Fallout Shelters and Nuclear
Information for the Survivor
(c)1999-2013 American Patriot
There are those who think that a world encompassing disaster will not only affect us all, but will probably kill us all. When one takes a look at statistics that say for instance, the safest form of travel is by airliner, the chance of being struck by a meteorite is astronomical, or that most accidents happen within 25 miles of home it becomes apparent that your chances for survival are low just on a day to day basis. Every day on this world we encounter objects and incidents that could lead directly to our own deaths. Recently a friend of mine was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was traveling down the mountain and it is pretty certain that his own death was not foreseen by himself or others. The accident was, by all respects minor, and he wore his helmet. His death was a sad tragedy, for he left behind a wife and an unborn child. He was only 43. The chances of his dying on that road, at that particular time and in the way he was killed tells one that it can happen to anyone, any time. Your time on this world is limited, your chances of survival even in everyday situations is tenuous at best.
So, why worry about nuclear attack, rogue asteroids, socioeconomic collapse or major geological or meteorological disasters? Because, regardless of this day and age where we see death and destruction on television daily, and it becomes a part of everyone’s lives in the “Big City”, life is sacred. Life is all we have that exists between birth and death. There is little on this world that is worth dying for… saving another life or dying for your hard-core beliefs is probably worth the trip into the beyond. To some, that is the ultimate way to go. To me, personally, I’d like to hang around for a few centuries. Since we know that the normal, male human life-span is about 78 years now we can pretty much rule out hanging around that long. However, there isn’t a reason that this author can imagine not to TRY to hang around for as long as possible. It is within that spirit, through which this article comes to a life of its own.
There is strong evidence that multiple mass extinction level events have occurred throughout time. This means that our chances of living through a cosmic collision with a random piece of rock are pretty low. So why not give yourself a fighting chance? Why NOT spend some time considering the implications of “What Might Be”? The society of the West at the very least contains pockets of folks, probably just like yourself, who read and wonder every day what will happen if we have another world war, a global disaster occurs, or the society falls apart. There are those among us who even say that the “Times, they are a-changin'” as we sit here reading this document. Many of us believe that there will be something that causes that tiny, little push that will drive society over the edge soon enough. Perhaps it is, as the media tends to call it, “Millennium Madness”. Perhaps it is the tiny voice within us, driving us toward the future, preparations and the “highly probable disaster” looming before us. Evidence at this point in time says that the Y2K or Millennium Bug will affect computers that could bring on economic disaster. A few months ago an asteroid was predicted to come very close to Earth. Perhaps even to collide with us in 28 years – this has since been proven false, but the possibility exists, nonetheless. Every day we hear about the economy in Japan, Korea and Russia and we all know that the U.S. economy is closely tied to Japan. We hear about madmen like Saddam Hussein of Iraq planning biological and chemical weapons and delivery systems. We have all seen the recent nuclear testing of Pakistan and India. Regardless of the situation that causes that penultimate disaster, “the Big One”, something tells many of us it is coming and the time is NOW to prepare for whatever lies ahead – prepare as best we can, and keep prepared. When the “Big One” comes, we will at least have a tiny, remote chance of living through the first effects and perhaps to see the future of this world.
Why do I need a shelter?
Why do I need a shelter? What are fallout shelters and what good will they do? Aren’t they all underground buildings, fully equipped with communications, forty years of rations and metal doors to keep out the riff-raff (or civilian population, if you’re in the military). Actually, we will try to answer some of those questions. Let’s start with why we might need a fallout shelter first. Nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons come in a couple of types. One is a fission weapon, also called a “dirty bomb”. Another is a fusion weapons. Both types explode and use radioactive materials with which to fuel the detonation. Fission weapons generally use an isotope of Uranium and are lower yield weapons, probably in the kiloton range. (A kiloton is one ton of TNT equivalent.) A thermonuclear device uses isotopes of Plutonium with which to fuel the explosion. While these are somewhat “cleaner” bombs, they still use highly radioactive materials. Plutonium is classified as the most poisonous substance know to mankind. A tiny piece of it can kill several hundred humans due to it’s highly radioactive nature. Humans, and other creatures can be killed by radiation by what is called radiation poisoning. Essentially, biological functions are impaired and radiation causes burns, mutations in genetic structure, ionizing effects (the stripping of electrons from the outer valence shells of atoms) and other later-life problems like cancer. Whether your town is attacked by terrorists using low-yield weapons or a foreign government bent on destroying your way of life, nuclear weapons can and WILL ruin your weekend. During the detonation of a nuclear device, various isotopes of radioactive materials are created. It has been shown that as many as 300 or more types of radioactive isotopes are produced in a thermonuclear blast. All of them are deadly, some more than others.
Fallout and Radiation Effects
After a bomb is detonated, especially a low atmosphere or ground burst, portions of the earth beneath the fireball will be instantly vaporized and carried aloft by the blast and resultant windstorm. As the vapors cool, the matter returns to a solid state which includes dirt-matter, biological-matter and radioactive-matter, all combined into a fine, filtery dust which will settle downwind of the explosion(s). This material is called Fallout.
Fall out will probably be seen as a white or grayish dust material falling all over, sort of like snow. At least this is what we believe. Where ever this matter falls, deadly radiation will be found. Radiation is caused by an unstable element litterally coming apart at the nuclear seams. Protons, neutrons, electrons and gamma radiation are given off by such elements. In the study of radiation, three types of radiactive components are given off, of which you should be aware. They are called Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation products.
Alpha particles are low-penetrating types of radiation, and generally will not penetrate your skin and probably in all likelyhood, won’t penetrate your clothing. However ingesting this material either through respiration (normal breathing) or through food intake could be dangerous. From a survival standpoint, this type of radiation presents the least hazard to you.
Beta particles are high speed electrons leaving the atomic structure of the radioactive material. These energetic particles can penetrate materials at more than one hundred times the depth of Alpha particles. These particles are blocked by six or seven feet of air, but materials emitting beta particles getting on to your skin or even on your clothing will cause serious skin burns. The lesson here is to keep dusty material from falling on to your body, clothing or into the air in which you are breathing.
Gamma radiation turned Doctor David Banner into the Hulk in a popular children’s comic book. In real life, gamma radiation will turn humans into a messy, dying mass of biological material if enough of it hits them at one time. Gamma radiation is almost always found in association with Alpha and Beta particles as a by product of emission. In other words, when a beta, or alpha particle are emitted from a radioactive material, the nucleus of the element compensates for the instability left behind and generates a radioactive wave, similar to an X-Ray or radio signal, only of much higher energy levels. Gamma radiation can pass through several inches of lead. Gamma radiation causes ionization of materials (especially biological material) by knocking electrons from the material.
Biological effects of global fallout will be felt for many years after the detonation of a nuclear device in the vicinity of the explosion. Such effects are based on the materials that were produced in the initial explosion and for how long they remain on the scene thereafter. For example, some of the isotopes produced by a nuclear blast are Strontium-90, Cesium-137, Iodine-131 and Carbon-14. These are only some of the various isotopes produced however. Important in this respect is something called “Half-Life” of an isotope. Basically, this is how long it takes for one half of the available radioactive material to dissipate. For instance, if a material has a 30 year half life, then given a one pound block of this material, one half pound would remain after 30 years. In another 30 years only one-fourth and so on.
Strontium-90 is a radioactive, calcium look-alike. It can enter the body through vegetable intake or through milk Once it enters the body, Calcium or Strontium will be partially deposited as new bone material. Adults are much less susceptible to this than children. However, once deposited in an adult it takes much longer for it to be removed from the body. In sufficient quantities, one side effect is leukemia.
Iodine-131 is a short lived (half-life is eight days) radioisotope. But, by the same token it is one of the highest potential sources for internal radiation since it concentrates rather quickly in the thyroid gland. Incidents of thyroid cancer will increase if large amounts of radio-iodine are accumulated into the body.
Cesium-137 is very similar to another element used by the body, potassium. Potassium is used throughout the body and essentially, so would cesium if absorbed into the biological system. It will remain in the body only a short time, even through it has a half-life of thirty years.
Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5570 years. It is produced naturally as well as during nuclear explosions. This material can irradiate the entire body, because it contacts the outside of the body, can be ingested from plants and perhaps other animals, and is breathed into the body.
As one can see, the effects of nuclear fallout are great, and the sources of radiation are many. It is important to be able to shield oneself from this potential radiation source, if one lives through nuclear war, terrorism or localized nuclear plant breakdowns. If any of these occur on a local basis, a shelter will become important. There are other reasons to have a shelter, besides a nuclear blast in your local region. Let’s look at a couple.
What is a volcano suddenly becomes active nearby? What then? Assuming it doesn’t blow up outright, they pose other hazards to humans and the planet’s population of plants and animals. Molten lava flows travel quickly in some cases, faster than a human can run. Also poisonous gases are vented, and blow with the wind. A town that is affected by a volcano can quickly be killed by those gases. Water can be superheated and explode causing burns and death. A natural occurrence associated with volcanoes happens to be earthquakes, either preceding an eruption or directly after such an eruption. An exploding mountain (such as Mount Saint Helen’s) can give off billions of cubic meters of dirt, debris and dust particles. While this probably won’t be radioactive, it will pose a health hazard, perhaps kill, thousands of people and animals in the downwind area. When Mt. St. Helen’s exploded, I was stationed in Oklahoma at Tinker, Air Force Base. A day or so after the blast we were showered with a fine, white dust that got into everything. Oklahoma City is hundreds and hundreds of miles to the Southeast of Mt. St. Helen’s so even those thousands of miles distant may be affected.
Incoming Asteroids, Social Break Down, World War IV
Although it seems like a Science Fiction novel, the likelihood of being struck by a meteorite of immense proportions is a higher statistical chance than dying in an airplane crash. Tell that to all those folks who died in plane crashes. Plane crashes occur with frequency that scares many out of flying. Why not a massive, mass level extinction event once every few years? Well, it seems that they have occurred more often than we tend to believe. In fact, there are multiple craters all over the Earth that indicate large, sometimes as large as a couple of kilometers across, meteorites have crash landed in some of our back yards. (See “Circumstances Beyond Our Control“) Beyond the atmosphere is that unlikely little rock, hurtling through space on a future collision course with Planet Earth. What if it hits? Destruction, death, the usual. Those who are a good distance from the Earth-shattering collision will probably survive the strike.
Will they survive the following conditions? Human society is little more than a thinly veiled set of animal instincts. When pushed, the human animal is capable of many things, killing, surviving the unsurvivable, unimaginable feats of strength and so on. What will happen when the government falls apart right after such an impact? What will happen when it is collectively realized that no one is going to be going grocery shopping next week, and that even if they did, their money is useless? What will happen when the lights go out in a society that is heavily dependent upon electricity? What happens when nuclear war becomes an “already done” thing and we are in the midst of WW III? What good is a shelter then? Glad you asked.
A fallout shelter is a place where you can drag your family when the going gets tough. It’s a place where you can store food and survival supplies for if and when things do get out of hand. A survival shelter (let’s actually call it what it is) is a place where you can rest while the rest of the world is falling apart, secure in the knowledge that you have done the best you could, with what you had at the time and given the circumstances. It’s a place that can protect you from that nuclear fallout, dark days following the asteroid hit, keep you safe for days against a biological attack (including things like viral infections and epidemics) and give you place to hole up when the society is crashing around you.
I believe we’ve answered, to most folks’ satisfaction just what you do with a fallout shelter, why you might need one. We haven’t answered some other questions though. For instance, aren’t they giant holes in the ground, surrounded by military people protecting some government secret, and costing thousands, or millions of US dollars? Nope. A shelter that can be a haven in your house can cost as little as a couple of hundred bucks for some supplies to enhance what you have.
The rest of the article will address some ideas on enhancing your current situation, rather than packing up and moving out to the desert, or some other place without people. The first thing you will note is that we aren’t going to directly discuss those of you living in apartments. This is because, in my opinion, an apartment is a very BAD place to be in either a nuclear, or natural disaster. My advice is get out when you can. Buy or rent a house. Besides, an apartment inside most cities is more expensive than renting a place away from the city in many areas of the United States. That is not to say that you can’t do something to help your apartment become more survivable in certain situations, it’s just that the ideal situation takes you out of a place you can not easily control. Facts as facts and if you can not afford to get out, then you should find a different job, look at moving to an area more conducive to your health or be prepared to deal with the legions of gangs that will plague you as soon as they discover there is little law left in the world.
There are a dozen different ways to create a shelter. Not the least of which is going out into your back yard and digging a very deep hole in the ground, putting in some kind of cool, not to mention expensive, building and then covering it over with three or four feet of dirt. Oh, and don’t forget the special entrance-way, emergency exit, periscope and special weapons system (that you have to get a government license to use anyway). Your best all-around-bet, is to take an existing portion of your home, somewhere below ground if you have a below-ground area, and work on that.
You might find a wall that is in a corner of the house and reinforce the area with cinder-blocks and heavy timbers. You can actually do quite a nice job for such a room, building it INTO your home, including a heavier-than-normal door, or perhaps a steel door. You can build this area into a multifunction room as well. For example, imagine you have an area that is 12 X 12 feet. You might be able to build a set of storage shelves in the room, that double as bunk beds. A special air filtering system can be built to both bring in filtered air, as well as exhaust stale, carbon-dioxide laden air. A water storage tank can be stored in the room with a few days of water, with a system set up to bring in more water (preferably from an uncontaminated source). Obviously, each of us must work out minor details on our own, like water storage and so forth.
An area of your garage might be modified into some kind of a heavy-duty shelter as well. Similar methods as the basement shelter might be used to modify the garage. Some of us only have a one car garage and it isn’t ever used for the car anyway in my case.
There are those with homes that do not have basements. You have a stand by shelter though. Beneath your home, in an emergency situation, might be a good place to go. Of course a little more work will bring out a nice storm shelter for you. Do you have a place to go in case of a tornado? You should!
A basement area can be modified easily with some masonry blocks (cinder-blocks), a couple of heavy-duty beams, and a floor jack or two. A floor jack is a weight dissipating device to help hold up the ceiling. A very simple modification, assuming you have an area of the basement that has walls on a corner available to you, would be to build two new walls to create room, using cinder-blocks. A shortened ceiling will go up, made from a heavy plywood and reinforced with a floor jack (or two if you need them), braced with a 4X4 or 6X6 beam. Above the wood go more masonry, preferably solid bricks. These do two things. First, in case of real, nuclear fallout, cut down immensely the amount of radiation that will be received the from the upper floors (in particular the roof). Secondly, in case the house above you begins to fall apart for whatever reason, the ceiling braces with prevent the complete collapse upon your head.
More Informational Links
Below you will find several links. Many of them are to a site for Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Warfare (NBC) training. The Med-NBC site contains much information. The majority of the information is contained in military field manuals. Some of them are online here already. Others can be located at the site below. The 1960s Civil Defense information is rather old (circa 1960) so, read it carefully, as it does contain some important information. However, note that some of the information contained in the manual may be out of date (such as prices for materials, and certain nuclear-related information).
This article is not intended to be the end word in shelters, nuclear related information or the answer to all your problems related to disasters. However, it is hoped that you have gained some knowledge you formerly did not have, and new links and data for your own personal use. Corrections, additions and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments are certainly appreciated.
US Army Manual FM 8-9 – Health Service Support in a Nuclear, Biological,and Chemical Environment
1960’s Civil Defense Info – A web page based CD manual to help in times of nuclear war
Nuclear Biological and Chemical Medical (Med-NBC) – contains extensive medical documentation, training material, audio-video clips, a powerful search engine
Chemical Contamination Control – FM 3-21
Treatment of Chemical Agent Casualties – FM 8-285
Field Hygiene and Sanitation – FM21-10
Unit Field Sanitation Team – FM 21-10-1 Waste disposal among other things