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How to Build an Underground Shelter

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posted on Oct, 24 2006 @ 05:42 PM

Ideas for Underground Shelters

In the event of just about every category of Situation X, a strong underground shelter is one of the best ways of providing yourself the maximum chance of survival.

Here is an excellent online resource on how to build fallout shelters. I would very much like to hear other people's experiences with building them, and how they dealt with problems like air filtration, weather, floods, space, latrine, etc.

However, I have what I believe is a practical solution to exactly how one overcomes the embarassment of building a shelter in one's back yard, lack of engineering knowledge, lack of manual labor or mobility, lack of tools and building materials, and even how to ensure it even meets city code. Here it is:

Buy an in-ground pool.

Buy the cheapest deepest pool you can. Let your minimum standards be that it is about two feet taller than your tallest family member, lighted, meets code, and has good drainage. Don't worry about looks at all, in fact, the uglier it is, the less you'll want to keep a pool and the more you'll want to make it a shelter.

The cost? Less than $10,000. I have no idea how much less, it probably depends on who you know, but considering a decent tool shed normally costs $1500-3000, I think it's a pretty darn good value, and covers the following basics:

  • Plumbing - You've now got a spot for a latrine (the drain hole at the bottom), and a source of running water (while it lasts), and (depending on the model you get), a convertable water filtration system. In the event your area IS flooded during an unrelated Situation X, your entire shelter is designed around the ability to drain liquid out of itself. You might still have to leave, but could otherwise stay underground far longer than those whom have no drainage.

  • Electricity - The circuit to the light can be easily rewired to something like a rechargeable lighting system and a power outlet. That way if your area doesn't actually lose electricity, you can still use it from the comfort of your shelter, and even if you do lose it, at least you've got some light for a while so you aren't stumbling around in the dark, in the middle of an emergency, looking for a flashlight. You could even use it to power a refrigerator or freezer, and thus keep little Timmy's insulin cold (or some beers, whatever). Even if the juice gets knocked out, it'll stay cold for a while if you have the kind of unit that open from the top. If you had a fridge AND a freezer that open from the top each, you can use the freezer to store bags of ice, that can, in turn, be put in the fridge to keep items cold. In this fashion you could conceivably keep things cold for weeks if not months.

  • Structurally Sound - At least on the sides. The roof may be a bit questionable if you don't do it right, but at least you know the floor and walls are solid. The walls can be easily watersealed, and your floor is already smooth. The incline may seem a bit crap at first, but it's your built-in drainage.

  • Spacious! - Seriously. That's a really sweet amount of space that can be used to give you and your occupants a little privacy in the latrine, some storage space, room to spread out a bit, maybe even small private closet-sized bedrooms.

  • Easy to Finish - Everything except the roof, partitions, and stocking the thing, have been taken care of for you. The rest should be relatively easy.

  • Already have a pool? Consider turning it into a fallout shelter - How often do you use that pool now? How much per year do you pay to keep that pool maintained? How many of your family's lives could be saved if you had a big, reinforced concrete hole in the ground you could evacuate them to in the event of tornadoes or a bombing? How much food, medicine, and other vital equipment could you get per year with the money you'd save on not maintaining a pool?

    Thoughts? Comments? Different ideas? Have you built one and have experience to share? Let's hear it.

    mod edit: removed survivalist from title due to creation of new forum

    [edit on 12-12-2006 by UK Wizard]

  • posted on Oct, 24 2006 @ 05:51 PM
    How likely is it that something will happen where you will need that?

    [edit on 24-10-2006 by enjoies05]

    posted on Oct, 24 2006 @ 06:13 PM
    you just never know, man. that actually is a good idea but i think slightly over the top.

    posted on Oct, 24 2006 @ 06:57 PM
    Something you might also want to consider...stocking sandbags within. They can help with shoring up its stability, storing stuff, or keeping water out. The Box O' Truth test gives that most rounds tested will stop by 6 inches of penetration. It's a good item to stock in the home, and the bunker.


    posted on Oct, 25 2006 @ 07:18 AM

    Originally posted by enjoies05
    How likely is it that something will happen where you will need that?

    Might as well ask yourself how likely it is that Situation X will happen, and how much warning you will have. All of the following events are likely to give enough warning ahead of time to relocate your family inside the shelter, at least temporarily.

    Natural Disaster - A shelter would provide an excellent refuge in the event of a tornado, hurricane-force winds, meteoric impact, and even significant thermal changes as it provides an insulated environment against the elements. Depending on where you live, the tornadoes and hurricanes may not be a factor, but they sure are where I live. As for the latter two, could happen anywhere at any time.

    Nuclear/Biological/Chemical - Obvious, I should think.

    Interruption in Infrastructure - In some locales around the world, if the heating or air conditioning stops, depending on the season, it could be fatal. Freezing to death is a common problem in winter, but heat waves kill just as many people. An underground structure is well insulated, and the temperature inside would provide a welcome refuge against the heat or cold in the event that your house should go without power or oil for a while.

    Conventional Destruction/Violence - While not foolproof, an underground shelter is going to provide a lot more safety to your family than your house. Even though it's possible to literally or figuratively smoke someone out of a bunker, it will be a lot less obvious of a target, and you will likely be surrounded by much more easy, appealing targets. You can't shoot through it. It's really hard to blow up. It's largely fireproof. You'd even be hard-pressed to flood the person out, considering the drainage.

    Wargames/Theoretical - Again, not foolproof, but a damned nice deterrant and safe haven for your family in the event of one of these.

    There's also some very practical considerations to consider, such as storage space for your emergency gear, food, water, and so forth. Anyone who has a house knows how quickly it fills with the every day detritus of use, and finding space to store boxes of food, jugs of water, and so forth, can be really difficult to clear, and keeping it in the attic or the garage presents its own problems (chemical fumes, heat, fiberglass). However, a nice, cool, insulated hole in the ground, guarded against pests, keeps all your emergency "stuff" out of the way while at the same time placing it exactly where it needs to be in the event of one of the situations above.

    Further, if done right, it will add value to the house as a permanant structure and safety feature, adds square footage, and assuming you trust them, provides your kids a place to hang out with their friends in relative comfort and privacy while still offering the safety of being on your property.

    Originally posted by DeusEx
    Something you might also want to consider...stocking sandbags within.

    I didn't even think about that, great idea DE. Additionally, sandbags would conform a lot more snugly to the smooth floor to wall joints.

    posted on Oct, 25 2006 @ 11:17 AM

    Originally posted by thelibra
  • Plumbing -

  • Sort of on that subject .... we have a plastic camper toilet. We have plastic bags for the lining and kitty litter to put inside. I know there are survivalist toilets that turn the poop (sorry, gotta say it
    ) into ashes but I think that for cost efficiency in purchasing supplies ya'll might want to think about the camper toilet; plastic bag linings; and kitty litter.

    It doesn't sound exotic .. but it will work.

    posted on Oct, 25 2006 @ 03:24 PM
    Well, I want to ask a question...what about making your bunker AFTER it's too late? How would you do that without too much help?

    Also, how would one fortify the home against fire, disturbance, flooding...

    I'm sorry, I don't live in a hurricane, tornado, flood-prone, or earthquake area. This sort of information I've never had.

    Oh, and what about fire?


    posted on Oct, 26 2006 @ 07:48 AM

    Originally posted by DeusEx
    Well, I want to ask a question...what about making your bunker AFTER it's too late? How would you do that without too much help?

    It depends on what the shelter is against and your circumstances.

    If it's shelter against fallout after a nuclear blast, then you want as much solid mass between you and the radiation as possible, for as long as possible. Pick the inner-most, lowest point in your house, with the most number of walls between you and the outside world. If you've already got a basement, fantastic. If not, then try to pick a central bathroom or hallway as far inside the house and away from windows as possible. With only seconds warning, this will be your best option. It's only slight protection though, as most of the mass between you and the fallout will consist of wooden beams, spaced apart, plywood, and sheetrock. Not the best at stopping radiation, but better than nothing at all.

    If you only have minutes to prepare, fill your bathtub with water while you line those same hallway/bathroom walls with more mass. Drag your heaviest (not biggest) tables into that area, and stack mass on top of it. Make a fort, like you were a kid again, out of anything you can. Try to create 30 inches or so of mass between you and the outside world, and try to stay there as long as possible at a time for the next 2-weeks to 1-month. That's how long it will take for most fallout to lose most of its radioactivity.

    For Tornadoes, if you don't have a shelter, it's a similar concept, but in lieu of "mass" use "plumbing". You want to get to an inside bathroom, with as few windows as possible, and try to fit between the toilet and the tub, or just get in the tub.

    Hurricanes, just be certain to keep your house pressurized by keeping the windows and doors closed, and put some sort of tape in a crosshatch pattern to keep the window together in the event something smashes against it. The most important thing is to keep the house pressurized, because the way hurricanes destroy houses is by equalizing the pressure enough to lift the roof off far enough to catch wind and sail away.

    Hope this helps.

    posted on Oct, 26 2006 @ 08:11 AM
    An Idea I had a while back was to dig a shelter into the sides of an overpass.
    Im pretty sure everybody has overpasses somewhere near them.
    It would take a few days, but in the event that you need shelter I think this would be a good place. It is above ground so flooding wouldnt be an issue and with a little ingenuity you could disguise the entrance to your above ground hole with shrubs.
    What do you think? Feasable?

    posted on Oct, 26 2006 @ 08:50 AM

    Originally posted by 11Bravo
    An Idea I had a while back was to dig a shelter into the sides of an overpass.


    What do you think? Feasable?

    Possible, but dangerous for quite a few reasons.

    1.) Highly illegal, and in today's USA or UK, you'd likely be accused of "something to do with terrorism" if you tried and hauled off to GITMO.

    2.) Those hills are load-bearing anchors for the weight of those overpasses. Either your hole will destablize the anchor point, or the overpass itself might collapse in upon the hole since it would have so much weight and vibration over the top. You'd need a CPE (Certified Professional Engineer) to build or design it for you and inspect it afterward, which leads back to the problem of #1.

    posted on Oct, 26 2006 @ 01:02 PM
    I agree with what you said, but I was thinking more along the lines of and end-time type scenario where there wouldnt be vehicles on the roads. If there was a total colapse of civilization and thus no fuel for cars or to heat your home I would think that my overpass idea would be quite comfy.
    I think that if there is a total collapse (not likely) then most if not all home/buildings would be subject to looting and fires. If that would be the case I think the smartest place to be might just be dug into the side of an overpass with the entrance camoflauged.
    Obviously one cant dig into an overpass until the 'endtime' happens, I should have clarified that.
    Another good aspects of the overpass shelter is that they are usually next to a borrow pit (where they get the dirt for an overpass) full of fish.

    posted on Oct, 27 2006 @ 06:56 AM

    Originally posted by 11Bravo
    I agree with what you said, but I was thinking more along the lines of and end-time type scenario where there wouldnt be vehicles on the roads.

    True, in a Class 4, or 5, I don't imagine there'd be much motorized traffic at all. There will probably still be some by people who stockpiled gas or learned to make alternative fuel engines though, and they're going to need roads to travel on. Even people on bike, horse, or foot are going to prefer a road.

    If you think about it, really, most of the vehicles that were abandoned on the freeways during the situation will, after a while, be cannibalized for parts. After all, glass and metal are going to be largely irreplacable unless you have a glass-making thingy or a forge (sorry, not up on my glassmaking terms). Engine parts will be even harder to come across after a few years.

    So eventually, all those freeways will be clear of most of the wreckage from civilization's collapse, and the roads themselves will be used by people, since travel will always be neccessary, for one reason or another.

    An overpass is a fine start towards a city gate, and historically, before frigidaire, plumbing, and electricity made it a lot easier, cities sprouted at roads or water. If you found a source of fresh water between two overpasses, you've suddenly got a main road that goes right through town, most of a city gate for each end of the road, and two sides to a four-sided fortress taken care of. If you built a wall right at the far side of either access road on the sides of the freeway, that's a rather fine layout for a fortress.

    Find yourself a relativley small unscathed town where you've got friends, and then set up a fort at each of the freeways leading to it, and you've just carved yourself a kingdom out of a lawless land. Of course you would need the help of a lot of people, but if it's evident that government isn't coming back, there's going to be a need for someone to lead them, to keep them alive, productive, and rebuilding. That probably sounds fairly cold, but I honestly believe that most people need someone to tell them what to do, or they wouldn't do anything at all (either that, or they'd revert to crime).

    Anyway, my point being, the freeway overpass idea is really good if you're going to try and rebuild a civilization or carve out your own. But it also makes you a really visible target and those that don't want to try and take it from you are going to be asking for aid. So for the one-man army types, probably not such a good idea, but for anyone who's wanted to try their hand at fort or city engineering, that'd be the way to do it.

    Thanks for the idea and clarification.

    posted on Nov, 6 2006 @ 10:13 AM

    Why not build a root cellar and kill two birds with one stone? You can store extras from the garden AND have a shelter. The best way to build a root cellar is into a hillside. It is cheaper and allows for good drainage.

    A big hole in flat ground will turn into a pool whether you want it to or not.

    posted on Dec, 12 2006 @ 11:11 AM
    I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but if you have an underground shelter in a nuke attack, you going to die.

    Why? well, carbon monoxide and dioxide.

    A nuke attack will strip the air of all its oxygen, and you will get the mon and di settling down into any holes or shelters as it is heavier than oxygen. This will seep down into your hides and you will die unless you have scrubbers or O2 supplies to sustain life.

    This is how many many people perished during the attacks on nagasaki and hiroshima. Underground shelters killed them. Sad but true.

    posted on Dec, 13 2006 @ 06:53 PM

    Originally posted by D4rk Kn1ght
    I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but if you have an underground shelter in a nuke attack, you going to die.

    At ground zero? Sure, but further off the blast wave will have alot less energy and make some sort of shelter a viable option.

    Just troll around the net and you would be surprised at what you find. The easiest I have seen so far is simply digging in a bus. There is also alto of government stuff fromt he 50' and 60's avalible including how to harden electrocnics against EMP etc.

    If you do not die in the blast, a homemade shelter is really a good option.

    posted on Dec, 13 2006 @ 09:30 PM

    posted by thelibra

    Ideas for Underground Shelters Thoughts? Comments? Different ideas? Have you built one and have experience to share? Let's hear it. [Edited by Don W]

    After 1949, the US pushed a home fall out shelter. Like most things that are for an unforeseeable event, by 1960, shelters were passe. There might still be some Civil Defense literature around that would offer advice on how to make and equip a shelter. Most shelters in America were built in basements of houses, a feature very common in the US housing where the conditions permit.

    The basic requirement was a 14 days supply of consumables for however many people you anticipated. One ugly thought is that you will need to be well armed to fend off your lazy neighbors who will insist on sharing your largess. A .40 cal Gloch in stainless steel is recommended. Which reminds me of a quip we had back in those halcyon days of the early Cold War, “better dead than red.” I don’t know what it means here, I just thought of it.

    Airtight. The important thing in a fall out shelter or WMD shelter, is to have it airtight. A hand operated fan to pump outside air inside, through a multi layered, all purpose filter, is a necessity. Thoughtful location of the air vent will add to your security. A chemical toilet (w/c in UK) is an essential. Fear and lack of physical activity plus strict rationing of supplies will discourage too much use of the toilet. Provisions for wall mounted bunk beds with easily inflatable air mattresses, cotton sheets and genuine wool blankets will provide needed sleeping space.

    Water is more valuable than food. 2 liters (a half gallon) of water per person per day is a minimum. Provisions for a modicum of privacy can easily be provided by a loop on the ceiling suspending a curtain of cotton. A provision for draining urine outside the shelter must be provided, and it also needs to be discreetly out of view to preserve your shelter’s security.

    Canned food to be eaten cold, of high calorie content such as tuna, pastas, soups, and other favorite foods should be provided. For children treats should be on hand but not used either to excess or as subsistence.

    One or two jump suits per person, at least one rain suit, a USMC Kaber knife, a Craftsman hatchet and a Craftsman household small tool box. A pry bar. Loosen up and buy a couple small halon fire extinguishers. A travel size first aid kit. Hand lotion. Paper towels. Candles. Matches. Can openers. Eating utensils. But remember, buy only the best to put in your shelter.

    Radio. Yes, the AM FM SW TV battery operated radio is fine, even better is one of the new motion chargeable varieties that can last indefinitely. With 3 or 4 people confined 24/7 in a 8 X 10 space, body heat will keep you warm. Probably too warm and definitely too humid. If it is safe, there is no harm in opening the shelter access door, and moving around outside. That depends on what event put you in the shelter in the first instance.

    Remember, it’s for 14 days. And 14 nights. Unless you have thoughtfully provided for light to access your space, but not contaminated air, it is going to seem like a very long time.

    [edit on 12/13/2006 by donwhite]

    posted on Aug, 27 2007 @ 11:21 PM
    What if you can't build an underground shelter?

    How else could you prevent fallout from effecting you?

    If your in a emergency situation and your not at home or you don't have underground place to go... what is the best way of minimising the effects of radiation?

    If I shut the house up, covered the vents... that wouldn't be enough?

    Is there any clothing you can buy?

    I have just looked at your list and will bump that up too... thank you for compiling it.

    In the event of a nuclear explosion, all electrical equipment would not the radio I purchased today... would it work after?
    I was reading about EMP and electronic devices and had read that if a device was not on at the time, then it would be ok?

    This is new for me so sorry if I am asking stupid questions...

    posted on Aug, 28 2007 @ 12:26 AM
    Fallout shelter or not, I don't understand why all new construction in tornado country doesn't have one of these buried under it.

    You always see trailer parks being being wiped out in storms, and this seems a simple and cheep solution to get your family to immediate safety.
    You'd only need to make a few modifications and add a secure entry, and you're protected for a brief period.

    Any home with a yard could easily install something like this a lot cheaper than a pool. You can also put as many pipes together as you want to make it larger.

    posted on Aug, 28 2007 @ 08:31 AM
    reply to post by anxietydisorder

    It looks to me that the real conclusion from the many suggestions on this thread is that shelters are really not the best way to spend our time or our money.

    I do live in a hurricane zone, and I also live in an apartment. My landlord will grow angry if I bring in a backhoe and begin digging in the front yard. I cannot realistically have an underground shelter. All I can do is keep towels and duct tape on hand to “seal” off my windows and doors from outside airborne contaminants.

    My biggest headache is losing my electricity. Like most houses and apartments in Florida, I’m 100% electric. In fact, my lease forbids me to have candles or oil lamps. Which leaves me only one way out. EVACUATION. Jacksonville tried that in a near miss by a hurricane around 1998, before I moved here in ‘03. All roads out of Jacksonville were jammed to a stop and grid lock was in place in less than 30 minutes. Some people did not recover their cars for 2 days.

    As a ‘feel good’ measure, FL now has a traffic plan that makes all the interstate highways OUT or EXIT only, all lanes. The DoT spent a goodly sum on putting up gates at interchanges all the way up to Brunswick GA to prevent entry in the wrong direction, all lanes being outbound from Jax. That system has not been tested, but I’d estimate it will work about 45 minutes before traffic is locked tight.

    We’re stuck where we are, which means a little PREVENTION is worth all the PREPARATION you can imagine. As for hurricanes, the last time Jax was threatened -2005 - I went to a friends house in GA 3 days before the predicted landfall. The hurricane did not strike so I came back after a nice week in the hills. I bought ALL the food consumed during my visit, so I may be welcome back the next time.

    Post Script. I suppose the idea for shelters came from World War Two. We allege the Germans began indiscriminate bombing of cities and we responded with the same tactic. It was justified on the grounds repeated bombings of unarmed civilians would adversely effect the populace’s morale; which the opposite proved to be the case. That tactic was capped by the still debated late-in-the-war raid on Dresden.

    People moved into already existing subways - the underground - as shelters from the bombs aimed at a part of a city - like strike the west end today - and tomorrow we’ll strike the south end. And etc. Post war surveys revealed IRON bombs as WW2's unguided bombs are called, were about 10% accurate and even then “accurate” was defined to mean striking within 100 yards of the aiming point. Shelters were definitely a morale booster but not of much real help even then. You do what you can with what you have. End.

    [edit on 8/28/2007 by donwhite]

    posted on Aug, 28 2007 @ 04:07 PM
    In some areas, like where I live, unless you have a backhoe or are willing to spend months digging and hacking at roots, an underground shelter of any reasonable size is pretty much out of the question. Also, in coastal areas and near large bodies of water you have to build the shelter several feet above the water table, which in some cases is impossible due to how high it is. But, if you do decide to build one, it's best to build it as deep as possible into the side of a hill. It will give you a nice, strong roof, will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and is fairly easy to build.

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