Disaster on a Budget: Build a Radiation-proof Shelter in Your Backyard

Spend a few minutes at any disaster-preparation website and you will eventually bump into the topic of shelters. Actually, there are many different types: nuclear fallout shelters, disaster bunkers, non-nuclear safe rooms for all kinds of purposes, and storm/earthquake cellars where food and supplies can be packed alongside a couple of bunks and a chemical toilet.

What It Takes to Survive

In the event of a nuclear disaster or military incident, those not affected by the initial impact will need to take cover for at least several weeks until the risk of being outdoors decreases to a reasonable level.

Sadly, the topic has become so convoluted over the years that many people assume there is “nothing that can be done” if a nuclear accident or attack takes place. To the contrary, a reactor disaster or limited military strike would be survivable for those who could take cover and avoid irradiated particles for a few weeks. Once the air is clear of fallout debris, it would be safe to leave a shelter and go into the open environment.

Before embarking on the journey of constructing your own shelter, it is best to know the facts about such disasters and understand what it takes to construct living quarters that can shield you and your loved ones from radiation.

Myths and Facts about Nuclear Fallout Shelters

Myth: Nothing can be done in the event of a nuclear accident or military attack.

Fact: Much can be done. Survivors have only to shield themselves from radiation until the atmospheric danger passes. In most cases, according to experts, that time interval could be anywhere from two days to two months. The key is proper shielding, preferably underground.

Myth: Fallout shelters cost more than a typical single-family house.

Fact: A safe nuclear-fallout shelter can be built for about one-tenth the cost of a small single-family home. Shelters can also increase the resale value of a property considerably, so the final price of a quality shelter could end up being zero dollars, as long as those costs are recouped when selling the property.

Myth: A homeowner must hire a construction company to build a shelter.

Fact: Actually, some low-cost shelters can be constructed by non-professionals (i.e., homeowners with minimal construction skills). For higher-end shelters, you might need to hire a contractor for some of the work but not for all of it.

Myth: Only crazy people build radiation-proof shelters on their property.

Fact: If that were true, the shelter business would not be booming. Everything from supplies and Geiger counters to dosage kits and water purification systems are hot sellers online and in retail stores all over the world. The Chinese government as well as the Japanese and other assorted nations in Asia, Europe and Africa have already built public shelters for all of their citizens. Since this “public option” does not exist in the U.S., people are constructing their own facilities. The “shelter” market is in fact booming.

Myth: Radiation in the air will render any shelter useless.

Fact: Air itself does not carry radiation, which is one of the fortunate facts of science pertaining to this topic. As long as you use a very high-quality air filtration system in a shelter, the incoming air will be breathable and not carry radioactivity.

The primary danger comes when radioactive particles in the air are inhaled or land on the skin. A fallout shelter protects from these two key sources of danger.

How to Build a Fallout Shelter on Your Property

Survivalists and preppers know that online resources are abundant when it comes to finding data about building radiation fallout facilities. The first thing to do is decide what your needs are. Do you want a large area where five to six people can live for several months, or a minimal plan for one or two people?

Here are the steps for building a nuclear fallout shelter on your own property:

  • Decide on your space requirements.

Decide how big you need the enclosed area to be. A family of four can adapt any number of commercial “storm shelters” for underground use in the event of a nuclear reactor disaster or military incident.

For two parents and two children, for example, a shelter measuring 6 feet wide and 18 feet long would be the bare minimum. That could include sleeping, food prep, lavatory, shower, and recreation space.

  • Make a budget.

Shelters aren’t exceedingly expensive to build, but they aren’t cheap either. A typical family might need to save for a year or so to put enough funds aside for a small facility. As a general rule, unless you plan to finance the construction, about $2,000 per person per month of sheltering should do the trick. So, a family of four that expects to live in the space for two months would be spending about 2,000 x 4 x 2, or approximately $16,000 on a decent shelter.

  • Buy plans (or a ready-made frame) and begin work.

Do research online for plans and ready-made shelters that can be put into the ground. Plans are inexpensive. Typically the biggest cost is concrete, steel or a ready-made frame. Walmart and Home Depot, plus many other similar retailers, sell storm and protective shelters for under $3,000.

If you purchase one of these, you’ll need to make some simple but essential modifications like: adding a couple feet of soil to the top, cutting air duct holes to install a fan and filtration system, adding a toilet/shower area with privacy, and adding small furniture/bedding items as needed.

  • Go slowly and perform construction tasks as your budget allows.

There’s no need to do everything in a week or month. Follow the plan steps slowly and carefully, spending what you can afford as you progress. There is food and water to be purchased, ground to be dug up (here is where a contractor could be hired for a single part of the job), and air systems to be added.

Expect to be nearly finished in a year or less, depending how much time and funding you can devote to the project.

You are basically constructing a bare-bones “cabin in the woods” with the exception that it is: a) underground, and b) equipped with an air filtration system plus two-months of food and water.

  • Use inexpensive resources, plans and outside help.

There is no reason to spend too much when so many free and cheap resources are available online. One book that is of use is the Bomb Shelter Builders Book, which costs about $11.

A shipping container can be a good starting point for a shelter. Click here for a video link to see how a simple, 20-foot shipping container can double as an emergency facility. Of course, modifications would need to be made, but the container option has many advantages, the main one being low cost, another being simplicity.

Keep Positive Thoughts

Though the subject is grim, it pays to be positive about the eventual outcome. A fallout shelter could save the lives of you and your family members. Thinking about it now is smart planning for your future.

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