suggested that you build a second and/or third exit out of the basement, so that you will not be trapped underground.
- If your home catches fire during the fallout, the heat in the basement would become markedly unbearable. There is no way to insulate the basement from this threat: you and other inhabitants of the basement/shelter will die from carbon monoxide poisoning, if not from the direct effects of the fire or heat.
Ready Built Shelters
Several vendors now sell ready-made steel structures that you can bury into your land and use as a fallout shelter. These are also the types of shelters that you should look to if you are planning on building a blast shelter.
Some companies even sell ready-made blast shelters, which come fully outfitted with water supplies, sewage, and other life support systems for at least a month. While these may seem like easy options- especially because of how easy they are to install, there are several significant disadvantages to these as well. They are extremely expensive, and it is difficult to locate reputable sellers. If you have the money to spare and you can be sure that the seller is reputable, this might be a good option for you. However, you will want to be sure to purchase the newest model possible, as older models featured only one escape hatch- making the likelihood that one would be trapped within the blast cell quite high.
Building Your Own Shelter
Underground concrete bunkers are, perhaps, the most popular type of fallout shelter. These can be customized extensively, and give you the most flexibility when trying to construct a shelter that meets all of your needs.
When building your own shelter, one of the most important things to remember is adequate ventilation. Whether you purchase a filtered ventilation system or decide to build one yourself, it is vitally important that you receive enough air per person- about ten cubic feet per minute (cold climates) and thirty cubic feet per minute (warm climates). If you fail to properly ventilate your shelter, you can suffer from carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide poisoning. Coupled with an overheated shelter and lack of fresh air, the threats posed by inadequate ventilation are perhaps the most important things to consider when building your shelter.
Each person should have 20 square feet of space, if at all possible. This allows space for the individual to sleep and reside in the shelter, as well as sufficient room to store all of the water, food, and necessary supplies.
Consider carefully the logistics of the doors that you build into your shelter. You should, above all else, have more than one way out of the shelter, lest one exit be blocked by debris or fire from the explosion. If you build a door that open outwards, you will have the most protection from the blast (although in a fallout shelter, this is less relevant). If your door opens inward, you will have the most success opening the door if it is blocked by debris. Which type of door you choose to build largely depends on your location and the purpose of your shelter.
For more information on surviving a nuclear blast (which includes building plans for fallout shelters), check out Red Horse: How to Survive a Nuclear Blast or Dirty Bomb, a publication from Solutions From Science.
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