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Letters To The Editor

May 3rd, 2010

Dear Editor:

As a recent subscriber, I was enjoying the current newsletter article describing the need for an emergency shelter. I recently bought two twenty foot long shipping containers for storage on my property. As you probably are aware, these containers are constructed of heavy steel… weighing about 4500 pounds empty.

If one were to create a separate entry point and simply bury the container or put it into a concrete block walled structure, they would have the foundation structure for a great shelter.

Each container is vented at the top corners, but an additional ventilation system should be installed to allow adequate ventilation for a family of four or five.

The 8′ X 8′ X 20′ dimensions offer a roomy shelter for sleeping, eating, and restroom facilities, along with storage areas, power generation, and battery bank capability. On that point, an inexpensive, used exercycle can be modified to create a manually pedaled electric generator to recharge the bank of batteries. Each resident can take their turn at riding the exercycle for both exercise and to generate electricity. My wife and I have lived for over a month in a motor home with much less space than offered in a storage container. In fact, many of the inside facilities can be copied from recreational vehicles. A quick check with an RV manufacturer may turn up the necessary appliances and even out-of-date cabinetry at a reduced price. The other alternative would be to purchase an older motor home that has been disabled due to engine or drive train problems, and transfer the interior cabinetry, bath facilities, kitchen, and appliances from the RV to the container. The nice wood floors and the nearly 8′ ceilings of the containers provide a great starting point for the shelter.

Ideally, a sloping, hillside location would be best for the location of a container/shelter since the rain and water accumulation can be routed away from the site. If the top of the shelter is available for solar panels, all the better. However, any visible accessories like solar panels, turbine vents, electric lines, etc. are a dead giveaway of the shelter location. If you have time, plant shrubbery and trees around the shelter location to disguise its existence and location. I mention the sloping, hillside location as a means of keeping the double-door entry point at ground level for the construction phase, and to provide a larger access door at times when modifications and/or supplies are rotated. A false front can easily be constructed to hide the large doors at the end of the container. If one wanted, they could add a sign on the doors that read, “Hazardous Material Storage” or some other menacing sign to keep nosy people at bay. A quick check online will produce many options for underground shelter plans. The interior options are numerous. I believe a family of four or five could exist for a sufficient time if properly supplied and constructed. Trial runs are a fun way for the family to check out the shelter and it’s ease of living for a few days at a time. Of course, the whole family doesn’t have to make the trial run an actual “stay-in-the-shelter” for days on end to make sure it all works.

One additional note: For toilet facilities, the propane powered toilet that disposes of waste by burning it, is almost a must if a family needs to remain in a shelter for a long duration without sewer connections. Water for showers, etc., with the necessary pumps and filters can be located separately from the actual shelter, if necessary, but drinking water and water for food preparation must stored inside the shelter for obvious reasons. Shower water can be heated by coils of black vinyl tubing on the roof of the shelter and connected to the shower by a small water pump. That’s one of the main reasons for an external water storage container. Otherwise, the use of showers will be strictly limited in a survival mode. (That ought to make the kids happy!) You would be surprised to learn how little water you actually need to take a sufficient shower for cleanliness. That’s another experience gained from living in an RV for a while.

If your survival situation allows you to exit and reenter the shelter at nighttime, then a large, hidden, external water tank can be replenished at that time as well as taking care of other necessary chores under the cover of darkness. Ideally, a connection to a septic tank sewer system should be added to the shelter with internally located valves to permit dumping the grey and black water tanks…or just allowing the waste to flow naturally to the septic system.

I know I’ve rambled on too much. Forgive me. It’s just that the shelter peaked my interest.

Gerald L.

P.S. Living in any county…outside a city…in Texas allows the homeowner to construct buildings without permits, with the exception of sewer systems and wells.

Editor: Your idea is a sound one. I’d like to point out though that the construction process could attract a lot of attention, violating one of my cardinal rules of preparedness, i.e., discretion in all things. I’d also be concerned about the crew involved; if you hire local people to help you with this project, they could be among the first ones showing up in a crisis, not to mention the potential for them to report your “suspicious behavior” to the authorities. A great way to help mask the construction might be to build a gazebo type structure on top of the container, to help hide what is there. If the container itself is missed, the dirt moving might be passed off as a septic tank or something. If you can use a crew from another town that might cut down on the risk of people talking. Thanks for the great email!

If you would like to mail the editor, please email [email protected]

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