In my 2016 post titled “How do you survive a nuclear apocalypse“, we discussed, well, how to survive the nuclear apocalypse. “Don’t be under the bomb” was one of the many great, inspiring insights, and today, we’re going to expand on one of the important points: Shelters. And, more importantly, how to do so without ruining your house and, more likely, pissing off your family while you’re at it.
More importantly, how to do so without ruining your house and, more likely, pissing off your family while you’re at it.
So, how do you build an outdoor nuclear bomb shelter?
Step 1: Plan out the theory
Building an outdoor bunker means getting your hands dirty – literally. First, we’re going to look at the soil around your property, then we’ll be talking about digging a big-ass hole, filling it with the right materials to survive a nuclear explosion, and then we’ll talk about nitty-gritty details like emergency exists, ventilation and the like. It’s really important that you write everything down and plan it all out, so you’re prepped for the next stages (you don’t want to forget air filters, do you?).
It’s really important that you write everything down and plan it all out.
Step 2: Test your soil
The best and cheapest way to build a nuclear shelter outside of a pre-existing structure is to put it in the ground, and that means digging an enormous hole. But, you can’t just shove a spade in the ground and expect it to go your way – soil conditions will drastically alter the effectiveness of your trench-digging efforts.
So, you’re going to need to conduct a soil test first. Dry, hard-packed clays and glacial tills are going to be a lot harder to dig up, but far more stable as your hole gets deeper. This is because, according to Ontario’s Health and Safety Association, they’re more vibration-resistant, and less prone to stress cracks when left out in the sun. Silty clay or softer till – essentially, softer, looser versions of the hard stuff – will be much easier to dig into, but susceptible to drying out.
Soft or wet soil such as sand, wet clay and organic materials, are all much easier to dig, but harder to stabilise. Vibrations can cave them in, or they might just do it on their own because fuck you, that’s why.
Step 3: Dig out your shelter hole
Now that you know what you’re dealing with, you should have an idea of the equipment you need and the support measures that will help you keep the hole open. Most commonly, when protecting workers who are digging trenches, a trench box can be used. It won’t suffice to hold unstable walls up permanently, but it can protect workers (e.g. family members) from cave-ins. Unless that’s what you want to happe-
A trench box won’t suffice to hold unstable walls up permanently, but it can protect workers from cave-ins.
Anyway. For a permanent solution to safety, you need to shore the walls up. This can be done by constructing timber walls all along the length of your hole or trench or whatever monstrosity you’ve just put in the ground, then reinforcing them with struts. Just remember, though, that you need to be able to move and live inside your hole, so don’t go crazy with struts crisscrossing all over the show.
How deep a hole?
In essence, the deeper your hole, the more protected you’re going to be. Additionally, each individual living inside your shelter is going to need no less than 2 square metres of space or roughly 20 or so square feet. This gives each person enough room to move, eat, sleep or go crazy with the confinement. If you want to dig a bigger trench, go for it. Hell, dig a mansion – I don’t care.
You also need to take into consideration where the exits are.Never have just one exit. You should have at least two, and in different places – perhaps either end of the trench? This is so that if one collapses or rubble falls on it, you still have a means to escape.
Step 4: Protect your hole
(tee hee, always got to protect that hole)
Now for the shelter part of building a shelter. You could, at minimum, just throw thick logs over the top of the trench – extending about a foot either side so that they won’t fall in – and then cover those with a tarpaulin. Make sure there are no cracks, because after this you pack soil and leaves on top of the tarp, and you don’t want crap falling in.
Wood and soil do serve as protection against radiation, they’re just not fantastic. So if you want to go a little above and beyond to protect yourself (and OK, your family can come, too), it might be worth investing in other materials.
Wood and soil does serve as protection against radiation, it’s just not fantastic.
Packed soil provides adequate protecting against radiation, so you’re lucky it’s everywhere around you except on top. Concrete makes for a great option, so if you can, you should consider lining the walls of your shelter with concrete, then capping it with concrete slab for a roof. Steel is even better, and lead better than that. According to Tiny House Design, you’d need about twice the steel as you would lead, and twice the concrete as you would steel.
Step 5: Sort out the final details
Before we dive into the exciting world of bunker toilets, we need to first quickly talk about air filtration ventilation – arguably hyper important not just for general survival, but to ensure you are not stuck festering in the smell of bunker toilets.
Now, air filtration doesn’t have to be as complex or as expensive as you might think. You actually don’t even necessarily need electricity, which is, of course, another issue with surviving to the post-apocalypse. The most harmful stuff that can get you when a bomb dropsare the microparticles floating through the air carrying radiation. This is what’s called fallout, and your system needs to protect you from it.
So, after you have your initial hole and are building the concrete (or whatever) structure around it, consider this: Build air intakes that open 1-2 metres (4-6 feet) above ground, and ensure there is a 90-degree turn in the pipe. Then, make sure all of your doorways have 90-degree turns, too, and set them a wee ways away from the living area. With the turns, particles will have a much harder time getting into your system. You can also add cheap filters like damp sheets across air intakes to help block the matter – you’ll just have to remember to clean them regularly, lest you suffocate.
Ensuring adequate ventilation
Secondly, you must have a system of pumping air in and out of your shelter in order to remove carbon dioxide, body heat/humidity, and fart smells. According to an excerpt from “Nuclear War Survival Skills”, you’ll need to be pumping about a cubic metre of air (40 cubic feet) per minute, per person in order to maintain an appropriate internal temperature and flow of oxygen.
You must have a system of pumping air in and out of your shelter in order to remove carbon dioxide, body heat/humidity, and fart smells.
One way to do this on the cheap is to make a DIY Kearny Air Pump. This is like a swinging flap with smaller flaps built onto it that swings like a pendulum, sucking air out one side and forcing it on the other. The little flaps on the big flap (this is a lot of flaps) can only open one way, forcing air flow in only one direction. If you positioned your pumps on either side of the trench, you could create a cross-flow through the main room, which is important for air quality. Low-voltage fans can also help air movement.
Don’t forget a toilet
Unless you have running water and electricity, your choices of toilet system are going to be somewhat limited. But, this is where composting toilets come in!
Companies like WCT in New Zealand create non-electric, waterless composting loos that essentially collect waste beneath the throne unit, which can then be removed at a later date. So although you’ll need to go outside to empty it, it saves the stress of water and could potentially help you grow crops at a future time, too. Or, at the very least, you can create a poo barrier around your property to warn off intruders.
The final touches
Now you have shelter, air and somewhere to let loose the dogs of war. What else?
Pretty much just the basics. Food and drinkable water are a necessity, bearing in mind an adult human needs, according to Mayo Clinic, around 2-3 litres of water a day to be healthy. If anyone in your family requires regular medicine, you will, of course, want to stock up on this beforehand, as well as basic first-aid supplies – available at any pharmacy.
Don’t forget beds, spare sheeting and blankets, clothing, entertainment, kitchen equipment and supplies, and anything else you think you’ll need to live underground for a while. It’s also advisable to have a radio in case you need to listen in to public broadcasts, as well as some kind ofGeiger counter. You can actually purchase these readily, from companies like Jaycar, Safespace or, hell, even TradeMe.
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