Safecastle | One Shop For All Emergency Essentials: Shelters

There are two ways to sleep well at night ... be ignorant or be prepared.

Showing posts with label Shelters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shelters. Show all posts

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ready for Terror Attacks? - Nuclear

Resuming the series of excerpts from the very practical Rand Corporation book, "Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks," we move to nuclear readiness.

See earlier posts in this blog for excerpts on chemical and radiological attack preparedness.To see the entire monograph in pdf form, go to:

Excerpt - Nuclear Attack

"A nuclear detonation has several immediate effects: a powerful blast that knocks over buildings, high-energy prompt radiation from the nuclear reaction, a strong flash of light and heat, and an electromagnetic pulse that may interfere with electronic equipment. The distance those effects are felt from the detonation depends on the size of the weapon and how high above the ground the detonation occurs. In the Cold War, attacks were expected to have involved many strikes with very large weapons (hundreds of kilotons). While it is not possible to predict the characteristics of future terrorist attacks, they are probably more likely to use a single smaller weapon that ranges from less than a kiloton to 10 kilotons and are likely to detonate the nuclear device on the ground, not in the air. A ground burst will have reduced blast effects but will produce a larger footprint on the ground of the highly radioactive fallout cloud, extending possibly tens of miles. This fallout could be lethal to those in its path who are not well protected. Nuclear attacks will also significantly damage infrastructure, not only to buildings but also to utilities, electronics, and other services.

"Timelines. The prompt effects of nuclear weapons are essentially instantaneous—they last for a minute or less. The fires caused by the heat from the detonation start soon after but are not likely to become a broad fire for 20 minutes or more. Radioactive particles from the fallout cloud begin to fall to the ground 10–15 minutes after the detonation near the spot of the detonation. Farther away, the radioactive fallout begins to land soon after the cloud passes overhead. After about 24 hours, all the fallout is deposited. The radioactivity in the fallout is extremely high early on. However, after two days, it will have decreased in intensity significantly (by a factor of 100 compared to one hour after the blast).

"Detection. A nuclear detonation will be unmistakable from the moment it occurs. The bright flash, the widespread physical destruction, the searing heat, and the mushroom cloud are unique. During the Cold War, the attack would have been detected as satellites tracked missiles on their 30-minute journey to the United States from Russia, which would have given individuals a chance to get to a fallout shelter. Terrorists are much more likely to deliver the weapon surreptitiously, perhaps by a truck or ship, rather than by missile. Hence, there would be little chance for early detection and warning.

Support from Officials/Governments. Government officials would be unlikely to provide support until well after the detonation. Initial activities would include providing medical care to survivors, rescuing people from areas that are safe enough to enter briefly, and informing individuals when the fallout radiation was low enough that individuals could leave their shelters and the contaminated fallout area."

Response Strategy

"In a surprise attack, an individual cannot avoid the initial effects of a nuclear detonation—blast, heat, and prompt radiation. However, the dangers from exposure to the radioactive fallout from the cloud that will form shortly thereafter can be reduced significantly. This will require that an individual locate the area of this radioactive cloud and act quickly. The individual’s overarching goal would be to avoid fallout by either quickly evacuating the fallout zone or seeking the best available shelter.

Recommended Actions

"1. Move out of the path of the radioactive fallout cloud as quickly as possible (less than 10 minutes when in immediate blast zone) and then find medical care immediately.
"Individuals can best protect themselves by evacuating the area where the radioactive fallout is likely to land. This is the case because evacuation provides protection that is full and indefinite and is appropriate for wherever the attack occurs and for different variations in an attack. It makes possible access to medical care, which will be critical to individuals in the blast zone who may have absorbed a high dose of prompt radiation from the detonation or sustained injuries from the blast and heat. It is also low in cost and requires little preparation. The fallout zone is defined as that area in which the fallout will generate 100 rad over 24 hours.

"Evacuation affords such protection because the onset of the radioactive fallout is not immediate but is expected to begin 10–15 minutes after the detonation in the vicinity of the blast and extend for hours as the radioactive cloud moves downwind.Thus, a shortcoming of evacuation in attacks involving chemical or radiological weapons—that it cannot be done quickly enough to provide adequate protection—does not hold in this case.

"Evacuation also protects against the hazard of large fires that may emerge in the blast zone within 20 minutes or so after the detonation and could endanger individuals in shelters.

"The distances an individual must travel to evacuate the fallout zone are not large. Even for a 10-kiloton weapon, a person located anywhere in the region between the blast site and up to about 10 kilometers (6 miles) downwind of the blast site would need to travel less than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) to evacuate the most dangerous fallout area. Even where the radioactive cloud is at its widest, some 20 to 50 kilometers (10 to 30 miles) downwind, an individual would only need to travel at most about 5 kilometers (3 miles). In this latter case, more than 10 minutes would be available for evacuation because it would take some time for the cloud to reach that distance. Because roads are likely to be impassable for automobiles in many areas because of damage, debris, or traffic, individuals should evacuate on foot.

"The primary considerations for this action are knowing whether one is in an area that may become contaminated by radioactive fallout and, if so, knowing which direction to take. Fallout is likely to cover a portion of the blast zone. Thus, anyone in the blast zone, which will be characterized by severe damage and broken windows even at its outer periphery, is in danger of contamination from radioactive fallout. The fallout zone will extend some 20– 80 kilometers (10–50 miles) downwind, depending on the weapon’s size and the local winds. The downwind fallout zone will be less clearly delineated than the blast zone, but its approximate location can be determined by observing the mushroom cloud and the direction in which the wind seems to be blowing.

"To evacuate from the blast zone, individuals should move directly away from the blast center until they are clear. The location of the center will be apparent from the initial bright flash and subsequent vertical rise of a mushroom cloud. If the location of the detonation cannot be determined quickly, individuals should walk in the direction of less damage, where more buildings are standing and where there are fewer broken windows.

"Individuals outside the blast zone who are in the radioactive cloud path (including those who evacuated in a downwind direction from the blast zone) should move in a cross-wind direction until out from underneath the path of the developing radioactive cloud. To determine the wind direction, individuals should look for the direction that the mushroom cloud or smoke from fires is going and go perpendicular to it. If they can feel the wind, they should walk with the wind in their ears.

"Although individuals may not feel any symptoms, those in the blast zone may have absorbed a high dose of prompt radiation from the detonation. Thus, we highly recommend that such individuals receive immediate medical care once outside the fallout area because such care could be essential for survival.

"2. If it is not possible to move out of the path of the radioactive fallout cloud, take shelter as far underground as possible or if underground shelter is not available, seek shelter in upper floors of a multistory building.
If evacuation is impossible, shelter is essential for anyone remaining in the path of the radioactive fallout cloud. Radiation from local fallout can be intense, delivering a lethal dose to an unprotected person in an area up to 8 kilometers (5 miles) downwind of the detonation within an hour, depending on the size of the weapon. To protect against this radiation, individuals should get as much solid material (dirt, concrete, or masonry) and space as possible between themselves and the fallout, which collects on the ground and roofs of buildings. The best shelter is well below ground level, in the sub-basement of a building, a subway tunnel, or the lowest level of an underground garage. These shelters can reduce exposure levels by factors of 1,000 or higher.

"If an individual cannot get to an underground shelter within the timelines of the arrival of the radioactive fallout, the next best shelter would be in the upper floors of a multistory building (greater than 10 stories) but at least three stories below the roof to avoid the fallout deposited there. Protection is best as far as possible from the outside walls. Such a shelter can provide protection factors of 100 or higher, but it could be significantly less if the windows or structures have been damaged.

"Ordinary house basements provide inadequate protection in areas of intense radioactive fallout because they provide protection factors of only 10–20. However, at distances greater than about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the detonation, where the levels of radiation will be much less, they could be sufficient. Nevertheless, because it could be difficult to know where you are in relation to the detonation and because the yield of the weapon is not known, the more shelter the better. In all cases, once inside the shelter, shut off all air circulation systems and close off doorways and windows. The room should not be sealed completely, because enough air will be needed to breathe for at least 48 hours. Individuals should remain in the shelter and await guidance from officials about when it is safe to leave, which could take 24 to 48 hours. Individuals should attempt to gain access to their emergency supply kit for use while in the shelter, but it is better to reach a good shelter in time without the kit. The ideal shelter would be prestocked with supplies to support occupants for two to three days.

"3. Find ways to cover skin, nose, and mouth, if it does not impede either evacuating the fallout zone or taking shelter.
Although radioactive fallout will not begin to land in the blast zone and surrounding areas for at least 10 minutes, some radioactive particles and dust are likely to be present from the detonation. Therefore, individuals should take the precautionary step of protecting themselves from this radiation. Respiratory protection can be achieved by using particulate filter masks or other expedient measures, such as covering the nose and mouth with clothing or towels. (See the discussion in radiological attack section.) It is important to note that, in contrast to a radiological bomb, the primary hazard from radioactive fallout is radiation absorbed from outside the body. Respiratory protection steps, therefore, will provide only limited protection. As a result, we recommend that respiratory protection be retrieved and donned but only if this causes no more than a few moments delay in evacuating the fallout zone or finding shelter.

"The radiation in nuclear fallout consists primarily of gamma emitters but also includes beta radiation. Protective clothing provides no protection from gamma radiation, although it can provide significant protection from beta radiation.

"We therefore recommend covering exposed skin but again only if it does not impede evacuating or taking shelter. In this context, any clothing that covers exposed skin and the head is considered protective clothing. Thus, most fully dressed individuals would only need a hat or hood. Protective clothing has the additional advantage of facilitating decontamination by providing a layer that can be quickly removed to dispose of any fallout material that may have accumulated on a person during evacuation or prior to sheltering.

"4. Decontaminate as soon as possible once protected from the fallout. Decontamination can provide protection for anyone who has spent time in the area of the nuclear blast or the radioactive fallout zone by eliminating exposure from radioactive particulates (dust) that have adhered to the body. Decontamination should initially focus on removing outer clothing, including shoes, and securing it in a bag or other container. Individuals should minimize contact of radioactive material with skin and eyes by rinsing exposed skin, removing contact lenses, and showering as soon as possible. Contaminated clothing should be treated or disposed of in accordance with official guidance. Decontamination should be undertaken as quickly as possible but only after an individual is protected from exposure to fallout by evacuation or sheltering.

"5. If outside the radioactive fallout area, still take shelter to avoid any residual radiation. Because uncertainty exists about exactly where the radioactive cloud will travel and where the fallout will land, it is important for individuals outside the apparent
fallout zone to take shelter. House or building basements should provide sufficient protection."


The final excerpt from this book will be "Biological Attacks."

One note on RAND's recommendation to evacuate if at all possible, rather than sheltering ...

If you have a well-built, well-prepared fallout shelter within easy reach, I believe reaching that protection is preferable to evacuation. Why? Because of the uncertainty of what awaits in areas where you might flee to. In my view, it's far better to take the certain safety of your shelter over the uncertain circumstances that await evacuees over the horizon.

Get Ready, Seriously ...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Prepared For Terror Attacks? - Radiological

Here is the next excerpt from the excellent Rand Corporation book, "Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks." See my previous post for more on this and for the excerpt on chemical attack preparedness.

To see the entire monograph in pdf form, go to:

Excerpt - Radiological Attack

"A dirty bomb uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material across a wide area, although slower and less dramatic methods are possible and may escape detection. The area affected by a radiological attack could be fairly small—a few blocks—or could cover hundreds of square kilometers with low-level radiation, depending primarily on the type and amount of radioactive material used. The hazards to individuals from the radiation are likely to be quite low and will manifest themselves only after many years, if they do so at all. For those close to the explosion, the hazards from the blast are much higher. While indoor attacks are also possible, outdoor attacks have the potential to affect more people, cause more social anxiety, and contaminate a larger area than indoor attacks.

"The hazard from a radiological bomb results from two categories of exposure. The primary short-term exposure hazard is inhalation of radioactive material suspended with the dust and smoke from the explosion. Inhaled radioactive material can be deposited in the lungs and will continue to expose the individual to radiation for as long as the material remains in the lungs, which can be many years. A second, long-term external exposure hazard exists for individuals who remain in the contaminated areas over a period of years. Although there is considerable debate in the scientific community about the effects of low levels of radiation on individuals (e.g., Jones, 2000), it is likely that authorities will take steps to address this risk, either by limiting access or decontaminating the area (Levi and Kelly, 2002)."
"Support from Officials/Governments. Since detectors are required to signal the presence of radiological materials, the government will likely play a central role in the response to any such attack. However, because it could take an hour or more to detect the radiation, individuals within the cloud will not know that radiation is present immediately following the event, the period when the risk from inhalation is greatest.

"Individual’s Primary Needs. Fundamentally, an individual needs to avoid exposure to radiation, particularly through inhaling radioactive dust from the cloud. If exposed, an individual should also seek medical care as soon as it is safe."

Recommended Actions

"1. If an explosion occurs outdoors or you are informed of an outside release of radiation and you are outside, cover nose and mouth and seek indoor shelter. If you are inside an undamaged building, stay there. Close windows and doors and shut down ventilation systems. Exit shelter when told it is safe.

"2. If an explosion occurs inside your building or you are informed of a release of radiation, cover nose and mouth and go outside immediately. The primary safety and health hazard in a radiological attack is inhalation of radioactive particulate matter generated from an explosion or other type of release (e.g., aerosol). A simple and effective way to prevent this is to take shelter in a structure that blocks the infiltration of particulates. This action is attractive because it is simple, quick, and effective. The onset of the exposure hazard in a radiological attack initiated with a bomb is expected to be immediate, and the exposure is greatest in the first few hours, while the particulate matter is still airborne. For individuals outside when such an attack occurs, sheltering in a nearby building will provide good protection and should be attempted immediately. The closest shelter not damaged or endangered by the explosion should be sought because the goal is to minimize exposure to suspended particulate matter.

Individuals already indoors should remain there as long as their building has not been damaged and is not threatened by fires or other consequences of the attack.

"The primary complication with this action is that it is unlikely to be apparent that any radioactive material has been released for some time. However, this action is generally advisable in response to any explosion event because many types of nonradioactive dust present health hazards and should be avoided as well. In addition, sheltering will help counter the tendency for people to gather at an explosion site, thus decreasing the impact of any secondary device that may target those who gather at the scene. As a result, finding shelter should be the goal in any explosion. Once emergency responders begin to understand the type and extent of radioactive contamination, they can provide guidance about when and how to vacate shelters. Respiratory protection should be used to prevent inhalation of radioactive particulate matter. As with sheltering, a complication of this action is that the release of radioactive material is unlikely to be apparent for some time. However, for the same reasons as with sheltering, this action is beneficial in the response to any explosion event, whether radioactive material is present or not. There are two primary variations of respiratory protection: expedient and particulate filter equipped facemasks. Expedient respiratory protection refers to using available materials, such as clothing or towels, as filter material.

"For individuals outside when such an attack occurs, expedient respiratory protection will be necessary, because the onset of the hazard is expected to be so rapid that effective use of a filter mask will be either impractical (i.e., it will have to be carried at all times) or too slow (because an individual would need to travel to a car or other storage space to retrieve it). Evaluation of expedient respiratory protection shows that a wide variety of common materials have similar filtration efficiencies, with the efficiency increasing with the number of layers used (Guyton et al., 1959; Sorensen and Vogt, 2001b). According to those sources, wetting the material makes it no more effective and also increases breathing resistance and so should not be done. Given that most likely expedient filtration materials have similar protective capacities, the primary concern is obtaining a good seal around the nose and mouth. Thus, while understanding that options may be very limited, one should strive to use soft cloth and fold, cut, or tear it so that it can be handled in such a way as to hold it tightly over the nose and mouth. If tape is available, the material should be taped to the face to improve the seal. A substantial shortcoming of expedient respiratory protection is that it requires at least one hand to hold it in place, thereby decreasing agility and mobility. In addition to improving the seal, taping the mask to the face can eliminate this problem. In any case, one should keep in mind that the respiratory hazard increases with the cumulative inhalation exposure, so even if expedient respiratory protection must be temporarily removed, it should be replaced as soon as possible. Individuals indoors should evacuate the premises if the attack occurs indoors or damages or threatens their building enough to undermine its sheltering capacity.

"In this situation, a particulate filter mask may be appropriate. Regular building occupants could store a filter mask in their work space for rapid retrieval and donning in the event of a radiological attack or other explosion. These masks are much more effective than expedient measures, are inexpensive, are widely available, are compact, have long shelf lives, have minimal maintenance requirements, and are simple to use. We therefore recommend their use for anyone indoors in a potential indoor radiological attack.

"3. Decontaminate by removing clothing and showering. Radioactive particulate matter trapped on a person’s clothing, hair, or skin can pose an exposure hazard that remains even after direct contact from suspended particulate matter has been eliminated. Therefore, anyone who has been exposed to radioactive material should undergo decontamination once safely sheltered from the source of radioactive material. Decontamination should initially focus on removing any respirable dust, which would entail removing outer clothing and securing it in a bag or other container. While the hazard is primarily respiratory, contact of radioactive material with skin and eyes should be minimized by rinsing exposed skin, removing contact lenses, and showering as soon as possible. The danger posed by contaminated clothing may persist for long durations, so contaminated clothing should be treated or disposed of in accordance with official guidance.

"4. Relocate outside the contaminated zone, only if instructed to do so by public officials.
Although contamination levels from a radiological weapon are likely to be quite low, long-term exposure may be high enough in some areas that authorities will ask individuals to leave their homes or businesses for some period of time. Relocation does not need to be done quickly because it is the exposure over many years that is the concern; the relocation could happen over weeks or months. Individuals may be allowed to return within a few months if the area is to be decontaminated, but it may also be many years before individuals will be allowed to return. Individuals will have to rely on authorities for information about whether relocation is called for and how long it is likely to last."

More Excerpts to Come

I will be posting more excerpts regarding nuclear and biological terrorist attacks soon.

Get Ready, Seriously ...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Tornado and Hurricane Seasons are Around the Corner

Depending on where you live, the weather forecast will be taking on new importance again soon.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, and strong storms with straight-line winds wil shred parts of America this year, as they do every year. One only needs to be in the crosshairs once or twice before you start to think that maybe there's a smarter way of dealing with mother nature.

Two years ago, after a couple of run-ins with tornadoes, I found the ideal prefabricated steel shelter to put underground beneath my new addition. It was strong, full-featured, and reasonably priced. I financed it into my home addition deal and we have had the most reassuring sense of well-being ever since.

In fact, after living with that peace of mind for a while, I decided I wanted to help bring that well being to others as well ... and I started working with my shelter builder to bring his best-in-class product into new markets. (We build the shelters to spec--these listings are just straightforward examples of what can be done--your project may be much smaller, cheaper, or even a lot larger--no problem--let us give you a quote.)

Backlog Season

This is the time of the year when people around the country start thinking seriously of building homes, additions, and even just putting in that much-needed storm shelter. Our builder has been doing his thing for almost a dozen years, with about 500 shelters installed all over the U.S., including many FEMA projects. His product is unsurpassed in safety and quality by anyone out there regardless of price.

If you're thinking this is the year you might finally get your own all-risk peace of mind, the time is now to get your homework done and get on our list. The list is growing as it always does this time of year.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Down Into the Bunker We Go

As I thought might happen with this Bunker series, traffic is heavy. (See Part 1: Welcome to My Underground Bunker; Part 2: How to Hide a Fallout Shelter in the Middle of Suburbia, Part 3: Is There Good Reason to Hide Your Shelter?) So as you're passing through, don't linger too long at any one post, out of consideration for the tourists lining up behind you. ;-)

Today, we actually get to go down the ladder into the bunker, so watch your step. It's 10 feet down from the lip of the hatch to the carpeted steel floor. I HAVE built in a landing at the bottom to allow for some storage space underneath as well as to help break your fall in case you slip on the way down. But actually, the ladder rungs are of a non-slip variety, so there's little danger of taking a tumble.

Now I do hope you're not expecting something like the Greenbrier Bunker. After all, I'm not planning on housing any congress critters or executive branch royalty, and I don't even have any local government yokels on my guest list, so what you're about to see is but a humble one-family disaster lifeboat. Snug, but outfitted to do the job.

And you'll have to forgive me if I don't give you the FULL classified briefing on the facilities here. Quite simply, you are not cleared and do not have a need to know all that lies within.

The Rundown

This custom-built, made-to-order fallout shelter is constructed of steel plate up to 7/16" thick. The dimensions of this particular shelter are 7' tall, 8' wide, 16' long.

The construction is fully double-sealed and coated against moisture seepage. Magnesium anodes on the outside deliver corrosion protection in most conditions for up to 90 years or more.

The several-hundred-pound blast door/hatch is 32" x 32" with heavy duty latches, hinges, and lift cylinders to ease the lifting and lowering of the door. It easily snaps/locks from within to keep out everything from F-5 winds to no-good zeros who would dare to try to enter. I have hooked up a half-ton manual hoist onto the underside of the hatch that allows us to easily maneuver heavy loads into and out of the shelter.

The shelter comes standard with a state-of-the-art NBC (nuclear/biological/chemical) air filtration system rated to support 12 people for an indefinite period of time. The filtration unit itself is powered electrically or manually in the event of power failure. The system is designed to maintain a clean, safe, positive air pressured environment within the shelter and includes steel blast valves to prevent explosive air pressures outside from compromising the internal air quality.

The shelter is ducted into the home's HVAC system but is easily sealed off from the external system from within when the need arises.

The bunker is wired with two circuits (120 and 220) for power. A generator plugged into the home's transfer switch also accommodates the power needs below in the event of a blackout. Further, there are stored, chargeable electrical power sources within the shelter.

A landline telephone, external cell phone antenna with various adapters, DSL, external broadcast TV antenna, and satellite TV are also wired in.

Hardwired, hidden external video cameras are powered via the circuits inside and a monitor within keeps occupants apprised of what is going on above ground.

There are three fold-out steel-framed bunks engineered to support up to 1000 pounds each. The floor is fully carpeted. A fold-out table is mounted on the wall. There are wire shelves along the walls and a tool bench in the corner.

On one wall is a colorful, photographic wallpaper mural of a mountain lake scene, to sooth any claustrophobic tendencies someone might have inside.

Of course, there is a fair quantity of water, food, tools, books, games, a laptop, supplies, and miscellaneous equipment taking up much of the available space ... but not TOO much space to preclude us from quickly shoehorning our entire family down there if that time comes unheralded.


A good friend, Scrapman, asked what one could do if trapped inside and heavy debris fell over and blocked the hatch door. Actually, there WOULD be a few options ...

1. We'd deploy the 10-ton hydraulic jack mounted under the hatch specifically for that purpose. If a few cranks on that thing fails to move the blockage ...

2. We'd get to work on opening up the back door. Actually it's an emergency exit that requires loosening something like 32 or 36 bolts that hold that exit plate onto the ceiling. Above it is a quantity of gravel and a waterproof barrier (selected to head off winter-frost freezing solid the ground above that is part of that outside escape route).

3. We would also have the possibility of dialing out for help if all is well with one of the phone or radio options in place.

Next point--Earlier in this series, I mentioned the gentleman last year who aided tremendously in determining how I should best approach my bunker plans. He came at it from a concrete contractor's perspective and I learned a great deal about concrete bunkers and their utility. I spoke again with him last night and he gave me his permission to name him here in case anyone in the Twin Cities area is interested in a concrete bunker. His name is Bud Borglund, and he's got his own prominent contracting business. If you'd like to get a hold of him, email me and I'll put you in touch.

Do You Want One?

So what do you think? The world can be a pretty scary place, and there are times all of us start wondering about what direction our future is taking. But to be frank with you, I have never felt quite so good about the world and its prospects.

Why? Well, OK, I'm a bound and determined optimist who looks for the positive and tries to build on those opportunities. But on a real personal level--my gut is thanking me for putting in the shelter ... and so too is my wife who had a reservation or two last year. Having the bunker as a safe, secure, convenient retreat for a wide range of threats sure does make the world seem a bit rosier. Laugh if you will--it sounds like a sales pitch--but it's true. And other bunker owners will tell you the same thing. What a well-built bunker buys you is unparallelled peace of mind.

Easier Than You Think

Now HERE is the sales pitch ... if you're interested in one of these for your own family, email me. This year, I was so pleased with my shelter experience I agreed to help the builder/installer market his product online.

Not that he needs me or anything ... he's been building and installing these shelters all over the US for more than 10 years ... for government agencies (to include FEMA), large and small corporations, and households across the country. His shelters are designed by a structural engineer certified in all 48 of the continental US states to far exceed FEMA standards. And he builds each shelter from a menu of sizes and options so that it is exactly what you want and need. Storm shelters start from as little as $3700 (5x5x8). Well-equipped fallout shelters start at $14,600 (6x6x12). We also offer above-ground saferoom installations.

We are continuously backlogged and the business is growing. Imagine that. Why would demand be so strong? Well, that's perhaps what all the other posts we've made in this Refuge blog can provide clues to.

But does that increasing demand mean if you want one NOW, you have to wait for long before you could have some of your own deeply rooted peace of mind? Nope, it doesn't. You can have your own installation completed (installations normally are done in one day by the builder) in a matter of 2-4 months.

Get on the short list. You never know when something could happen that would make it a very long list.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Is There Good Reason to Hide Your Shelter?

This is part three of my series on 21st-century fallout shelters. Please read the first two installments before reading this post since there is a bit of a storyline that has taken shape. Part 1: Welcome to My Underground Bunker; Part 2: How to Hide a Fallout Shelter in the Middle of Suburbia. And then, Part 4: Down into the Bunker We Go

Today's first order of business--In the previous posting, I asked if you could spot the telltale signs of the buried shelter in the backyard images. No, the images aren't the best, but in at least a couple of the pictures, if you look underneath the benches, you'll spot what I was referring to. Out of respect for my customers, I'm not going to say anything more about those "clues."

I could do more to completely hide the shelter's presence, and at some point I might. But the main idea I want to get across is, a little creative landscaping can go a long way toward obscuring the fact that there is a shelter below ground.

Why Hide It?

To many people, there are obvious reasons for trying to keep their bunkers hidden.

First, in the event of societal calamity such as in an all-out nuclear war, those who are aware of a nearby shelter may very well try to gain access ... perhaps resorting to violence in the process. There are of course capacity limits to each shelter and most shelter owners are only prepared to house and provide for their immediate families, not to become the neighborhood civil defense center.

Second, as we've previously discussed, people are hesitant to reveal their bunker preparedness in the interest of maintaining their reputations as "normal" folks. After all, chances of actually having to use the shelters for the designed purpose will hopefully remain comparatively remote, while day-to-day life goes on. No sense in becoming seen by others in town primarily as the paranoid bunker rat. And if it turns out that the genuine need for the shelter emerges, see reason number one above.

The bottom line is, people who recognize genuine threats out there in the world and who choose today to prudently invest in materials and goods that may mitigate their family's personal risk in the future could one day be sadly proven to have taken an unusually wise path. If that happens, the rest would likely have paid dearly and en masse for their typical shortsightedness.

Inside, There's More than Meets the Eye

In my own installation, my shelter entry comes up inside my home office. The nominal size of the room addition precluded me from putting up a secure closet around the hatch, so I found another way to hide it.

The images here pretty clearly show how I chose to combine form with function. By building by own giant ottoman on wheels that rolls over the hatch, visitors don't have the slightest notion that the shelter is there. It's basically a heavy solid box that may NEVER break ... and though it's not the prettiest upholstery job you'll ever see, the piece is quite adequate and I am happy with it. Heck, it's even big enough for me to take a little catnap on when business is slow.

I think the neat thing is, I also built the ottoman to allow for the option of propping it up (rather than rolling it off) so that we could, if need be, descend into the shelter and lower the hatch and the ottoman back down into place so the presence of the shelter is not readily apparent to intruders.

Next--we have a look inside.

For other posts in this series, see the mainpage.

Friday, September 16, 2005

How to Hide a Fallout Shelter in the Middle of Suburbia

This is part two of my expose' on the growing, underground problem of bunker dependency in suburban America. See the previous shocking confession, "Welcome to My Underground Bunker." If you haven't read that first installment in this series, I'd suggest you do so, because this posting dovetails with the nail-biting issues at the end of that article. And then, Part 3, Is There Good Reason to Hide Your Shelter? and Part 4: Down into the Bunker We Go

So, the big, often unspoken concern for would-be shelter buyers is, "Could I actually get away with it?"

Of course, for a number of reasons, many of the most self-respecting, privacy-conscious shelter shoppers want to be assured that if they're going to bury an anti-apocolyptic chamber of steel in their backyard, their reputations as harmless, faceless suburbanites will remain unblemished.

Fret no more, kind people ... most certainly we can guarantee ... well, OK, probably we can hide ... or, actually, there is at least a chance we can protect the names of the innocent and ... ahh ... no we can't be of that much help in that regard. But you know, it's really never as bad as you think it's going to be.

I do wish I could tell you that we sell optional bullet-proof character membranes with integrated installation-invisibility coverage, but we specifically decided to keep our shelters reasonably priced and within reach of mortal man. So I'm afraid we also nixed the supernatural neighborhood-wide mind-distortion fields that would have cost us a few billion dollars in extra development costs, and which we probably would have had to pass on to you in extra overhead charges.

That Thing

Most kidding aside, to be clear, you're pretty much on your own in confronting the fact that putting a multi-ton steel monolith into the ground with a crane is going to attract a little attention--certainly of the neighbors, maybe of passers-by and/or local zoning authorities, and at the very least, your spouse.

So, although most shelter installations are done within one day (YES, ONE DAY!), you're going to want to be upfront with at least a few of those parties. And also come up with a fantastically believable whopper for all the rest ... if you are so inclined.

You could call your project a special water-line repair job, electrical line work, or you could be putting in a wine cellar. Or maybe you volunteered to guinea-pig a new experimental federal infrastructure module for submariner communications. Or here's an idea ... it could be a storm shelter ... ooohhh, that's so crazy, it just might work.

In the end, you'll likely find the whole experience to be remarkably painless. Most folks involved with or witnessing some aspect of your installation won't really care or maybe understand what you're up to.

Suburban Camo

One of the fun things, I think, about installing the shelter in your backyard (if indeed that is where you put it) is that it's your challenge to come up with ways to disguise the telltale signs that something is underground.

I mean, once it's buried, in America, you can pretend and almost start to yourself believe that it never happened. But first, you have to cover your tracks.

After all, does anybody (other than me, I guess) intend to turn their bunker into a tourist attraction? Come to think of it, even I decided to try to hide all the sordid details of my buried past.

So here with this post are the first three pictures of my backyard "shame," turned oddly enough, into pride. Can YOU find the clues to the nature of what lies buried in this backyard?

More in the next installment, to include confirmation of the clues that are present here, if you can pinpoint them. For other posts in this series, see the mainpage.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Welcome to My Underground Bunker

Today, I'm going to depart from the comfortable cadence of encouraging common-sense crisis-preparedness.

In fact, I'm going to completely throw the camo tarp off the blast door to my underground bunker and invite you in for a friendly little visit.

Whoa! Too much too suddenly?

Oh all right, how about a more gradual, gently revealing series of blog tete-a-tetes that will slowly bring you deeper into the understanding of subterranean security? After all, this for many folks who get into preparedness at all, IS kind of the ultimate level of readiness--getting your very own underground bunker. I don't mind for a minute sharing with you some of the inside secrets on these things.

Why so trusting you ask? Well, after all I do sell them now, so that MIGHT be one small reason for taking you into my confidence.

And honestly, I do enjoy sharing and promoting disaster readiness, and this is one aspect that draws a lot of interest from people.

We purchased our own "bunker" last year to coincide with the construction of an addition to our home. We had always been in need of a decent storm shelter at home (our family had had a couple of very scary, close encounters with killer tornados) and quite frankly, there's no time like a major construction project to integrate a shelter or safe room into your house.

Shopped Around

Upon deciding that the time was apparently right to add in a shelter, I first consulted with a local concrete contractor who took a great deal of interest in our specs--especially since it became apparent to him that what I was looking for was potentially a brand new kind of job for him, and one that he himself had always wanted to get involved in. Of course, I wasn't just looking for a basement or storm cellar. I was also looking for a genuine fallout shelter that would protect against virtually all reasonable potential threats--nuclear, biological, and chemical, in addition to, of course, your standard run-of-the-mill F-5 tornado. And there would be a few other less notable threats to also consider, but perhaps we'll get to those down the road.

For all the great talks we had and the calculations brought to bear, we eventually determined that I would best be served (read that to mean "get the most bang for my buck") by looking for a prefabricated storm shelter that could easily be dropped into a hole in the ground.

I had seen a few types of prefab shelters on the internet before, but I suddenly became very serious about researching them. I also looked locally offline. The whole price range was game, from plastic bubbles to mega-tonnage prefab concrete hexagons. But it didn't take long to get discouraged. Most were outrageously priced, in my view. That is, until I found what turned out to be the answer.

I fortuitously came across a gentleman who had been building prefabricated storm and fallout shelters for 10 years--for companies, government organizations, and private households all over the country. His steel-plate shelters were engineered to withstand far greater forces than any winds known on this planet, they were built to last an estimated 90 years in the ground, and his prices were comparably affordable ... in fact, in my mind, a downright bargain.

I found the builder/installer to be an unusually polite and honorable businessman, I discovered his work came with the highest recommendations, and I really appreciated the many options I had to choose from. And as important as anything else, I did not feel like either one of us was a little weird when we were talking about the threat protection I had in mind. So obviously, I had found my shelter supplier.

First Steps - Conquering Your Reservations

Since we're going to cover a lot of ground in several blog articles on this topic, I won't move too fast. In fact, I may not even share any photos yet, just to be sure YOU come back in a couple of days for more, and beyond that as well.

But this much we can cover now ... I do clearly remember a couple of initial hurdles at that early stage which at the time seemed immense. Now that I talk with others about their shelter dreams, I realize that those "obstacles" or reservations are fairly common for most people today who get so far as to actually look into getting a shelter of their own.

Rhetorical reservation number one ... (all these a different perspective on the same issue) What will "people" think? What will I tell them? Do I need to tell anyone anything about the shelter? How do I "sell" my spouse or kids or relatives on the need for an underground shelter? Especially a FALLOUT shelter? Egads, have I lost my mind?

Rhetorical reservation number two ... (not at all distinct from number one, but you can't have a list without more than one bullet point) Will the city building inspectors approve such a nonstandard underground shelter? Do they need to know? Can I get away without involving them? Will I get on someone's "watch" list once they know I'm one of those bunker builders? What about the neighbors? Yikes, will I ever be able to look those people in the eye? Or myself in the mirror?

Well, suffice it to say ... in my own experience and in those of others that I have gotten to know of similarly self-flagellating backgrounds ... the overcoming is worth the effort.

For subsequent posts in this series, see Part 2: How to Hide a Fallout Shelter in the Middle of Suburbia, Part 3: Is There Good Reason to Hide Your Shelter?, Part 4: Down into the Bunker We Go.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Got Nukes? Be Ready to Stay Put

There are a lot of good reasons to get involved in crisis preparedness. The bottom line is, bad things happen. It's good to know that if they happen to you, you're going to be positioned to get through it.

We've started talking about whether you ought to consider your options in preparing for the possibility of local high-dose radiation exposure. (See "Dealing with the 'N' Word.") My assumption is that you agree it's a good idea. After all, there are several potential broad scenarios out there that could to varying degrees come to impact people, wherever they live in the U.S. We're talking nuclear-fission acts of war, terroristic dirty bomb attacks, nuclear power plant accidents, and nuclear-material transportation accidents.

We hope never to have to experience any of these occurrences, but it IS possible that one day, you could find yourself directly impacted by a nuclear crisis in the U.S. And be advised, even if you're not in the middle of it or downwind, the domino effect throughout the country will still be kicking the legs out from under your previously uninterrupted "good life." But that opens up some issues for another blog post at a later date.

Basic Options

There are a lot of things you'll need to quickly consider should some version of the nuclear genie suddenly appear on the American landscape.

First, you will hopefully be able to give pause to thank God that you had the foresight to prepare to whatever extent you did beforehand ... because there will be little or no time to take significant remedial steps after that "balloon goes up."

Next and the main focus of this post today--you'll need to judge whether you will indeed be exposed to the immediate danger of fallout, given the proximity and location of the event and prevailing winds and weather conditions. There will be little time for hesitation for many people. It will likely be crucial to decide your course of action quickly--to try to escape to a safer area with good shelter or to stay where you are and make the most of the shelter resources at your disposal.

In a singular, limited nuclear event, whether nearby or far away, the ideal choice might appear to be to "get out of Dodge." Perhaps that is so, but do also realize that if you think you ought to bug-out, chances are, everybody else will be thinking the same thing. If you're in a metropolitan area, that portends major gridlock and perhaps subsequent panic, and thus exposure to some serious other risks in addition to radiation ... on the road and far away from familiar surroundings, protective shelter, necessary resources, and personally supportive social networks.

Stay Put

I've been chewing on these types of issues for about 30 years, since I was designated my military unit's NBC (nuclear/biological/chemical) specialist, in charge of making sure we were equipped to survive the harshest wartime environments. Today, there are certainly better qualified experts out there who can provide all the required level of detail as you become more interested and informed. But for your immediate purposes, it is quite enough to be aware of some basic principles that can mean the difference between survival and a long, miserable death if you act foolishly.

Adequate shielding placed between you and the source of any radiation that is present in your vicinity is paramount to your continuing good health. For most of us in a fallout situation, that means an inside room with as much mass as possible surrounding it and over it. Distance from the radiation is also a pertinent factor.

Your best bet is underground.

Approximately three feet of earth or sand between you in your shelter and any outside surface where fallout particles can accumulate is probably going to ensure your optimal chances for a natural death well into the future ... that is, if you keep that protective mass between yourself and the radiation long enough for the radioactivity to naturally decay to an acceptable level before you leave your shelter (two weeks is a standard, general sheltering-in estimate for planning purposes, but you would want to have the capability to accurately take radiation readings if at all possible). If that earthen mass is not already present, you will want to be able to quickly create as much mass as you can using whatever other material is available to act as a protective barrier. (Helpful hint: sandbags are of tremendous use in fallout protection.)

There are some great how-to resources out there for you if you opt to build yourself a fallout shelter. There are even "expedient" shelter plans out there published during the Cold War for civil defense purposes, but those tactics are really for folks who have no other choice but to react rather than to anticipate.

But I digress ...

Back to the most critical decision you may ever have to make ... should you stay or should you go? If you are well-prepared at home or even adequately situated at work or wherever else you spend a lot of time, you ought to be able to plan to stay-put in many such events--at least until the initial shock and panic in the populace runs its course, or the radiation levels themselves prove to be a small factor in your decision to move elsewhere.

I happen to strongly believe that most nuclear events would have the least adverse effect on those who choose to stay-put rather than for those who try to evacuate, if they have even just an adequate amount of knowledge and some minimal resources available to them to deal with their needs. Quite simply, to try get somewhere else is going to make you very vulnerable and exposed to a wide range of dangers, because among other things, you probably do not have an armored vehicle to travel in, and if you do, it probably is not engineered to shield you from high levels of radiation.

Adequate Radiation Preps

Some of the same basic crisis preparations apply here as for other potential disasters. The main differences are that you need that shielding shelter mass, and you want to aim for having on hand a minimum of two weeks worth of life-sustaining supplies--food; water; light and energy sources; medical supplies; and depending on your shelter conditions, air circulation and filtration.

These are the basics. I aim here to simply get you thinking about "what if." And if you want to actually become better positioned to survive and recover from a local radiological event, then spend some time researching, planning, and preparing.

More to come on some of the serious man-made threats to your peace and security.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that Safecastle LLC offers some of the most robust and reliable prefabricated fallout and storm shelters available in the world. They are built to your specifications and special needs and they are delivered and installed most anywhere in the lower 48. The experience and expertise our builder puts into your shelter is rooted in more than 400 shelters in the last 10 years that have been delivered to customers ranging from corporations and government agencies such as FEMA to households such as yours. Best of all, the price is amazingly affordable.

This store offering is an example of a unit that can normally be yours to use within a matter of two-three months. Contact me for more info or with questions--I'm here to help. See also the Safecastle shelter site.