Too many survivalist writers include preparation of a deluxe expensive fallout shelter as part of their suggestions and fiction. For instance, how often have we read about our hero and his shelter designed underneath his home complete with air filtration and blast door from American Safe Rooms (less than $10,000.00!), well, septic system and multiple hidden entrances?
Most of us have limitations on what and how we can prepare; space, money, time and understanding of others we live with.
A fallout shelter is one of those areas. Most of us simply do not have several thousand dollars around for a complete, sub-basement fallout shelter depicted in stories and movies. So we have to make due with a less expensive version using the tools and supplies we may have on hand.
To get started, you need the following:
A place for a shelter
A shovel, rototiller and pick
What is described is a trench shelter. Basically, it is a long hole in the ground, a few feet wide, with ceiling and walls made from lumber and plastic sheeting and then covered with the dirt from the hole.
A place for the shelter. This could be the backyard, acreage, vacant lot or other property. While having the shelter on site where one lives is the best option, having a shelter off site somewhere out of the way may be useful in avoiding prying eyes and uninvited guests.
While it's handy to have a back hoe, most of us will have to settle for a shovel, pick and plenty of labor. If thei digging team is limited to one or two adults/teens, then plan the work over a long weekend or several days.
A rototiller is handy because it can break up three or four inches of soil allowing its quick removal by shovel and is faster than using a pick.
The fastest way to start is to mark off the spot where the shelter should go. The usual applies: Make sure it is away from water source, structures which may collapse on the shelter or exits, away from gas line, fuel tanks, underground wiring or plumbing.
Start small and expand on the basic structure. Mark off and dig a six foot long trench. The deeper it is the more protection it offers and the more comfortable it will be for the residents. At one or both ends of the trench, mark off a ninety degree right angle turn. This will be the entrance/exit to the shelter. Gamma radiation cannot "bend corners" but only travels in a straight line thus the entrance points should be at a right angle.
Shore up the sides of the trench with lumber using two by fours and plywood. Put plastic sheeting on the floor to keep moisture out and then place plywood on top if a stable floor is desired.
At a depth of six or more feet, the top can be covered with plywood, but solid core doors from the house can be used as well. After the doors or lumber have been put on top, cover them with sheets of plastic to keep moisture out. Then cover with at least three feet of earth. The entrances can be covered as well after occupants have entered the shelter, but not neccessarily with dirt.
Shelter residents would block the entrances with bulky items such as preparedness supplies in buckets and totes, water barrels or other containers. A crack should be left for fresh air to enter the shelter which can be protected by placing a furnace filter or similar over the opening.
This type of trench shelter can theoretically be occupied as long as water and food holds out. Typically, the worse radiation is in the first twenty four hours after the last bomb has exploded. Shelter stay normally lasts for a few weeks afterwards, but have a way to measure radiation before leaving the safety of the shelter.
For more information on how to build your own shelter, check with these resources:
Cresson Kerney's authortative website on nuclear war preparedness
K14U - A great site for nuclear prepardness and supplies.
A fallout shelter, in an emgency, does not have to cost several thousands of dollars or take years to prepare.