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Bomb Shelter FAQ’s | Underground Bomb Shelter
Bomb Shelter FAQ’s

Bomb Shelter FAQ’s

How much will it cost to purchase an underground bomb shelter?

While costs vary, a complete, professionally installed underground bomb shelter which provides the very minimal basics for survival could cost about $20,000. A large, fully prepared underground bomb shelter can cost hundreds of thousands. Some of the nicer, pre-fabricated designs on the market today can be had for $40,000 to $80,000. Look here to explore options about financing your shelter

How much will it cost to build an underground bomb shelter?

A basic shelter built to withstand the effects of a nuclear attack will set you back about $2,500 in materials. If you use one of the plans in SFC Carter’s Big Book on Surviving a Nuclear Attack, you can build your own shelter for $5,000 to $6,000. A top-notch facility can be built for less than $10,000.

What is an underground bomb shelter?

Basically, an underground bomb shelter is an enclosed, sheltered room which has been built in such a way as to protect you from nuclear threats. When we say sheltered, we mean “underground”. At least 3 feet of soil rests above the shelter, shielding the occupants from radioactive fallout. The underground bomb shelter should be constructed in such a way as to provide maximum protection from a nuclear attack. This primarily means you will need shielding from the blast wave and protection from radioactive fallout.

Unlike the Cold War era when we would have some warning of an attack, in today’s world where the greatest possibility of a nuclear explosion will be delivered via terrorists, you will not receive notice of an impending attack. The unfortunate souls who are vaporized by a terrorist’s nuclear blast would probably be reserved to an area 1 mile in diameter. The blast wave will move out so fast that people within 5 miles won’t have time to escape unscathed. Those located 5 to 20 miles from the blast will probably see the mushroom cloud or panicking people and be able to make a hasty entrance into an underground bomb shelter in time to escape fallout hazards. Many baby boomers (people in their 50s) will race to local fallout shelters once maintained by the Civil Defense plan but no longer stocked with supplies. They are the ones who grew up doing monthly “duck and cover” drills in elementary or junior high school. The decision will improve their chances of receiving less radiation than most. But, many will die.

Within half an hour, most Americans will probably know a nuclear strike has taken place, and when and where it happened. Fallout charts will pepper the news and warn people in the predicted area. Those of us who have built a shelter will have ample time to secure ourselves within the shelter. Everyone else within the expected fallout zone will frantically pack their bags and hit the road in hopes of escaping the fallout, which will be falling 50 miles from ground zero an hour after the explosion. The traffic jams will see large numbers of people exposed to the radiation within the fallout. Those poor souls will be dead within hours. Some people within the traffic jams will escape with their lives by heading in a direction perpendicular to the expected fallout zone. They remember reading on UndergroundBombShelter.com that if they are caught in a traffic jam, they have but minutes to make the decision to put the SUV in 4 wheel drive and head North or South – even if they have to cross that cow pasture or field.

For the most part, everyone caught in the fallout within the first 48 to 72 hours will die. Those who survive the blast, which is lethal up to 10 miles from ground zero, will survive the dangers of fallout if they are in an underground bomb shelter.

Where should my underground bomb shelter be placed?

Anywhere that makes it quickly accessible. In certain situations, you may only have a few minutes to secure you and your family. On the other hand, you may have a few hours. This all depends on location of detonation, weather, and your distance from ground zero. Problem is, no one knows exactly where the first attack will take place. Therefore, it is recommended you choose a location near your home – preferably in your back yard. The optimum location is one that has the underground bomb shelter situated deep enough to provide a 36-inch (or more) barrier between the shelter and the surface of the ground. A location under the patio or garage you are thinking about building would be perfect. If you are building a new house, include space for an underground bomb shelter in your basement. Just make sure you allow for the 36 inches of space below the ground floor.

How much warning time will I receive?

That depends on the type of attack. If it comes via missile, you may get several minutes warning from the emergency response system (if the American military – NORAD – even puts out such a warning). Most likely America’s first nuclear attack will come in the form of a “dirty bomb”, a 1 to 10 kiloton nuclear device. In that case, you won’t have any warning about an impending explosion. If you are close enough to ground zero and survive the explosion and blast wave, your warning will be obvious. If you are some miles (10 or more) away, you’ll probably have at least a minute or two to prepare for fallout. Of course, everyone in America (and the world) will know about the attack within an hour.

 Post your own Questions in our New User Forum!

How long do I have to get in my shelter following an attack?

That primarily depends on the distance from ground zero. Since the blast wave is a top concern for those who are not vaporized in the initial detonation, those 5 to 10 miles away will have a few seconds to react. Ducking and covering literally is your best hope. People located at distances beyond that will have to worry about radioactive fallout. If you are 25 miles away, you have a few minutes – maybe even enough time to drive a few miles to your home (if you are at work, for example) in order to escape the fallout. If you are 100 or more miles away, an hour or more is available. Areas affected by radioactive fallout could extend up to 500 miles or more beyond ground zero, where it may take half a day or more to reach.

How long can I survive in an underground bomb shelter?

Survival will depend on a number of things including distance to ground zero and basic supplies. Generally, you will need to stay sheltered at least 4 days. The closer you are to the detonation, the higher the levels of radioactive fallout will be. Also, since the radioactivity begins dropping soon after detonation, your close proximity means you will have more radiation over time when compared to locations down range who may not start receiving fallout for several hours. In short, you will begin receiving fallout which is more lethal than the reduced amount delivered a hour down range from you. Therefore, you could expect to have to remain sheltered for several weeks if you are within a few miles of ground zero. Regardless of distance, one could survive in a well constructed underground bomb shelter for months assuming enough supplies and circulating air is available.

How will I know when it is safe to come out of the shelter?

Hopefully, you’ve stocked your shelter with several pieces of communication equipment (AM/FM radio, ham radio, etc.) as well as a RAD monitor. The information you get from radio reports, along with the knowledge you have about blast will assist you in determining when it’s safe to come out.

Nuclear Explosion FAQ’s

What is a nuclear explosion?

A nuclear blast is an explosion with intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave, and widespread radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water, and ground surfaces for miles around. A nuclear device can range from a weapon carried by an intercontinental missile launched by a hostile nation or terrorist organization, to a small portable nuclear devise transported by an individual. All nuclear devices cause deadly effects when exploded, including blinding light, intense heat (thermal radiation), initial nuclear radiation, blast, fires started by the heat pulse, and secondary fires caused by the destruction.

Will a nuclear explosion mean the end of the world is here?

Quite the contrary. Clearly, anyone inside an area equal in diameter to the fireball (500 feet or more) will be vaporized. People up to 2 miles from ground zero as well will likely not survive. But, even the largest nuclear weapon won’t blow up an area the size of Los Angeles, let alone a state or a country. Unlike the Cold War days when thousands of Soviet nuclear warheads were aimed at America, today’s attack would probably be a limited-size bomb from a single terrorist strike. We can expect total destruction of people and property in an area 1 to 3 miles from ground zero. Fires started by thermal pulse will extend the destruction a few more miles. And, fallout could kill tens of thousands more. But, it would be unlikely a nuclear bomb detonated in the very populated New York City for example, would kill more than a few million people.

What are the hazards of a nuclear device?

The extent, nature, and arrival time of these hazards are difficult to predict. The geographical dispersion of hazard effects will be defined by the following:

  • Size of the device. A more powerful bomb will produce more distant effects.
  • Height above the ground the device was detonated. This will determine the extent of blast effects.
  • Nature of the surface beneath the explosion. Some materials are more likely to become radioactive and airborne than others. Flat areas are more susceptible to blast effects.
  • Existing meteorological conditions. Wind speed and direction will affect arrival time of fallout; precipitation may wash fallout from the atmosphere.

What is this I hear about radioactive fallout?

Even if individuals are not close enough to the nuclear blast to be affected by the direct impacts, they may be affected by radioactive fallout. Any nuclear blast results in some fallout. Blasts that occur near the earth’s surface create much greater amounts of fallout than blasts that occur at higher altitudes. This is because the tremendous heat produced from a nuclear blast causes an up-draft of air that forms the familiar mushroom cloud. When a blast occurs near the earth’s surface, millions of vaporized dirt particles also are drawn into the cloud. As the heat diminishes, radioactive materials that have vaporized condense on the particles and fall back to Earth. The phenomenon is called radioactive fallout. This fallout material decays over a long period of time, and is the main source of residual nuclear radiation.

Fallout from a nuclear explosion may be carried by wind currents for hundreds of miles if the right conditions exist. Effects from even a small portable device exploded at ground level can be potentially deadly.

Nuclear radiation cannot be seen, smelled, or otherwise detected by normal senses. Radiation can only be detected by radiation monitoring devices. This makes radiological emergencies different from other types of emergencies, such as floods or hurricanes. Monitoring can project the fallout arrival times, which will be announced through official warning channels. However, any increase in surface build-up of gritty dust and dirt should be a warning for taking protective measures.

What about Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP)

In addition to other effects, a nuclear weapon detonated in or above the earth’s atmosphere can create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a high-density electrical field. An EMP acts like a stroke of lightning but is stronger, faster, and shorter. An EMP can seriously damage electronic devices connected to power sources or antennas. This includes communication systems, computers, electrical appliances, and automobile or aircraft ignition systems. The damage could range from a minor interruption to actual burnout of components. Most electronic equipment within 1,000 miles of a high-altitude nuclear detonation could be affected. Battery-powered radios with short antennas generally would not be affected. Although an EMP is unlikely to harm most people, it could harm those with pacemakers or other implanted electronic devices.

How would I protect myself from a nuclear blast?

The danger of a massive strategic nuclear attack on the United States is predicted by experts to be less likely today. However, terrorism, by nature, is unpredictable. If there were threat of an attack, people living near potential targets could be advised to evacuate or they could decide on their own to evacuate to an area not considered a likely target. Protection from radioactive fallout would require taking shelter in an underground area or in the middle of a large building. The three factors for protecting oneself from radiation and fallout are distance, shielding, and time.

  • Distance – the more distance between you and the fallout particles, the better. An underground area such as a home or office building basement offers more protection than the first floor of a building. A floor near the middle of a high-rise may be better, depending on what is nearby at that level on which significant fallout particles would collect. Flat roofs collect fallout particles so the top floor is not a good choice, nor is a floor adjacent to a neighboring flat roof.
  • Shielding – the heavier and denser the materials – thick walls, concrete, bricks, books and earth – between you and the fallout particles, the better.
  • Time – fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time, you will be able to leave the fallout shelter. Radioactive fallout poses the greatest threat to people during the first two weeks, by which time it has declined to about 1 percent of its initial radiation level.

Remember that any protection, however temporary, is better than none at all, and the more shielding, distance, and time you can take advantage of, the better.

Where are the potential targets for nuclear attacks?

In general, potential military targets include:

  • Strategic missile sites and military bases.
  • Centers of government such as Washington, DC, and state capitals.
  • Important transportation and communication centers.
  • Manufacturing, industrial, technology, and financial centers.
  • Petroleum refineries, electrical power plants, and chemical plants.
  • Major ports and airfields.

Potential terrorist targets include:

  • Large cities such as NY, Boston, Washington, Atlanta, L. A., Dallas, Houston, Portland, Charlotte, Denver, etc.
  • Symbolic American cities such as Philadelphia, Hollywood, or Orlando (Disney Land).
  • Heartland cities such as St. Louis, Memphis, Chicago.
  • Cities or locations on the West Coast (taking advantage of maximum casualties created through east-traveling fallout).
  • Major sporting event such as Super Bowl or other sports game.

Browse more Q/A’s in our User Forum

How can I can prepare for a nuclear attack

To prepare for a nuclear blast, you should do the following:

  • Find out from officials if any public buildings in your community have been designated as fallout shelters. If none have been designated, make your own list of potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school. These places would include basements or the windowless center area of middle floors in high-rise buildings, as well as subways and tunnels.
  • If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, talk to the manager about the safest place in the building for sheltering and about providing for building occupants until it is safe to go out.
  • During periods of increased threat increase your disaster supplies to be adequate for up to two weeks.

Taking shelter during a nuclear blast is absolutely necessary. There are three kinds of shelters – blast, fallout, and underground. The following describes the three kinds of shelters:

    • Blast shelters are specifically constructed to offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat, and fire. But even a blast shelter cannot withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion.
    • Fallout shelters do not need to be specially constructed for protecting against fallout. They can be any protected space, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles.
    • Underground Bomb Shelters give you the best protection. Not only are they emplaced well below ground, providing protection from an initial blast, but they are also situated deep enough (36 inches or more) to provide protection from radioactive fallout.

What do I do during a nuclear blast

The following are guidelines for what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion.

If an attack warning is issued:

  • Take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.
  • Listen for official information and follow instructions.

If you are caught outside and unable to get inside immediately:

    • Do not look at the flash or fireball – it can blind you.
    • Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.
    • Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.
    • Take shelter as soon as you can, even if you are many miles from ground zero where the attack occurred – radioactive fallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles. Remember the three protective factors: Distance, shielding, and time.

What do I do after a nuclear blast?

Decay rates of the radioactive fallout are the same for any size nuclear device. However, the amount of fallout will vary based on the size of the device and its proximity to the ground. Therefore, it might be necessary for those in the areas with highest radiation levels to shelter for up to a month.

The heaviest fallout would be limited to the area at or downwind from the explosion, and 80 percent of the fallout would occur during the first 24 hours.

People in most of the areas that would be affected could be allowed to come out of shelter within a few days and, if necessary, evacuate to unaffected areas.

Remember the following when returning home:

  • Keep listening to the radio and television for news about what to do, where to go, and places to avoid.
  • Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away from areas marked “radiation hazard” or “HAZMAT.” Remember that radiation cannot be seen, smelled, or otherwise detected by human senses.

What is a Radiological Dispersion Device?

Terrorist use of an RDD—often called “dirty nuke” or “dirty bomb”—is considered far more likely than use of a nuclear explosive device. An RDD combines a conventional explosive device—such as a bomb—with radioactive material. It is designed to scatter dangerous and sub-lethal amounts of radioactive material over a general area. Such RDDs appeal to terrorists because they require limited technical knowledge to build and deploy compared to a nuclear device. Also, the radioactive materials in RDDs are widely used in medicine, agriculture, industry, and research, and are easier to obtain than weapons grade uranium or plutonium.

The primary purpose of terrorist’s use of an RDD is to cause psychological fear and economic disruption. Some devices could cause fatalities from exposure to radioactive materials. Depending on the speed at which the area of the RDD detonation was evacuated or how successful people were at sheltering-in-place, the number of deaths and injuries from an RDD might not be substantially greater than from a conventional bomb explosion.

The size of the affected area and the level of destruction caused by an RDD would depend on the sophistication and size of the conventional bomb, the type of radioactive material used, the quality and quantity of the radioactive material, and the local meteorological conditions—primarily wind and precipitation. The area affected could be placed off-limits to the public for several months during cleanup efforts.

How can I protect myself before an RDD event?

There is no way of knowing how much warning time there will be before an attack by terrorists using a Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD), so being prepared in advance and knowing what to do and when is important.

To prepare for an RDD event, you should do the following:

  • Find out from officials if any public buildings in your community have been designated as fallout shelters. If none have been designated, make your own list of potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school. These places would include basements or the windowless center area of middle floors in high-rise buildings, as well as subways and tunnels.
  • If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, talk to the manager about the safest place in the building for sheltering and about providing for building occupants until it is safe to go out.
  • During periods of increased threat increase your disaster supplies to be adequate for up to two weeks.

Taking shelter during an RDD event is absolutely necessary.

How can I protect myself during an RDD event?

While the explosive blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation will not be known until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene. Whether you are indoors or outdoors, home or at work, be extra cautious. It would be safer to assume radiological contamination has occurred—particularly in an urban setting or near other likely terrorist targets—and take the proper precautions. As with any radiation, you want to avoid or limit exposure. This is particularly true of inhaling radioactive dust that results from the explosion. As you seek shelter from any location (indoors or outdoors) and there is visual dust or other contaminants in the air, breathe though the cloth of your shirt or coat to limit your exposure. If you manage to avoid breathing radioactive dust, your proximity to the radioactive particles may still result in some radiation exposure.

If the explosion or radiological release occurs inside, get out immediately and seek safe shelter.

Otherwise, if you are outdoors: Seek shelter indoors immediately in the nearest undamaged building.

If appropriate shelter is not available, move as rapidly as is safe upwind and away from the location of the explosive blast. Then, seek appropriate shelter as soon as possible.

Listen for official instructions and follow directions.

Or indoors: If you have time, turn off ventilation and heating systems, close windows, vents, fireplace dampers, exhaust fans, and clothes dryer vents. Retrieve your disaster supplies kit and a battery-powered radio and take them to your shelter room.

Seek shelter immediately, preferably underground or in an interior room of a building, placing as much distance and dense shielding as possible between you and the outdoors where the radioactive material may be.

Seal windows and external doors that do not fit snugly with duct tape to reduce infiltration of radioactive particles. Plastic sheeting will not provide shielding from radioactivity nor from blast effects of a nearby explosion.

Listen for official instructions and follow directions.

How can I protect myself after an RDD event?

After finding safe shelter, those who may have been exposed to radioactive material should decontaminate themselves. To do this, remove and bag your clothing (and isolate the bag away from you and others), and shower thoroughly with soap and water. Seek medical attention after officials indicate it is safe to leave shelter.

Contamination from an RDD event could affect a wide area, depending on the amount of conventional explosives used, the quantity and type of radioactive material released, and meteorological conditions. Thus, radiation dissipation rates vary, but radiation from an RDD will likely take longer to dissipate due to a potentially larger localized concentration of radioactive material.

Follow these additional guidelines after an RDD event:

  • Continue listening to your radio or watch the television for instructions from local officials, whether you have evacuated or sheltered-in-place.
  • Do not return to or visit an RDD incident location for any reason.

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