The Fallout Shelter and Expedient Protection

The Fallout Shelter and Expedient Protection

The Fallout Shelter and Expedient Protection

Dirty bombs, nuclear weapons in suitcases, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Shari’a, Boko Haram. Missiles in North Korea and Iran. The fight between Russia and the Ukraine, while nuclear weapons are unaccounted for in both countries. The real risk of nuclear fallout somewhere in the world has grown over the past few years, yet there is little discussion on how to deal with the threat. A little education on the subject of the fallout shelter is probably due.

The following is a short guide to protecting oneself and family from nuclear fallout and related particulate, why it is important, and how to build proper shelters. Atomic weapons are, easily, the most fearsome devices ever devised by mankind, and the fallout produced from said is an incredibly dangerous form of radioactive contamination.  A hostile nation-state or a terrorist organization could potentially target civilian population centers with such devices.  Also, some very large nuclear energy disasters can and have produced significant radiological danger (e.g., Chernobyl).  There are measures that can be taken to reduce or eliminate the hazard presented by said. This guide is an overview of preparing your home or place of business before such a disaster occurs.  There are also a guides to expedient protection should you be away from your shelter at the time of the emergency.  ​


What is fallout? Fallout is the radioactive debris produced during the detonation of an atomic weapon. The amount of fallout produced from said is greatly impacted by how close the detonation is to the surface of the earth. Fallout will begin to show up in a location within a few hours to two days after an attack. Fallout can be carried for hundreds of miles, if the conditions are right.  While not fallout, the irradiated material dispersed via a radiological dispersal device (RDD) (also known as a “dirty bomb”) carries similar risks.

Why is it a danger to life? When nuclear fission or fusion occurs, several types of radiation are created. These include alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays, and neutrons.

Alpha and beta particles are generally not very harmful as they have a limited range and cannot pass through most heavy materials. They do, however, pose a danger if inhaled or swallowed, such as eating or drinking contaminated materials.

Gamma rays, an electromagnetic radiation which are similar to medical x-rays, are much more dangerous, and adequate shelter from them must be in place in order to survive. Gamma rays can travel up to a mile (1.6km) in open air.  Dense materials, called shielding, is needed in order to reduce the hazardous nature of gamma rays.  Dense concrete is a relatively low cost material that will work as shielding against gamma radiation.  A 2½ inch slab of concrete, for example, will absorb roughly 50% of typical gamma rays.

Neutron radiation consists of neutrons in motion and the principle difference from the aforementioned nuclear radiation is that they are not contained in the nucleus of an atom.  Neutrons can travel up to 3,000 feet (900 meters).

Historical Fallout Shelter

Shelter Preparation

How can one protect themselves from this danger? To survive radioactive fallout, one must be properly sheltered until such time as it is deemed safe to venture outside.  Normally within two weeks after a detonation, it is safe to begin venturing outside. If a designated shelter is not available in your location, one can normally build a basement or above ground shelter in their home or place of business before an atomic attack. The following manuals cover different types of shelter construction:

In addition to having a properly constructed shelter, on must have on hand supplies for a minimum of a two (2) weeks stay.  These items include food (canned, dried, MREs, et al.), water, medical supplies, sanitation supplies, those related to a radiological disaster (e.g., radiation meter, dosimeters, Potassium Iodide tablets, et al.), baby items (as applicable), provisions for lighting, elder care (as applicable), communication equipment (e.g., AM/FM/SW radio, 2-way radios, et al.), religious articles, defensive measures, and items to occupy the time.

Expedient Sheltering

If a predesignated community shelter or a home/business shelter is not available or prepared, expedient shelters can be crafted, though their utility is more limited and they will not  contain the other supplies necessary for lengthy sheltering.  However, any protection is better than no protection at all.  Guides to these type of temporary, expedient shelters follows:

Forewarned is forearmed.


Zachariah Amela

Zachariah is a writer with and is an Information Technology professional. He has worked with and contributed to disaster relief organizations and has a strong interest in emergency management, wireless communications, Civil Defense, and family preparedness. He lives in the Pacific Northwest and is married with children. When not working or writing, he enjoys time with the family, hiking, trap/skeet shooting, and reading.

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fallout shelter

  1. Shelter – I keep an eye out for local safe havens, such as buildings with basements. Construction sites with lumber and sheet goods (metal, wood, foam, etc.) to build a quick shelter. Tight underpasses that can be blocked with retaining wall materials or plain old dirt. Retaining walls that can be dug into quickly and shored up.

    Metal bed dump trucks, especially belly dumps, that can have sheet goods laid across the top of the bed and covered with earth (block open the belly dump gates so no one loses a leg!).

    Libraries (stack the books into thick, tight walls. Cover with upended tables and desks with more books stacked on top to create a tunnel shelter.

    A handy bull dozer and semi-truck box or reefer trailer. (Doze a slot in the ground, park the trailer in the slot, push the dirt against and over the trailer. Leave an entrance, though.)

    Lots of medium trash bags and a shovel to make sand bags. Lots of sand! (BIG sandbox for the kids. Fill around swing sets/play sets. Any container that needs fill [flower pot stands, basketball backboard supports, flower pot stands/flower box support structures. Anywhere and everywhere sand can be stashed for use as sandbag fill.)

    This will take some tools and equipment, depending on the type of field it is. At a baseball field with partially dug down dugouts, strip the seating from the bleachers, lean the boards/panels over the fronts of the dugouts and cover the whole thing with earth, leaving an L-shaped entrance. Place a couple of portable toilets inside at one end, cutting off part of the top to make it fit if necessary.

    If there is some construction work in the area that has road plates covering trenches, check the trenches. If they are wide enough they can be shelter space if the road plates are covered over with earth using the construction equipment.

    If there is a large home improvement place close, that has the concrete open bins for storage of sand, gravel, and such, the bins can be cleared out using the skid steer that loads the truck and then doors, lumber, sheet metal, plywood and just about anything else can be used to roof the bins and put a front on them using the forklift that loads the trucks. The material moved from the bins can be stacked around and over the bins to create shelter space, again using the skid steer. Also, bagged material such as Portland cement, QuickQuete, sand, and such can be used like sandbags to close off the door openings and used where piling dirt will not work well. They can also be used to make low walls so piling dirt over the bins does not take nearly as much.

    Just a few ideas based on my opinion.
    I have noticed that a lot of schools, libraries, courthouses, and any other state building built in or around the 1970's and before are usually best. They are designed to withstand a air raid for one and many of them either have a basement or a bomb shelter beneath it. Once we get out situation better off, we intend to build an underground bunker on our property as a "just in case" for any type of situation.
    The house that we're renting now is too close to the river and the water to have a basement but we have some land out west where we're hoping to build an earthship eventually. That in itself should be a good shelter but while we're in the building process, I think just digging/setting up a root cellar area will give us a safe spot. Later it can be used for storage. For now, I apperciate the tips of things to do that might help that don't involve basements. I like the idea of a sandbag building. Maybe we could build a small one as a shed or something. Do you think a double layered earth bag building would be enough?

    I grew up in the kill-zone of a nuclear plant so it was always a looming thing that it could blow and we'd die. That was oddly easy to accept, maybe because I grew up with it. Now, we're not in the instant kill zone. We're far enough out that there would be a lot of suffering and cancer and long term effects. That is more frightening for me.
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