Is There a Best Bunker?

Update 09/29/13 – New article listing shelter manufacturers.

What if they gave a bunker party and no one could find it? LOL!

Whatever the purpose of the bunker, you certainly don’t want it to be known that you have one. So you better pass up the opportunity to be on any of the “Doomsday” shows. Don’t invite the reality shows over for a look-see, because they and everyone else will see it.  See?

Seriously, folks… the best bunker is the one that was not seen during installation, can’t be found afterward, and isn’t discussed. If seen, it will be remembered. If found, it will be discussed. If discussed, it will be visited.

Now, if you can be discreet about it, we can talk bunkers and shelters. It’s no little secret that my preference for prefabricated shelters is just about anything offered by Utah Shelter SystemsI have found nothing in their design that is any reason for concern. When buried correctly, their performance is a given. Their interiors are common sense and utilitarian. But are there other shelters that will make do? Of course. In fact, there are several knock-offs on the USS concept, if that is your flavor. But then, why bother with copies? Your choice of a bunker hinges on a few things being thought out ahead of time.

  • What disasters are you seeking to survive?
  • How long will you be using the shelter?
  • How many people will be depending on it?
  • How much do you have in your budget?
  • Do you have a suitable location for it?
  • Can it be installed without much fuss?
  • Will you have the man power and funds to operate and maintain it?
  • Are there other uses for it that will stretch your dollar?

Some people will be fine with a good steel hurricane shelter in the yard, outfitted for a few days immediate supplies, and a couple weeks of extended supplies. No need for a bomb or fallout shelter. Such boxes will do well for tornadoes as well. Are you looking to survive severe weather? These will do you.

Any shelter that needs to operate for months on end might as well be considered a permanent replacement home. A months-long scenario will require serious upheaval on the order of life changing (or ending) events. Nuclear war. EMP-induced collapse. Nation-killing pandemic. Major geological change. Vicious civil wars. Pick your disaster, so long as it is epic. The way I go about sizing a shelter is much along the lines of defining a full-time live-in RV. It must have storage, living space and storage. Oh yes, and MORE storage. A tube or box in the ground with you standing inside it is worth very little. Only if it can do what it was built to do – help you to survive – will it be worth anything. It must be outfitted as a home.

Your shelter’s storage will safely keep your various types of food, water, water filtration, medical supplies, clothing, tools, repair materials, toys and games, communications equipment, weaponry, pets and supplies for pets, books and electronics, special heirlooms, religious items and other meaningful things in order and good repair. Cross off items of non-import from the above list. The point I am making is that you will want to have what you consider important near at hand. Without room, you can’t do that. Do you plan on storing food for a specific duration, and then raising and growing it later? Then you’ll need farm tools and seed… maybe even a few animals, and the first year’s supply of items for them. No matter what it is, it needs a place, and storage is that place.

This thing can get big. So decide what disasters, real or imagined, you will be prepping for. If you think about it, this is no different than designing your initial survival plan. All you’re doing it adding a secure alternate (or primary?) location for the items you feel are necessary to your physical and mental well being – things you need to survive and thrive.

Keep in mind that living requirements for each additional individual place a burden on your storage and living space. If you can’t stand that family member at the dinner table, how will things be in a void in the ground? Get your issues straightened out NOW, while there is time, and plan accordingly.  Their things will need space, too. Whatever you end up with, be sure to designate space as soon as it is in the the ground, and make periodic adjustments and refinements to space allocations.

Depending on your budget, you may have to build the thing yourself, or have a handy person in your life do it for you. There are resources for doing so. There is a danger associated with DIY shelter projects, though. The most common is cave in or collapse. Imagine that…. you prep for a coming collapse only to get buried in an imploded hole. Ready made grave. If you opt to build it yourself, be sure you have the assistance of someone that understands engineering.

If you’re going underground, you will have a few things to think about.

  • Water table – will your shelter float?
  • Soil type – sandy cave ins or rocky resistance to digging?
  • Hill side slope – erosion of your ground cover?

The best location is above the water table, in earth that holds its form well and drains without problem, and has no issues with tree roots or erosion. A high water table will be a source of potential leaks, heaving, corrosion and humidity.

Culvert shelters, those corrugated tubes that are becoming well known, are an excellent choice. There are several requirements for their installation, and the builders’ web sites will tell you most of what those are. The one I’d like to mention here is “earth arching”. Earth Arching is a condition of the soil that is used to bury the shelter. The earth that covers the upper curved surface forms an arch, which helps to distribute the loads of the earth itself, and anything crossing overhead. It provides stability and it greatly resists blast overpressure from nearby nuclear detonations. To properly setup earth arching, the shelter needs to be buried to a depth that allows an earth covering that is equal in depth to the diameter of the shelter. If you purchased a 9 foot wide culvert shelter, it will need to have 9 feet of earth overhead. (Three feet of earth is generally sufficient to dampen the effects of radioactive fallout in many situations. I prefer 6 feet, myself.) This also means that the hole in which you drop the tube is at least 18 feet deep. Go 20 for a 10 foot shelter. Add in the drainage rock that creates the bed of the shelter, and you are looking at the diameter times two, plus one.

Getting one of these things buried, or in the case of concrete or other types, constructed without notice is little trouble in the back country. In town, well that’s another story. Before you set your heart on one of these things, realistically decide if you can get away with it. Is your area stifled with building codes? Will nosy neighbors be watching from their lawn chairs sipping beers, or their kitchen windows sipping tea? Will the local gossip be keeping tabs, asking questions and trespassing? Be honest in your evaluation. A survival plan is useless if it is based on fantasy.

Just like any other home, it needs to be maintained. Cleaning, organizing, inspecting and dehumidifying are issues to be considered. No bomb or fallout shelter is worth its cost without a good filtration system or at least an air handler. To keep humidity down, air must be moved periodically – flushed out. Will you be able to do that? Will shelter stakeholders be able to? It will need the attention of a covered and buttoned-up RV.

  • Batteries will need charging and replacement
  • Food stocks rotated
  • Mechanicals cleaned and oiled
  • Rust removed
  • Bedding cleaned and fluffed, or plastic wrapped
  • Mold controlled
  • Pests located and killed
  • Security measures reviewed and maintained

These things take time, care and finances. If you allow things to deteriorate, you’ve lost time, money, energy and LIFE.

I know of one shelter that doubles as an office, and another as a weekend retreat. The underground shelter is a wonderfully quiet and peaceful place. It doesn’t have to be disconnected from the world. It can have power, TV, radio or even the outdoors displayed live on a large screen panel via cameras. It is a palate available for your unique creative talents. I’m sure there are people that just salivate at the thought of TEOTWAWKI. I’m not one of them. I hope the majority of my “dedicated” preps are never used. So, a nice comfy hole in the ground that has more utility than just a place to watch it all end is a great idea. Make it more than just a Doomsday Bunker. Who knows? If you do it right, it may not even come across as “one of those”.

But then…. with the “Doomsday” shows out there, maybe our cover is already blown. Naaaa..  keep it to yourself, and let the world watch somebody else blow their cover….

1 comment to Is There a “Best Bunker?”

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