<% @Language=VBScript %> Ch. 17: Permanent Family Fallout Shelters for Dual Use - Nuclear War Survival Skills
Beyond Weird Contents
Edition Notes
Table of Contents
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About the Author
Ch. 1: The Dangers...
Ch. 2: Warnings an...
Ch. 3: Psychologic...
Ch. 4: Evacuation
Ch. 5: Shelter, th...
Ch. 6: Ventilation...
Ch. 7: Protection ...
Ch. 8: Water
Ch. 9: Food
Ch. 10: Fallout Ra...
Ch. 11: Light
Ch. 12: Shelter Sa...
Ch. 13: Surviving ...
Ch. 14: Expedient ...
Ch. 15: Improvised...
Ch. 16: Minimum Pr...
Ch. 17: Permanent Family Fallout Shelters for Dual Use
Ch. 18: Trans-Paci...
App. A: Instructio...
App. A.1: Door-Cov...
App. A.2: Pole-Cov...
App. A.3: Small-Po...
App. A.4: Abovegro...
App. A.5: Abovegro...
App. A.6: Above gr...
App. B: How to Mak...
App. C: A Homemade...
App. D: Expedient ...
App. E: How to Mak...
App. F: Providing ...
Selected References
Selected Index
Nuclear War Survival Skills
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Ch. 17: Permanent Family Fallout Shelters for Dual Use
 • THE NEED Having a permanent,...
 • NON-FLOATABLE SHELTERS In most localities the water table usually is below the depth of excavation needed to build or install a belowground shelter....
 • WATER ° Water nee...
 • Shelter owners who are unable or unwilling to obtain wheat from such sources can buy high protein hard wheat at higher prices from health food stores and a few mail order companies....
 • NYLON HAMMOCK-CHAIRS To enable the maximum number of additional people to occupy a shelter for days to months,...



Having a permanent, ready-to-use, well supplied fallout shelter would greatly improve millions of American families' chances of surviving a nuclear attack. Dual use family shelters - shelters that also are useful in peacetime - are the ones that Americans are most likely to build in normal peacetime and to maintain for years in good condition for use in a nuclear war.

The longer nuclear peace lasts, the more difficult it will be, even during a recognized crisis, to believe that the unthinkable war is about to strike us and that we should build expedient shelters and immediately take other protective actions. The lifesaving potential of permanent, ready-to-use family shelters will increase with the years.

Americans who decide to build permanent shelters need better instructions than can be obtained from official sources or from most contractors. This chapter brings together fallout shelter requirements, based on shelters and shelter components that have been built and tested in several states and nations. The emphasis is on permanent fallout shelters that many Americans can build for themselves. The author believes that millions of Americans can build good permanent fallout shelters or have local contractors build them - if they learn the shelter requirements outlined in the following sections of this chapter and the facts about nuclear weapon effects and protective measures given in preceding chapters. Builders can use their skills and available local resources to construct permanent, dependable fallout shelters at affordable cost.

Requirements for a permanent, dual-use family fallout shelter follow.


A permanent fallout shelter should be built - and can easily be built - to have a high enough protection factor to prevent its occupants from receiving fatal or incapacitating radiation doses, and also from receiving doses large enough to seriously worsen their risks of developing cancer in the years following an attack. Shelters with a protection factor of 40 (PF 40) meet the minimum standard of protection for public shelters throughout the United States, and permanent family fallout shelters described in official pamphlets provide at least PF 40 protection. In almost all fallout areas, PF-40 shelters would prevent occupants from receiving fatal or incapacitating radiation doses while inside these shelters. However, in areas of heavy fallout the occupants of PF-40 shelters could receive radiation doses large enough to significantly contribute to the risk of contracting cancer years later. Furthermore, the larger the dose you receive while in a shelter, the smaller the dose you can receive after you leave shelter without being incapacitated or killed by your total dose.

If you build a permanent shelter, you would be foolish to build a shelter with a PF of only 40 when additional protection is so easy to obtain. By making a shelter with a 6-inch-thick concrete roof covered by 30 inches of shielding earth, and with other easily attained design features shown in Figs. 17.1 and 17.2, you can have a shelter with a protection factor of about 1000. (An occupant of a PF 1000 shelter will receive a radiation dose only 1/1000th as large as he would receive if he were standing outside in an open field during the same time interval.)

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Fig. 17.1. Permanent Family Fallout Shelter for Dual Use.

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Fig. 17.2. Permanent Family Fallout Shelter for Dual Use.

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To attain PF 1000 protection near the inner door of the illustrated shelter, its occupants must place containers full of water and/or other good shielding material against the door. They can do this easily and quickly if the shelter is supplied with filled water containers such as described in the Water section of this chapter.

The illustrated shelter room has 106 square feet of floor space - room enough for 5 adults and the survival essentials they will need for long occupancy, if shelter furnishings like those described in this chapter are provided. For each additional occupant, increase this shelter's length by 2 feet. To increase room size, increase length and not width. This retains maximum roof strength at minimum cost.

Note in Figs. 17.1 and 17.2 the 12-inch-thick concrete wall between the landing at the foot of the stairs and the end of the shelter room. Only a very small fraction of the radiation coming through the outer doors and down the stairs will make the 90 degree turn through the inner door, and most of this radiation will not strike shelter occupants if they place containers filled with water and other shielding material against the door.

Also note the homemakeable, low cost Double-Action Piston Pump and filter, shown in Fig. 17.1, that even in a heat wave will supply adequate air through the 5-inch-diameter air- intake pipe - all described in Appendix E.

Few survival-minded Americans, before a recognized international crisis arises, either can afford or believe that they can afford to build a permanent family fallout shelter costing around $10,000 in 1987. A small reinforced concrete, below-ground shelter of the type specified in official Federal Emergency Management Agency pamphlets costs about $100 per square foot of floor space, if built by a contractor in a typical suburban area. Those with the needed skills and time can save about half of this cost by doing their own work. Also, at many building sites where gravity drainage of the earth around a shelter's walls can be assured and hydrostatic earth pressure against the walls thus prevented, no steel reinforcement in the poured concrete or concrete block walls is needed - unless required by the local building code.

Caution: Steel reinforcement in the walls and floor is needed in some clay soils that swell when wet and exert sufficient inward and upward pressure to crack unreinforced walls and floor slabs. Consult local builders who have learned from experience whether wall and floor reinforcement is needed in the type of soil where you plan to build. If needed, a grid of 1/2-inch rebars, spaced at 12 inches, usually is adequate.

To save money on steel reinforcement, check prices in salvage yards for used rebars and substitute reinforcing materials such as junked cable and small pipes.

How to safely pour a shelter's concrete roof slab without using a contractor's usual forms and equipment is indicated by Figs. 17.1 and 17.2. These drawings show 8-ft.-long sheets of 3/4-inch plywood supported at their ends on shelter walls 7 feet-6 inches apart. Preparatory to pouring the concrete, the plywood sheets should be supported along the centerline of the shelter by 4"x4"s and other lumber, which can be used later to build seats and overhead bunks. Plywood left on the ceiling reduces condensation and heating problems in cold weather, but increases the volume of outdoor air that must be pumped through the shelter to maintain tolerable temperatures when it is occupied in hot weather. This was clearly demonstrated in the summer of 1963 when the author used SIMOCS (simulated occupants that produce heat and water vapor like people) to determine the habitability of a six-roomlet below ground group shelter, with a reinforced concrete roof that had been built in this manner by six New Jersey farm families. They had left ordinary 3/4-inch exterior plywood on the ceiling. Because the hollow concrete wall-blocks and the well drained gravel under the floor also kept heat from escaping into the surrounding soil, and because only natural ventilation was provided, the temperature/humidity became dangerously high within a few hours.

Insulating a shelter's walls and ceiling can be disadvantageous, because insulation makes unavailable the "heat sink" of the shelter and its surrounding earth. In hot weather insulation reduces the time during which ventilation can be stopped or restricted without disastrously overheating the occupants.

Today, for such a shelter it would be better to use pressure-treated, rot-proof plywood and lumber, approved by leading building codes. For information, write to the American Plywood Association, P.O. Box 11700, Tacoma, WA 98411, inquiring about rot-proof plywood, dimensional lumber, and other material used in building the All-Weather Wood Foundation. Most lumber yards will obtain treated plywood on order, and sell it for about 50% more than ordinary exterior grade plywood.

Big savings in shelter construction costs are made by using salvaged and/or used materials. Manufacturers of pre-cast reinforced concrete beams and floor sections often sell rejects for very little.

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Most salvage yards have steel beams and other material that make excellent roofing for earth-covered shelters. (Shortly before the Cuban Missile Crisis, when living near New York, I built for myself at modest cost a very small shelter on a well drained hillside. I made it almost entirely of steel channels bought and cut to order at a salvage yard.) Used cylindrical steel tanks with closed ends often make good low-cost permanent shelters. One of the best low-cost family shelters that I ever went into was on a hillside overlooking San Francisco Bay. It was made of a salvaged steel brewing tank that had been installed after a vertical cylindrical entrance with a door had been welded on it. The tank's exterior had been protected with a bituminous coating. Its survival-minded owner was a brilliant Hungarian refugee who, as a boy, had survived in a deep wine cellar throughout the Russian siege and shelling of Budapest. Nothing equals war experience to teach the lifesaving value of shelters.


Many shelter designers and builders do not realize the probable extent of fires after a major nuclear attack. Nor do the big majority of them provide shelters built under or close to a house with adequate protection against the entry of deadly amounts of carbon monoxide if the house burns. Although the areas of fires resulting from a nuclear explosion generally will be about as extensive as the areas of significant blast damage,6 on a clear day a house up to about 8 miles from ground zero can be ignited by the thermal pulse of a 1-megaton airburst.6 Figure 7.2 in Chapter 7 is a photograph of a car set on fire by a nuclear explosion so far away that the car was not even dented by the blast. This photograph indicates how a thermal pulse can go through window glass and ignite curtains, upholstery, or dry paper, even if flammable material outdoors is too damp to be ignited. Furthermore, fires from any cause can spread, especially in fallout areas following a nuclear attack when firefighters may be unable or unwilling to expose themselves outdoors to radiation.

Good protection against carbon monoxide is provided by a permanent earth-covered shelter, built with its entry outdoors and well separated from a house and other flammable structures, and constructed so that it can be closed gas-tight. Both the air-intake and the air-exhaust pipes should be installed so that they can be quickly closed air-tight, as with screw-on fittings. Such closures should be kept well greased and securely attached close to where they would be used. If a shelter's entry is through a passageway from a house, a gasketted steel firedoor, insulated on the shelter side, should be installed near the house end of the passageway. The shelter should be further protected by a second gas.tight door, to prevent the entry of carbon monoxide and smoke if heat from the burning house destroys the gasket on the firedoor. If special firedoor gaskets are not available, rubber weather-stripping will serve. To lessen the risk of carbon monoxide being pumped into the shelter if the house burns and air must be pumped into the shelter while the fire still is smoldering, the air-intake and pump should be at the far end of the shelter, and the air-exhaust pipe and emergency exit should be near the passageway from the house.

Be sure to seal electrical conduits leading from a basement to a connected shelter, so that if the house burns carbon monoxide can not flow through the conduits into the shelter when fresh outdoor air is not being pumped into the shelter. The author, while conducting ventilation and habitability tests of an earth-covered blast shelter connected through a tunnel to a house's basement, observed air flowing out through unsealed conduits, the reverse of such a possible life-endangering flow of carbon monoxide. When the shelter was being maintained at a slight overpressure by cranking its blower to pump in outdoor air, a little air flowed through the unsealed conduit into the basement.

For ways to minimize carbon monoxide dangers arising from cooking, heating, lighting, and smoking, see following sections in this chapter.

Remember that air contaminated with only 0.16% carbon monoxide can kill you in 2 to 3 hours, and 0.04% carbon monoxide causes frontal headaches and nausea in 2 to 3 hours. The Navy sets its safe allowable carbon monoxide concentration in air at 0.01%. (Shelter Habitability Studies - The Effect of Oxygen Depletion and Fire Gasses on Occupants of Shelters, by J. 5. Muraoka, Report NCEL-TR-144, July 1961.)


If wet basements are a problem in your locality, below ground shelters are likely to be wet and unsatisfactory unless appropriate preventative measures are taken during their design and construction. When making plans, you should consult local builders of satisfactory basements. You also should question persons who at various times of the year have observed excavations, holes, and/or basements in your immediate vicinity, or have noted seasonal swampy places or springs.

The most difficult type of shelter to keep dry for decades is one that is wholly or partially below the water table for part or all of the year. Concrete is not completely watertight. Waterproof coatings and coverings often are damaged during construction, or deteriorate with age.

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Shelter walls sometimes crack due to settling and earth movements. Metal shelters usually develop small leaks long before they become dangerously weakened.

A 100-occupant, below ground shelter, built in 1984 near Dallas, Texas as a prototype blast shelter for industrial workers, was flooded when the water table rose. The poorly sealed opening of this shelter's emergency exit was below ground level, and after heavy rains was below the water table. A prudently designed shelter has the top of its emergency exit slightly above the surface of the surrounding earth, as illustrated in Fig. 17.2. All underground electric conduits leading down into a shelter must be well sealed to prevent entry of water.

To prevent a wholly or partially below water-table shelter from becoming wet inside sooner or later, it should have a sump and an automatic sump pump to discharge water to the ground outside. If at any time you find that the sump pump is discharging an appreciable amount of water, you may have a serious wet- shelter problem if electric power fails after an attack.

A manually operated bilge pump and a sufficiently long discharge hose can be bought for about $20.00 from marine supply mail order firms, including West Marine Products, Box 5189, Santa Cruz, California 95063, and Defender Industries, Inc., P.O. Box 820, New Rochelle, New York 10802-0820. (Long established marine supply companies also are good sources of use- proven chemical toilets, first aid kits, lights, rope, etc.)

Shelter roof surfaces should be gently sloped, no matter how good a waterproof coating is to be applied. By making a concrete shelter roof as little as 1 inch thicker along its centerline than along its sides, so that it slopes to both sides, the prospects are improved for having an earth-covered coated roof that will not leak for decades.

Figures 17.1 and 17.2 illustrate the following ways to prevent having a wet shelter:

* Put a layer of gravel or crushed rock in the bottom of the excavation, and install perforated drainage pipes if gravity drainage is practical.

* Cover the gravel or crushed rock in the floor area with a plastic vapor barrier before pouring a concrete floor.

* Coat the outer surfaces of roof and walls withbituminous waterproofing or other coating that has proved to be most effective in your locality.

Backfill with gravel or crushed rock against the walls, to keep the soil from possibly becoming saturated. Saturated soil exerts hydrostatic pressure against walls, and may crack them and cause them to leak. In some areas it is more economical to cover a shelter's coated walls with a subsurface drainage matting (such as Enkadrain, manufactured and sold by BASF Corporation, Fibers Division, Enka, North Carolina 28728). This will eliminate the costs of backfilling with gravel or crushed rock.



In most localities the water table usually is below the depth of excavation needed to build or install a belowground shelter. In some areas, however, after rainy periods the water table may rise until it is only a foot or two below the surface. Then a watertight shelter may float upward through the surrounding saturated soil, unless its weight plus the weight of its covering earth is sufficient to withstand its buoyancy. (In many places swimming pools are kept full to prevent them from being cracked by uneven buoyant forces if the water table rises.)

Dramatic examples of floating shelters were steel blast shelters, guaranteed by contractors to be watertight, that were installed under the lawns of some Houston, Texas homes shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis. When the water table rose after heavy rains, these shelters came up to the surface like giant mushrooms, to the frustrated dismay of their owners and the satisfaction of anti-defense newspaper feature writers.

The most expensive permanent family fallout shelter described in a Federal Emergency Management Agency free handout (pamphlet H-12-1) is floatable. Itis designed to be built of reinforced concrete covered by a flagstone patio only about 3 inches above the ground. Its 6-inch- thick concrete roof is covered by a total thickness of only 6 inches of sand and flagstone. Like the rest of FEMA's permanent shelters, no prototype of this approximately PF-40 shelter was built, nor is there any record of anyone actually having built this shelter. In contrast, the belowground shelter illustrated by Figs. 17.1 and 17.2 would not float even if it did not have assured gravity drainage of the surrounding soil through the perforated drain pipes in the gravel on which it rests, because this shelter is weighted down by the thick earth berm on its roof.


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Basic facts that you need to provide adequate, dependable ventilation for a small or medium sized shelter are given in Chapter 6, Ventilation and Cooling of Shelters. A good permanent shelter has two ventilation systems:

° The primary ventilation system of a small permanent shelter should utilize a manually operated centrifugal blower, or a homemade Plywood Double-Action Piston Pump. (See Appendix E.) A satisfactory air pump must be capable of supplying adequate outdoor air through an air-intake pipe, a filter, and an air exhaust pipe. (See Figs. 17.1 and 17.2.) "Adequate outdoor air" for a small shelter means at least 15 cubic feet per minute per occupant for the cooler parts of the United States, and at least 30 cfm per occupant in most of the country. Most permanent shelters have centrifugal blowers that can not deliver an adequate volume of air in hot weather for each planned occupant.

For a medium sized permanent shelter, installing two or more manually powered air pumps is both more dependable and more economical than providing an emergency generator and its engine to supply power to an electric blower. The Swiss, who have made the world's best and most expensive per capita preparations to survive a war, use one or more hand-cranked centrifugal blowers to ventilate most of their shelters.

° The multi-week and/or emergency ventilation system of a permanent shelter that has an emergency exit should depend on a homemade KAP, made before a crisis and kept ready to use. (See Appendix B, How to Make and Use a Homemade Shelter-Ventilating Pump, the KAP.) By opening both the entrance and the emergency exit, the shelter is provided with two large, low- resistance openings through which a KAP can pump large volumes of air with minimum work.

Warning: Keep screen doors and/or screen panels ready to protect all openings against the swarms of flies and mosquitoes likely to become dangerous pests in fallout areas. Use your KAP to pump adequate air through screens. Insect screens greatly reduce natural ventilation, as the author first noted in Calcutta while a bedridden patient in a stifling hot ward of a hastily constructed Army hospital. Because there were no fans or blowers to pump in outdoor air or circulate the air inside, window screens were opened in the daytime when malaria mosquitoes were not flying. The doctors correctly concluded that the temperature reduction when the screens were opened helped the patients more than they were endangered by the entering filthy flies. Adequate ventilation is more important than protection from flies, but with a KAP and insect screens you can have both. Flies, mosquitoes, and other insects can be killed very effectively by occasionally spraying or painting screens and other alighting surfaces with water solutions of insecticides containing permithin and sold in many farm stores.


° Install ventilation pipes large enough to reduce resistance to airflow, thus increasing the volume of air that the shelter's pump can deliver. A shelter with a 200-cfm pump (such as the homemakeable Plywood Double-Action Piston Pump described in Appendix E) should have 5-inch galvanized steel pipe. The pumps that are installed in most family shelters deliver only about 100 cfm or less. Four-inch pipe is adequate for use with pumps this small, provided that the pipes have no more than two right-angle turns below each gooseneck. (A 90- degree L gives about as much resistance to airflow as 12 feet of straight pipe.)

° Make and install a gooseneck with its mouth about twice the diameter of the pipe, as indicated in Fig. 17.1. The purpose of such a gooseneck is to prevent more of the larger descending fallout particles from being pumped or blown into the shelter. For example, if 200 cfm of air is being pumped into a shelter through a gooseneck of 5-inch-diameter pipe with its mouth also 5 inches in diameter, the velocity of the air up into the mouth of the gooseneck is about 1,440 feet per minute, and sand-like spherical particles smaller than approximately 500 microns in diameter also are "sucked" up.6 But if the 5-inch gooseneck's mouth is 10 inches across, then the upward air velocity is reduced to about 360 feet per minute, and only particles smaller than approximately 180 microns across are "sucked" up. Particles in the 180 to 500 micron-diameter range are relatively large and fall to earth in about 40 to 70 minutes from 35,000 feet, the base of the mushroom cloud of a 1-megaton explosion. (See Fig. 6.4.) These particles are very dangerous because their radioactivity has had little time to decay, and should be kept out of a shelter's ventilation system. Furthermore, large particles retained in a shelter's filter restrict airflow sooner than do small ones. (If an appropriately curved piece of 5-inch steel pipe cannot be found in a salvage yard or elsewhere, a good welder can use 5-inch steel pipe to make a substitute gooseneck with two 90-degree turns.)

° Do not use air intake hoods on a permanent shelter's pipes, because hoods are not as effective as goosenecks in preventing fallout particles from entering ventilation pipes.

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Also, pumping a given volume of air through a hood is more work than pumping the same volume through a gooseneck with equal cross-sectional areas.

° Never install any screen inside a gooseneck or air intake hood, because spider webs and the debris that sticks to webs will greatly reduce airflow. The author saw a gooseneck with a blast valve built inside it; spider webs and attached trash on this blast valve had consequentially reduced the volume of air that this shelter's pump could deliver. Of course a screen is much more easily obstructed than a blast valve. Yet FEMA's widely distributed pamphlets on a permanent Home Fallout Shelter (H-12-1) and on a Home Blast Shelter (H-12-3) continue in successive editions to give detailed instructions for making an air intake hood with a screen soldered inside it. But these shelters that never have been built have much more serious weaknesses, including the likelihood that the aboveground parts of the ventilation pipes of the blast shelter would be bent over or broken off by blast-wind-hurled parts of buildings and trees, even in suburbia. (350 mph is the maximum velocity of the blast wind where the blast overpressure is 15 psi from a 1-megaton air burst.6 The ventilation openings of the blast- tested expedient blast shelters described in Appendix D are much more likely to remain serviceable after being subjected to severe blast effects, because blast-protector logs are placed around their openings, that are only a few inches above ground level.)


A shelter can be watertight, yet at certain seasons of the year its walls, ceiling, and floor can be dripping wet with water condensed from entering outdoor air. (This is a serious problem, except in arid parts of the West.) During the winter months a shelter and its surrounding earth get cold; then especially on some spring days the dew point of entering outdoor air is higher than the temperature of the shelter's interior surfaces. As a result, condensation occurs on those surfaces that are cooler than the dew point of the pumped-through air.

The most dramatic example that I have observed of the seriousness of this condensation problem was the dripping ceiling and wet walls of a reinforced-concrete, family-sized shelter that I inspected on an early spring day at the Civil Defence College in Yorkshire, England.

Such condensation also can occur in above- ground structures. Before World War II I had a

600-year-old bedroom in Queen's College, Oxford University. My bedroom's outer wall was made of solid limestone blocks about 15 inches thick, simply plastered and painted on the inside. On some spring days moisture condensed on the inside of the cold outer wall, ran down, and collected in little puddles on the floor. The occasional small coal fire in my adjacent study was barely sufficient to gradually evaporate the water and reduce my bedroom's humidity enough to prevent mold from forming. This often-repeated occurrence proves the inadequacy of merely keeping an electric light turned on for heat to prevent condensation inside an uninsulated shelter built in a cool, frequently humid locality.

Condensation and resultant 100 percent humid air can rust and eat away most steel pipes. Ventilation pipes should be made of galvanized steel or other materials that are undamaged by seasonal condensation and 100 percent humidity. In Connecticut I saw shelter ventilation pipes made of steel protected with twocoats of marine paint; they were badly rusted only two years after installation.

Operating a dehumidifier with automatic controls is the most practical way for most people to prevent condensation and other dampness problems in a shelter during peacetime. Almost all of the Chinese shelters that I inspected in six cities are dual-use shelters and typically are equipped with large dehumidifiers. A small dehumidifier adequate for a family shelter can be bought from a dependable mail order company, such as Sears, for about $250 in 1987.

To save floor space and facilitate removal of water, a dehumidifier should be installed near a shelter's ceiling. Then water from the dehumidifier can be disposed of most easily through a pipe or tube providing gravity drainage, best to the outdoors, second best to the sewer. (After a nuclear attack the sewer system may become clogged and sewage may back up and flow into a belowground room having pipes that normally discharge into the sewer, and that lack check valves.) If the above mentioned ways of removing water are not possible, a sump and an automatic sump pump discharging water to the ground outdoors can solve the peacetime water disposal problem.

After an attack, electric power can be expected to fail and shelter humidity will have to be controlled as much as possible by ventilation with outdoor air. A simple way to learn when to ventilate a shelter to dry it was described in a Russian article on shelter management: Keep several small cans of water in the shelter.

Book Page: 142

They will be at about the same temperature as the shelter walls when the shelter is closed and is not being ventilated. If a filled can is exposed to outdoor air for about 10 minutes and moisture condenses on it (as a glass filled with an iced drink "sweats" on a humid summer day), do not ventilate the shelter. If no moisture condenses on the can, ventilate.


Only a small fraction of permanent family shelters without a walk-in entrance have been kept in good condition for many years. Permanent family shelters with vertical or crawl- in entrances are found so inconvenient that the big majority of owners do not use them even for rotated food storage. In normal peacetime, most well informed Americans concerned with protecting their families conclude that only a shelter skillfully designed for dual use justifies the cost of building and maintaining it. Significantly, Chinese civil defense has come to the same conclusion regarding Chinese permanent public shelters: those that have been built, and that still are being built, are almost all useful both in peacetime and in wartime.

If a family can use its shelter without having to go outside and be exposed to rain, snow, cold, or night problems, its dual use shelter will be a more valuable peacetime asset than a shelter not directly connected to the house. Furthermore, a directly connected shelter can be entered more quickly in a crisis, and probably will reduce post-attack exposures to fallout radiation received by persons carrying things into the shelter, or by those moving about post-attack to protect the home. The main disadvantages of a directly connected shelter are that it usually provides poorer protection against heat, smoke and carbon monoxide if the house burns and that it is more expensive to build than an earth-covered shelter with an outdoor walk-in entrance, such as the one illustrated in Figs. 17.1 and 17.2.


Having an emergency exit in a fallout shelter is not as important as having one in a blast shelter, unless the fallout shelter is under or connected to a building. (Since buildings are likely to burn, it is important to have a means of escape.) However, an emergency exit makes any shelter more practical to live in than a shelter with only one large opening - especially in a heavy fallout area where it may be necessary to stay inside most of the time for weeks or months. Occupants of a shelter with only one large opening will not have adequate natural ventilation and will have to keep laboriously pumping air - at least intermittently - through the air-supply pipes to maintain liveable temperature and/or humidity conditions.

By opening both a shelter's entrance and its emergency exit, and taking measures to prevent the entry of rain, snow, and all but the smallest fallout particles (see Appendix F), natural ventilation will be adequate most of the time, except in hot, calm weather. With two large openings, a homemade KAP (see Appendix B) can be used to pump enough outdoor air through the shelter, with much less work than is required to pump less air with a relatively high-pressure pump through typical ventilation pipes.



Occupants of a shelter with a dependable emergency exit will have less fear of being trapped if the main entry is blocked. If they open the exit, they also will be able to ventilate the shelter with natural ventilation through the entry and the exit, or with forced ventilation by operating a KAP.

To provide excellent radiation protection, a typical high-PF emergency exit is filled with sand. Such an exit has a bolted-on steel plate on its bottom inside the shelter, and an easily cut, waterproof, plastic-film covering over its top, which is a few inches below ground level. Obvious disadvantages of this typical sand- filled emergency exit include the difficulty of safely removing the bottom plate while sand is pressing down on it, and the impossibility of cutting the plastic film over the top of the exit without having fallout-contaminated earth fall on the person who does the cutting, and into the shelter room. Furthermore, if the earth covering the top of an emergency exit is frozen, occupants may be unable to break through it and get out.

An improved design of sand-filled emergency exit was conceived by Dr. Conrad V. Chester of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and in 1986 was further improved, built, and tested in a full-scale model by the author. As shown in Fig. 17.2, the sand in this 26 x 26-inch square vertical exit was supported by a piece of 3/4- inch exterior plywood, that should be of the previously mentioned rot-proof type, pressure impregnated with wood preservative.

In the center of this 25-1/2 x 25-1/2-inch plywood sand-support was an 8-inch-diameter hole covered with two thicknesses of strong nylon cloth.

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The double thickness of cloth was firmly attached to the plywood by being folded over four 3/16-inch galvanized steel rods, that were stapled to the plywood with galvanized poultry- netting staples. (See Figs. 17.2 and 17.3.) The nylon cloth covering the hole can be easily and quickly cut with a knife, permitting sand to fall harmlessly into the shelter room.

Fig. 17.3. Plan of Vertical Emergency Exit, Before Filling with Sand.

As shown in Figs. 17.2 and 17.3, the square 26 x 26-inch plywood sand-support rests on a 1-1/2-inch-wide rim or ledge around the 23 x 23- inch square hole in the shelter's reinforced concrete roof slab. After a shelter occupant has cut out the nylon cloth covering the hole and all but about 30 lbs of sand has fallen or been pushed by his hand down into the shelter room, he can tilt the plywood sand-support up into a vertical position, and then turn it 45 degrees. The 26-inch width of the sand-support permits it to beeasily lifted down through the 32.5-inch- long diagonal of the 23 x 23-inch square hole in the shelter's roof slab.

Note the North-pointing arrow on the plywood sand-support shown in Fig. 17.3. Because the exit of this shelter was not made perfectly square, the sand-support could be tilted most easily from its horizontal position into the vertical position if it was oriented so that its side marked "N" was to the north. A similar 'N" arrow on the lower side of this sand-support enabled a man below it, after the exit's lid was tied down and before the exit was filled with sand, to position the sand-support for easy tilting and removal when the last of the sand was being cleared from this exit. The sand support should be cut to fit the exit after the exit is completed, because it is difficult to build an exit exactly to specified dimensions.

The top of the emergency exit should be a few inches above the earth around it, to prevent rainwater on the ground from possibly running in. Securely cover the exit's top with a lid of 1/8-inch galvanized steel having a threaded plug-hole (cut from a steel barrel) welded over a hole cut in the lid's center. Such a lid can be closely fitted to the top of a concrete exit by oiling it and pressing it against the concrete before the concrete begins to set.

Before filling the exit with sand, while inside the exit tie the lid down on each of its four sides with nine loops of 3/32-inch nylon cord repeatedly tightened between four galvanized steel loops welded to the lower side of the lid, and four loops set in the shelter's walls and roof slab, as indicated in Fig. 17.2. Use pliers to tighten, stretch, and hold the nylon cord while making the loops. Then after the plywood sand- support is positioned in the bottom of the exit, the exit can be filled by pouring dry sand through the plug-hold in the steel lid. Finally, the plug-hole should be closed so that it cannot be opened, and then made waterproof. To make doubly sure that the lid will not rust, paint it with a cement paint, and then with whatever color outdoor paint you want.

A shelter occupant can cut out the nylon cloth covering the hole in the sand-support, remove all sand and the plywood sand-support from this exit, cut the four tightened nylon-cord multiple loops holding down the lid, push off the lid, and then climb up and step outside - all in less than 5 minutes, even if damp sand has been used to fill the exit. (To make removal of the sand more difficult, in his tests the author used damp sand that does not flow freely and makes it necessary to loosen it repeatedly, with one's hand and arm thrust up through the 8-inch hole in the plywood sand-support.)

In a well designed blast shelter this sandfilled emergency exit will provide excellent protection against severe blast. Blast tests have proved that a 1/8-inch steel lid (the equivalent of a blast door) the size of this exit's lid will withstand blast effects of at least 50 psi. Furthermore, sand arching will transfer blast loadings on the sand outward from the slightly downward deflecting plywood sand-support to its edges, and thence to the supporting reinforced concrete rim or ledge around the 23 x 23-inch hole in the shelter's roof slab. (See Fig. 17.2.)

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A small shelter with an emergency exit near its far end has additional advantages: It can be supplied with adequate natural ventilation most of the time, with easy forced ventilation by a KAP when forced ventilation is needed, and with daylight illumination. Means for attaining these advantages are described in Appendix F.


As will be shown in the following sections of this chapter, about 20 square feet of shelter floor area per family member is needed for shelter furnishings and to store adequate water for a month, a year's supply of compact dry foods, cooking and sanitary equipment, blankets, tools, and other post-attack essentials. Twenty square feet per family member also provides enough space per person to store winter clothing and footwear, camping equipment, and foods normally kept on hand and rotated as consumed in the course of ordinary family living. Additional space is needed if you plan to use your shelter as a workshop, or as a fallout shelter to save a few of your unprepared friends without endangering your own family.


Seats and overhead bunks built like those specified in Fig. 17.4 and pictured in Fig. 17.5 enable more shelter occupants to sit and sleep more comfortably in less space than when using any other shelter furnishings known to the author. Note that the seat has an adjustable backrest. This backrest is similar to the finemesh nylon fishnet backrests tested in a prototype of an expensive blast shelter designed and furnished at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Shelter habitability tests have proved the need for backrests. Even some young German soldiers had painfully sore backs after sitting on ordinary benches during a 2-week shelter occupancy test.

Backrests should be installed in peacetime and kept ready for crisis use, rolled up against their upper attachments and covered. Then easily removable storage shelves, if needed, can be installed between benches and overhead bunks.

To sit or sleep comfortably, pull the bedsheet forward and then sit on about the outer foot of the 2-foot-wide seat.

Although this 5-occupant shelter is illustrated with a bunk for each family member, it is

Fig. 17.4. Seat with Overhead Bunk Proportioned for a Shelter Room with a 7-Ft. or Higher Ceiling. A seat with a backrest should be 24 inches wide.

Fig. 17.5. Backrests of Bedsheet Cloth and 2-Inch-Thick Pads Make Sitting and Sleeping Comfortable.

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prudent to count on stored supplies making some bunks unusable, and to realize that in a desperate crisis it might be hard to refuse shelter to an unprepared good neighbor. Note that with four persons seated on a 6.5-foot-long seat and one person on the overhead bunk, five persons can be quite comfortably accommodated on 25 square feet of floorspace, including plenty of room for the sitters' legs.

To store the most supplies in a shelter, you should install shelves after you know the heights of the items to be stored. Often the space between an overhead bunk and the ceiling can best be used by making easily removable additional shelves.



° Water needs: Even most well-maintained shelters do not have enough water for prolonged occupancy. A permanent shelter should provide each occupant with at least 30 gallons of safe water - enough for an austere month, except in very hot weather.

° Containers: The most practical water container for shelter storage is a 5-gallon rigid plastic water can with a handle, a large diameter opening for quick filling and emptying, and a small spout for pouring small quantities. A 5- gallon water can of this type sells for about $5 in discount stores.

The plastic bottles that household chlorine bleach is sold in also are good for multi-year storage of drinking water, as are glass jugs. Plastic milk jugs are not satisfactory, because after a few years they often become brittle and crack.

Some shelter owners do not realize that, although a shelter can be kept dry in peacetime, except in the arid West its air is likely to become extremely humid after a few days of crowded occupancy. Very humid air soon softens and weakens cardboard containers of food and flexible water bags.

° Disinfecting for multi-year storage: To store safe water and keep it safe for years, first disinfect the container by rinsing it with a strong solution of chlorine bleach. Then rinse it with safe water before filling it with the clear, safe water to be stored. Next, disinfect by adding household bleach that contains 5.25% sodium hypochlorite as its only active ingredient, in the quantities specified in this book's Water chapter for disinfecting muddy or cloudy water. To 5 gallons, add 1 scant teaspoon of bleach. Finally, to prevent possible entry of air containing infective organisms through faulty closures, seal the container's closures with duct tape.

° Making efficient use of storage space: A 5- gallon rigid plastic water container typically measures 7 x 12 x 21 inches, including the height of its spout. Nine such 5-gallon containers can be placed on a 2 x 3-foot floor area. Twenty- seven 5-gallon containers, holding 135 gallons of water, can be stored on and over 6 square feet of floor if you make a water storage stand 24 x 42 x 48 inches high, built quite like the seat with overhead bunk described in the Seats/Bunks/ Shelves section of this chapter. This easily moveable storage stand should have two plywood shelves, one 24 inches and the other 48 inches from the floor.

° Using filled containers for shielding: Filled 5-gallon water containers can be moved quickly to provide additional shielding where needed to increase the protection factor of all or part of a shelter. For example, near the inner door of the shelter illustrated by Figs. 17.1 and 17.2 the protection factor is less than 1000. But if enough filled water containers are placed so as to cover the door with almost the equivalent of an 18- inch-thick "wall" of shielding water, the PF of the part of the shelter room near the door can be raised to about PF 1000.

If a shelter has twenty-seven 5-gallon cans of water stored on and under the above-described 2-shelf water storage stand, then in less than 3 minutes 2 men can shield the shelter door quite adequately. All they have to do is take the 18 cans off the shelves, put 9 of them on the floor against the door and doorway, move the storage stand over the 9 door-shielding cans, and place the remaining 18 cans on the stand's 2 shelves.

Equally good doorway shielding can be provided by placing at least a 24-inch thickness of containers full of dense food, such as whole- grain wheat or sugar, against the doorway. Two 55-gallon drums of wheat, each weighing about 400 pounds, can be quickly "walked" on a concrete floor and positioned so as to shield the lower part of a doorway. Heavy containers on the floor can provide a stable base on which to stack other shielding material.

° A water well: The best solution to the water problem quite often is a well inside the shelter. In many areas the water table is less than 50 feet below the surface, and a 50-foot well, cased with 6-inch steel pipe, can be drilled and completed for about $2000. Well drilling should be done after the shelter excavation has been dug and before the concrete shelter floor has been poured. An in-shelter well would be of vital importance not only to the occupants of a family shelter, but later on probably to nearby survivors.

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Even if only a gallon or so an hour could be bailed from a well too weak to be useful in peacetime, it wouldbe a tremendous family asset post-attack. If infective organisms are found in water from a well drilled to provide water during and after an attack, safe water for months can be assured by merely storing a few gallons of household chlorine bleach.

If enough water for worthwhile peacetime use can be pumped from a well, install a submersible electric pump, with plastic pipe in the well. Then in an emergency the pipe and the attached pump can be pulled by hand out of the well, with only a saw being needed to cut off lengths of the plastic pipe as it is pulled. After thewell casing has been cleared of pump, pipe and wires, a homemade 2-foot-long bail-bucket on a nylon rope can be used to draw plenty of water. (See Chapter 8, Water, for instructions.)

° Local water sources: Most Americans' normal piped water would not run for months after a large nuclear attack. A month's supply of water stored in your shelter should be adequate, because, even if your area has heavy fallout, in less than a month radioactive decay will make it safe to haul water from nearby sources.

An important part of your shelter preparations is to locate nearby wells, ponds, streams, and streambeds that when dry frequently have water a foot or two below the surface. The author has found that digging a water pit in an apparently dry streambed often supplies enough filtered water to satisfy several families' basic needs. To keep the sides of a water pit dug in unstable ground from caving in, you should drive a circle of side-by-side stakes around the outside of your planned pit before starting to dig. With more work and materials, you and other survivors needing filtered water could dig a well like the Chinese water source shown on page 71. If you are in a fallout area, before drinking water from a water pit you should filter it through clayey soil to remove fallout particles and dissolved radioactive isotopes, as described in the Water chapter. Of course it is prudent to chlorinate or boil all surface and near-surface water after it has been filtered.


° Advantages of a one-year supply: A family that expends the money and work to build and provision its own shelter should store a year's supply of long-lasting foods. If post-attack conditions enable you to continue living and making a living near your home, having a year's food supply will be a tremendous advantage. And if your area is afflicted with such dangerous, continuing fallout radiation and/or other post-attack conditions that surviving unprepared residents are soon forced to evacuate to better areas, then your and your family's chances will be better if hunger does not force you to move during the chaotic first few months after a nuclear attack.

° Costs of a one year food supply for a family shelter: Table 17.1 shows the wide range of 1987 costs of the basic survival foods for multi-year storage that are listed and explained on page 88.

The delivered costs listed in the right hand column include UPS shipping charges in the nearest and least expensive of UPS's 8 zones. For UPS shipping costs to the most distant points in the 48 states, add 34 cents per pound delivered.

All the foods in this survival ration, if stored in moisture-proof and insect-proof containers (the non-fat milk powder should be in nitrogen-packed cans), will provide healthful nutrition for at least 10 years. The exception is themulti-vitamin tablets, which should be replaced every 2 or 3 years, depending on storage temperature. So a family that spends about $300 per member on such a one year survival ration can consider that each of its members has been covered by famine insurance for $30 a year.

Scurvy will be the first incapacitating, then lethal vitamin deficiency to afflict unprepared, uninformed Americans. A multi-vitamin tablet contains enough vitamin C to fully satisfy the daily requirement. However, a prudent shelter owner also should store vitamin C tablets, that keep for years. One hundred 500-mg generic vitamin C tablets -50,000 mg of vitamin C - in 1987 typically cost about $1.20 in a discount store; a 10 mg daily dose prevents scurvy. After a nuclear war in some areas vitamin C will be worth many times its weight in gold.

° Sources of the basic foods listed in Table 17.1:

* Wheat: If you live in a wheat producing area, the least expensive sources of ready-to- store wheat usually are local seed-cleaning firms. A hundred pounds or more of hard wheat, dried, bagged, and ready to store in moisture proof containers, costs about 10 cents a pound. (Today the wheat farmer receives about 4.5 cents a pound for truckloads, usually straight out of the field, not dry enough to store except in well ventilated granaries, and containing trash that makes weevil infestations more likely.) In some communities a few stores sell big bags of dry, cleaned hard wheat for 20 to 35 cents a pound.


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Table 17.1. A basic one-year survival ration for one adult male.



per day

per day

Range of 1987 costs prices in dollars per pound. FOB or picked up

Range of 1987 costs prices in dollars for a one year supply FOB or picked up

Range of 1987 costs prices in dollars for a one year supply delivered and in containers for multi-year storage

Whole-kernel hard wheat



0.10 to 0.40

36.50 to 135.00

56 to 175

Beans, pinto



0.25 to 0.79

28.50 to 90.11

38 to 110

milk powder



1.68 to 3.86

77.28 to 177.56

83 to 184

Vegetable oil



0.36 to 0.57

8.28 to 13.11

9 to 14




0.25 to 0.30

11.50 to 13.80

16 to 20

Salt, iodized



0.17 to 0.20

1.36 to 1.60

2 to 3

Multi-vitamin tablets (low generic, and an expensive brand)

1 per day

365 per year

1.3 to 11.8 cents per tablet

4.75 to 43.07

6 to 44

Total $ costs


$210 to $550


Shelter owners who are unable or unwilling to obtain wheat from such sources can buy high
protein hard wheat at higher prices from health food stores and a few mail order companies. The lowest mail order FOB price known to the author for hard western wheat in 1990 is $3.17 for 10 pounds, in a vacuum-packed metallized plastic bag similar to the containers used for some U.S. Army combat rations. This long-lasting wheat, as well as other grains and legumes, is sold by Preparedness Products, 3855 South 500 West, Salt Lake City, Utah 84115. Another reliable mail order source of wheat and other dry foods packaged for multi-year storage is The Survival Center, 5555 Newton Falls Rd., Ravenna, Ohio 44266.

* Beans, like wheat, in many communities can be purchased from local farmers' co-ops or local stores at much lower delivered cost than from mail order firms. In one small Colorado town the co-op sold 25 pounds of pinto beans in a polyethylene bag for $1 1.25-45 cents a pound. Local supermarkets sell bulk pinto beans for around 60 cents a pound.

* Non-fat milk powder in 1990 is sold nationwide in the larger cardboard packages for around $2.85 per pound. A better buy for multi-year storage is the instant non-fat milk powder sold by Preparedness Products. This Mormon-owned firm's 1990 FOB price is $57.95 for a case of 6 nitrogen-packed cans, containing a total of 22.5 pounds. The author bought a case three years ago and found this non-fat instant milk powder to be excellent. At $2.58 a pound, plus UPS shipping charges, the cost is considerably less than for comparable milk powder packaged for multi-year storage and sold by other companies.

* Vegetable oil, sugar, salt, and multi-vitamin tablets are best bought at discount supermarkets. In cities such stores often sell large plastic containers of vegetable oil as "loss leaders" to attract customers, at prices as low as wholesale. Vegetable oil prices in small communities typically are much higher. For an economical survival ration, buy the lowest priced vegetable oil. Remember that one of the worst post-attack nutritional deficiencies will result from chronic shortages of fats (including oils), and that babies and little children cannot survive for a year on a diet of only grains and beans, with no oil or fat. See the Food chapter.

° CAUTIONS: Typical health food stores and most firms that specialize in survival foods sell basic foods at high prices, especially grains, beans, and milk powder. Investigate several other sources before buying.

To make sure that an advertised "one year supply" of survival foods actually will keep an adult well nourished for a whole year, require the seller to inform you by mail what his "one year supply" provides a typical adult male in: (1) calories, k cal; (2) protein, g; and (3) fat, g. Then you can use the values in the "Emergency Recommendations" column in Table 9.1 on page 84 to determine whether the advertised "one year supply" is adequate.

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° Transitional foods: The emotional shock of suddenly being forced by war to occupy your shelter will be even worse if you have to adapt suddenly to an unaccustomed diet. It would be a good idea to occasionally practice eating only your survival rations for a day or two, and to store in your shelter a two week supply of canned and dry foods similar to those your family normally eats. Then it will be easier if war forces you to make the changeover. Of course the transitional foods that you store should be rotated and replaced as needed, depending on their shelf lives.

° A hand-cranked grain mill: Whole kernel grains and soybeans must be processed into meal or flour for satisfactory use as principal components of a diet. If unprepared America suffers a nuclear attack, unplanned, local food reserves and/or famine relief shipments will consist mostly of unprocessed wheat, corn, and soybeans. Then a family with a manual grain mill will have a survival advantage and will be a neighborhood asset.

Many health food stores at least have sources of hand-cranked grain mills. Mills with steel grinding plates are more efficient and less expensive than "stone" mills. A mail order firm that still sells hand-cranked grain mills of a make that the author has bought and found to be well made and efficient is Moses Kountry Health Foods, 7115 W. 4th N.W., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87107. It sells a serviceable Polish mill (Model "OB" Hand Grain Mill) for $;35.73 FOB, plus UPS shipping charges. This mill cranks easily and grinds wheat into coarse meal or fine flour more efficiently than any of the American manual grain mills that the author has bought and used over the decades. Apparently manual grain mills no longer are manufactured in the U.S. Before buying a grain mill be sure to learn whether it grinds corn, our largest food reserve. In 1987 the author bought an advertised West German mill. Only after receiving it by mail order did he learn by reading the accompanying directions that it is not made for grinding corn.


° Safety precautions: The first rule for safe cooking and/or heating in a shelter is to do it as near as practical to the exhaust opening. If the fire is under an exhaust pipe, install a hood over the fire. Operate the shelter ventilating pump when cooking, unless a natural airflow out through the exhaust opening can be observed or felt. Keep flammable materials, especially clothing, well away from any open fire.

° Hazardous fuels: Charcoal is the most hazardous fuel to burn in confined spaces, because it gives off much carbon monoxide. In a crowded shelter there are obvious dangers in using the efficient little stoves carried by backpackers and in storing their easily vaporized and ignited fuels.

° "Canned heat": These convenient fuels are expensive. Sterno, widely used to heat small quantities of food and drink, typically retails in 7-ounce cans for what amounts to about $9.00 per pound.

° Wood: The safest fuel to burn in a shelter is wood, the most widely available and cheapest fuel. Furthermore, wood smoke is irritating enough to usually alert shelter occupants to sometimes accompanying carbon monoxide dangers. Scrap lumber cut into short lengths, made into bundles and stored in plastic bags, occupies minimum space and stays dry. Keep a saw and a hatchet in your shelter.

° Bucket Stove: The most efficient, practical and safe stove with which to cook or heat for weeks or months in a family shelter is a Bucket Stove, that burns either small pieces of wood or small "sticks" of twisted newspaper. (See the Food chapter.) Especially if you believe that you may have to live in your shelter for months or that your normal fuel will not be available after a nuclear attack, you should make and store at least two Bucket Stoves.

° An improved Fireless Cooker: Tosave a great deal of fuel and time, particularly with slow-cooking grains and beans, make a very well insulated Fireless Cooker similar to the expedient one described on page 82 of the Food chapter. Make a plywood box, first measuring carefully to insure that, when completely lined with4 inches of styrofoam, the styrofoam will fit closely around a large, lidded pot wrapped in a bath towel. An excellent Fireless Cooker is a war survival asset that also is useful for peacetime cooking.

(To boil about twice as much wheat flour- meal in a given pot as can be boiled when making wheat mush, and to use the minimum amount of water and fuel, salt a batch of the flour-meal, add enough water while working it to make a stiff dough, then make dough balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, and roll them in flour-meal. Drop the wheat balls into enough boiling water to cover them, and boil at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Then put the boiling-hot pot in a well insulated Fireless Cooker for several hours. Corn balls can be made and boiled in this manner, also without the almost constant stirring required when boiling a mush made of home-ground flour-meal.)

Book Page: 149

° A sturdy work bench: Inthe corner under the emergency exit build a work bench, secured to a wall, on which to cook and to which you can attach your grain mill. A bench 36 inches high, 42 inches wide, and 30 inches deep will serve. (The other corner at the air-exhaust end of the shelter should be the curtained-off toilet and bathing area.)

° Very warm clothing, footwear, and bedding: Heating a well ventilated shelter usually is unnecessary even in freezing weather if the occupants have these essentials for living in the cold, or if they have the materials needed to make at least as good expedient means for retaining body heat as are described in Chapter 15. The author has felt the warm hands of little Chinese children wearing padded clothing while living in their below freezing homes, where there was scarcely enough straw, grass, and twigs to cook with. If you store plenty of strong thread and large needles in your shelter, you can make warm clothing out of blankets - as some frontier settlers did to survive the subzero winters of Montana.


° White paint: To make a little light go a long way, paint the walls, ceiling, floor, and furnishings pure white.

° Candles: The most dependable and economical lights for a family shelter are long-burning candles. The best candle tested by the author is the 15-hour candle manufactured by the Reed Candle Company of San Antonio, Texas and sold by the millions in New Mexico each Christmas season for use in outdoor decorative "luminaries". This votive-type, short candle is not perfumed and has a wick supported by a small piece of metal attached to its base, so that the wick remains upright and continues to burn if the wax melts and no longer supports it. If burned in one of the candle-lamps described below, this candle gives enough light to read by for 15 hours.

The author has been able to find only one mail order source of 15-hour candles like those sold by the millions in New Mexico: Preparedness Products, 3855 South 500 West, Salt Lake City, Utah 84115. A case of 144 candles sells for $49.00, FOB in 1990. When UPS shipping charges are added, the delivered cost is between 35 and 40 cents for each 15-hour candle, depending on the distance shipped.

Persons who stock a permanent shelter should realize that after a nuclear war fats, oils, paraffin, and all other sources of light will be in extremely short supply for at least many months. Light at a delivered cost of about two cents per hour will be a bargain blessing.

* The second-best shelter candle tested by the author is a standard Plumber's Candle, that retails for about 60 cents in many stores nationwide, and that burns for about 10 hours with a brighter flame than a votive-type candle.

Two types of expedient candle-lamps were proved by multi-day tests to be the most practical:

* The best expedient candle-lamp is made of a 1-pint Mason jar, identical to the cooking-oil lamp pictured on page 102 of the Light chapter except for the substitution of a short candle for the oil and wick. To make a stable candle base on a glass jar's rounded bottom, cover it with hot candle wax. To be able to light the candle and then put it inside the glass jar, make tongs out of an 18-inch length of coathanger wire bent in the middle, with each of its two ends bent inward 90 degrees and cut off to make 1/4-inch- long candle grippers.

* The second-best candlelamp is made by cutting a standard aluminum pop or beer can, as illustrated. Use a sharp small knife. To make a stable base for a short candle, put enough sand across the can's rounded bottom to barely cover its center. The first candle burned will saturate and then harden the sand, making a permanent candle base or holder.

(Illustration of a candle holder made of a aluminum pop can)

Caution: Although candles are the safest non-electric lights for shelter use, they produce enough carbon monoxide to cause headaches in a poorly ventilated, long-occupied shelter. In a 2-week habitability test of a family shelter in Princeton, the father and mother did not smoke, yet they had persistent headaches. Specialists later concluded that their headaches were caused by the small amounts of carbon monoxide produced by the candles used both for light and to heat food and drink.

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° Expedient lamps: The very economical lamp that burns cooking oil in a 1-pint glass jar is the

better of the two expedient lamps pictured on page 102. For use in a shelter, however, long- burning candles, that are serviceable after decades of storage, are more practical. Among the disadvantages of expedient lamps is the fact that untreated, soft cotton string needed to make excellent wicks is no longer available in some communities, and making wire-stiffened wicks is a time consuming chore.

° Other light sources: See the Light chapter.



To enable the maximum number of additional people to occupy a shelter for days to months, nylon Hammock-Chairs should be made before a war crisis arises, and should be kept stored for emergency use. The best field-tested model for use in shelters that are at least 7 feet wide is similar to the expedient Hammock- Chair described on pages 120 through 124, is made of strong nylon cloth, and is 40 inches wide by 9 feet long along its center line, with each of its long sides being 8 feet-4 inches long. At each end is a curved hem 3-1/2 inches wide, through which a loop-ended nylon hammock rope is run, to draw the slung hammock into a boat-like, secure shape with adequate head and shoulder room. The breaking strength of a hammock rope should be at least 600 pounds.

To attach the nylon ropes that support the suspended chair's two "arms," a loop of nylon webbing, or of folded and stitched nylon cloth, should be sewn to each side edge of the hammock 52 inches from the end of the hammock that will serve as the top of the back of the chair. See the illustrations on page 124. Especially in permanent family shelters, support points both for the hammocks, and for the hammocks when they are converted into suspended chairs, should be made when the shelter is being built.


Store enough soap to last your family for at least a year. After a major nuclear attack the edible fats and oils, used in past generations to make soap, will almost all be eaten. Production of detergents is based on inter-dependent, vulnerable chemical industries not likely to be restored for years.

A chemical toilet would help bridge the gap between modern living and surviving in a crowded shelter. For months-long occupancy, however, a more practical toilet is likely to be a 5-gallon can with a seat, a plastic trash bag for its removable liner, a piece of plastic film for its tie-on cover, and a hose to vent gasses to the outdoors. See page 104. Store at least 200 large plastic trash bags.

The author knows from his experiences in primitive regions that using anything other than paper in place of toilet paper or cloth is hard to get accustomed to. A hundred pounds of newspaper, stored in plastic trash bags to prevent it from getting damp, takes up only about 3 cubic feet of storage space and would be useful for many purposes.

Keep several thousand matches, in Mason jars, so that they will be sure to stay dry even if your shelter becomes very humid post-attack.

Store most of your radiation monitoring instruments in your shelter, along with paper and pencils with which to keep records of radiation exposures, etc. A steel or reinforced concrete shelter should have a transistor radio with extra batteries, and a vertical pipe through which an antenna can be run up to improve reception.

No one can remember all the needed survival facts and instructions given even in this one book, so keep Nuclear War Survival Skills and other survival guidance in your shelter, and also other books that you believe may improve your family's morale and survival chances.


A family that spends a weekend living in its completed small shelter will learn more about unrecognized shelter needs - and more about each other - than members are likely to learn if they all read civil defense information for two whole days. Furthermore, after this educational experience family members old enough to have nuclear fears will know for sure that anti-defense activists are talking nonsense when they maintain that if most Americans had shelters they would become less heedful of nuclear war dangers and more likely to support aggressive leaders.

Book Page: 151

2000 Nuclear War Survival Skills