Building Your Own Shelter

Peter Larson, a Utah survivalist with a home and family, gave CNN a tour of his elaborate $65,000 bunker he built in the mountains in preparation for what he called “the last days.” There are even developers building luxury underground condos inside abandoned missile silos that stretch 175 feet underground, and cost upwards of $2 million per unit.

But you don’t have to break the bank to build an underground shelter that will keep you and the family safe in the event of nuclear holocaust, extinction-level meteorite impact and/or full-fledged police state oppression. All you need is a decent-sized backyard and the will to survive.

The Dig

You want your bunker to be a total secret, or known to exist by as few people as possible. When it hits the fan, and desperate neighbors are trying to escape nuclear radiation or government tyranny, the first place they will come knocking is your bunker. That said, try and be as discreet as possible when digging the hole. You can do it the old-fashioned way by hiring workers to dig with shovels, or have dig parties with friends who are guaranteed a spot in the bunker when it becomes necessary. A small excavator can be rented for as little as $50 per hour. The bunker should be 10 feet deep minimum, but for maximum protection from just about anything, go to at least 20 feet.

The Walls

Nukemap is an app that can simulate what would happen if a 100 megaton nuclear bomb was detonated in a given area. For instance, if one were dropped in New York City, nearly 8 million people would be instantly incinerated, while 4 million more would suffer serious injuries. The residual radiation from the bomb would linger anywhere from a few minutes to several years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Radiation Emergency Medical Management. The King County, Wash., Health Department recommends a concrete shield to protect yourself from gamma rays.

Get quotes from several concrete contractors who will also reinforce the walls with steel. The American Concrete Institute says that steel-reinforced concrete walls have 20 times the compressive strength (weight capacity) of normal concrete. This will not only come in handy if an initial nuclear blast is within a few miles of your bunker, but will serve as a near-impenetrable radiation shield. Make sure to leave small openings for an air filtration system, sewage elimination and even a spout to capture rain water for drinking.


The last major expense will be for supplies. Batteries, food and water are the items you will want the most. Remember you may not be able to leave the shelter for a year in the event of nuclear holocaust. The bare minimum amount of water humans need to survive is about 68 ounces (two liters) per day, according to Human Rights Watch. This means each person needs about 180 gallons of water to survive for a year. Contrarily, humans can survive for weeks without food. Dried (i.e. jerky) and canned foods are best, as they can be stored at room temperature and will stay edible for years. Firearms, ammunition, flashlights, matches, hygiene and first-aid supplies are the other essentials.

All the aforementioned can be done for less than $10,000, if you exercise due diligence.

4 Ways To Prepare Your Home For SHTF Scenarios

Many preppers believe when that first missile hits the city, they will simply jump in their bug-out vehicles and head for the hills. But only those with advanced survival skills and ample supplies will be able to survive a long time outdoors. The best option for everyone else is to stay in your homes for as long as you can. A home security system will keep burglars out in normal times, but a few extra steps are needed to turn your home from family dwelling to fortress.

Roof Hatch

The last thing you want to do is open doors or windows when you don’t know what might be out there. Homes with attics are perfect when you know there are undesirables outside and you need let off a few rounds through the windows. But installing a roof hatch will enable you to exit your home and scope out the area from above. It also gives you another hiding place when necessary. Parts and labor will be around $1,000, but is well worth it.

Booby Traps

The more time you have to prepare for a potential attack on your home (even a few seconds), the better you will fare. Booby traps are especially useful when you have a large yard and can place them far away from the house. Trip wires can be made with fishing line or some other invisible string. Put bells or some other noisemaker on them so you’ll not only slow down the undesirables, but will be alerted of their presence. You can use a 12 Gauge alarm on the trip wire as well.


Photo by Roo72 via Wikimedia Commons

Land telephone were still present in 64 percent of homes in 2012, down from nearly 90 percent five years earlier, according to the National Center of Health Statistics. At this rate, virtually every household in America will lack a land telephone line by 2020. But smart individuals who want a means of communications when power and broadband are cut off will keep their old reliable phone.

The phone will still work during a power outage if copper lines connect you to the network. Copper can carry both the electrical power and the communication signals on the same line. You may even be able to access dial-up Internet if you’re savvy enough to find a free provider.

Most telecommunications companies now use hybrid fiber-coaxial lines in lieu of copper, according to Consumer Reports. Ask your provider to install copper wires instead of the fiber cables if technically possible (note: they will likely charge a premium for this). Most providers will also install a battery backup system at your request if they cannot do copper cables.

Love Thy Neighbor

Photo by Nyttend via Wikimedia Commons

Strength is in numbers when it comes to survival in SHTF scenarios. Knowing which neighbors you can rely on will increase your chances of survival. Your neighborhood could become a protected area in the city, with one home being the medical house, another being the ammunition house, etc. Each neighbor should know what each has to offer and communicate that with one another regularly. Of course you’ll have to determine which “side” each neighbor is on first. But this can easily be achieved via idle chit-chat.

The Prepper Movement Isn’t New

Thanks to a few outspoken radicals, the prepper movement has been relegated to the league of irrational fanatics alongside children’s beauty pageant parents and obsessive hoarders. In reality, the majority of “doomsday preppers” are common-sense folks who take it upon themselves to protect their families from the tribulations of life. The movement isn’t a new phenomenon. Decades ago, citizens were much more self-reliant, and centuries ago, the self-sustainability of the prepper movement was simply the result of daily life. As modern Americans become more reliant on technology and less capable of completing the basic tasks required for living, it’s time for the true prepper movement to show its colors.

No fear-mongering here, just a refresher on the history and direction of the common-sense prepper movement.

Farmers: The Original Preppers

The idea of becoming self-reliant for food, shelter and healthcare might sound foreign to some, but it’s been the norm for most of human history. Consider early American farmers. These original preppers lived in remote fields and didn’t have the means to travel long distances in case of an emergency. That meant they had to maintain a sustainable lifestyle right where they were. Rather than driving to the mall, these early citizens made their own clothes. Without a grocery store in site, they relied on goats, dogs, pigs and chickens to hunt and eat. In that context, it makes sense why people would buy e-collars and train their dogs to hunt for food.

Photo of family canning their own food via Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who calls the prepper movement a new phenomenon isn’t familiar with history. The prepper movement is a return to the self-reliance that helped farmers and other citizens get through literal and figurative storms. You don’t need to shun modern culture to join the movement. All you need is the willingness to get your hands dirty and prepare for life’s common tribulations.

TV Preppers and the Lure of Fame

Much of the perception of the modern-day movement can be attributed to TV shows like Discovery’s “Doomsday Preppers,” which profiles the most extreme survivalists. Many of the shows subjects believe that the end of the world is imminent. Their rational tips and behaviors are overshadowed by ridiculous survival machines and loud-mouth hollering. These TV personalities may have a started out as rational preppers, but it’s clear that the promise of fame outweighs their desire to accurately represent the movement.

Photo by Nomadic Lass via Flickr

Fear-mongering preppers are grabbing headlines, too. profiled Scott Hunt, a prepper who is preparing for, among other things, a food shortage. “It would only take nine days of hunger for the women to begin prostituting themselves,” Hunt said. It’s the kind of outlandish claim that people remember, and when they remember it, they associate it with the prepper movement.

The Need for a Real Prepper Movement

Photo Of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, U.S. Navy Photo by Gary Nichols

The real prepper movement is far less irrational and far more practical. Millions of Americans wouldn’t know what to do in the face of a hurricane or tornado. Hurricane Katrina was a sobering example of how mother nature can ravage entire communities. Residents of New Orleans probably wish they had been more prepared to live without a grocery store for a few days. No one is blaming residents of New Orleans for their unpreparedness, but reasonable preppers hope to spread the word that a little planning can go a long way in the face of these disasters. With an accurate message, the prepper movement doesn’t seem so outlandish. As we continue to depend more on technology, the skills and principles that first-generation American farmers employed don’t have to become completely obsolete.