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Your Home is Not Complete Without a Shelter

storm cellar

It’s likely that if you’re reading this article, you consider yourself a cautious and prepared individual. You likely have a bug out bag, a plan to follow in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, and an understanding of basic survival skills. But have you taken the next step toward ensuring safety and security for your family? The fact of the matter is that your home, and your general disaster preparedness, is not complete without a shelter. An escape route and a bug out bag are valuable methods of being prepared, but they doesn’t allow for the possibility that there may be no escape when you need one. If you are too close to the blast radius of a nuclear attack or do not have enough advance warning that a natural disaster is impending, an underground shelter will mean the difference between life and death for you and your family.

There are three general types of underground shelters, constructed differently according to what type of disaster they are intended to protect against. While some underground shelters are built with the intention of protecting against all or most possible types of disasters, the three more specialized types can be categorized into blast, fallout, and storm shelters.

A blast shelter, meant to protect from the physical blast of a bomb, functions by deflecting the blast wave to prevent injury to those taking refuge within. A blast shelter should, at a minimum, protect against shock waves and overpressure (also known as high energy impulse noise, which can be damaging to the body’s auditory, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems). A blast shelter designed to protect against not only conventional but also nuclear blasts will be designed to cope with the initial blast as well as underpressure and radiation; the latter is an example of the potential overlap between a blast shelter and a fallout shelter. A blast shelter is an excellent choice if you live in a major city with a high population density, as locations such as these are more likely to serve as targets for terrorist attacks than sparsely populated rural areas.

A fallout shelter’s central purpose is to protect from radioactive fallout following a nuclear attack. It may seem that the ideal scenario in the event of a nuclear explosion would be to pack your family into a vehicle and get as far away from the blast as possible. The potential problems with this plan, however, are legion. Were a nuclear explosion to take place, most of the population would attempt to flee, which would lead to massive traffic jams and pandemonium on major roads. Should you find yourself trapped in traffic as fallout arrives, there will be little you can do to protect yourself; a vehicle does not provide adequate protection against radioactive fallout.

In the event of a nuclear attack or accident, radiation sickness would likely result in more injuries/fatalities than the initial blast. Unlike a dedicated blast shelter, a fallout shelter may not be reinforced specifically to protect against shock waves, but rather to protect against radioactive particles. An individual would retreat to a fallout shelter if they were near enough a blast to be affected by the fallout, but not near enough to have been injured by the initial blast. A fallout shelter will be rated with a protection factor (PF) specifying the level of radiation inhabitants can expect to receive compared to those who are unprotected.

The third most common type of underground shelter is a storm shelter. The primary purpose of a storm shelter is to protect the inhabitants from high wind and debris in the event of a severe storm such as a tornado or hurricane. The bare-bones requirements of a storm shelter are reinforced walls and ceiling (differing from a conventional basement in this regard), and they are often constructed from steel or fiberglass. An ideal storm shelter will be properly anchored in the ground and protected with dedicated overhead cover to shield inhabitants, should the home itself be ripped from the foundation.

Each of these specialized shelters offers unique protection against potential threats to the health and safety of you and your family. Before making a decision about which shelter would best suit you, take the time to research the requirements of each type of shelter and also explore the possibility of a shelter designed to protect against all three at once.