How to Build A Bomb Shelter: The Survivalist Guide to Protection Against Bomb Fallout

Build bomb shelter
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An impending bomb attack would make you think of ways on how to build a bomb shelter, any type of defense structure designed to provide protection against the damaging effects of a bomb. Where to build the bomb shelter is important but the most important thing is to know where the initial blast of the bomb will be because both the blast and succeeding fallout are very catastrophic.

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During the cold war, countries like the United States, Russia and other industrialized nations built shelters for high-ranking government officials. The shelters which were commonly known as bunkers then were erected underground or within the confines of buildings and were strong enough to handle a nuclear blast and the ensuing radiation fallout that will take place.

At present, there are plenty of companies that are manufacturing ready-made dwellings, but they are quite expensive and may be way out your budget. If you want to build your bomb dwelling on a small budget, then consider doing it yourself. By building your own bomb shelter not only do you save money but you get the opportunity to design and build your very own bomb shelter.

Bomb shelter build yourself

People have different ideas on building a bomb shelter that would suit their needs. Many would like to have the comforts of home they were used to, so they would opt to have a modest bomb shelter that would have the basic necessities like rooms, a dining area and a toilet.

Others who do not have money to spare will of course try their best to construct the shelter with their own hands and have family and friends to help them out. The following would provide an outlook on the different ways on how the build a modest shelter, how the build one on a budget and how to build a correct or precise modern bomb shelter.

Building a modest bomb shelter

Prior to building the bomb shelter, you should be aware of the soil conditions within your immediate vicinity. The soil condition will vary with the seasons, so you must know the right time when to start doing the layouts and the digging. If possible, a soil test must be done to know its holding capacity.

The reason you must be concerned about the soil is that you need to dig deep into the earth and the soil must not cave in once you start working underground. After you have dug deep enough for an entry into your proposed bomb shelter, start with masonry or concrete works. The finishing touches and division works inside the shelter need not be too intricate just a simple one would do though.

When the construction underground is finished, it is time to stock-up on supplies of water, canned goods, clothes and other provisions that may be needed for a lengthy stay underground.

Design overview of a modest bomb shelter

An underground accommodation as expected is cramped by any standards, but a modest bomb shelter must have the following: bunker beds that fold up with lower bunks and that could be used for sitting down. A non-electric composting toilet must likewise be available and separated from the sleeping quarters. A main hutch, which opens above ground using a vertical ladder at the entrance, must be constructed to provide access to and from the shelter.

The shaft must be sealed with a blast door at the top and bottom for added protection when a blast occurs. In addition to these security features, you will need a grenade sump must be constructed at the floor directly below the hatch for additional protection against any form of blast.

Bomb-shelter with vertical stairs

An emergency hatch must be constructed at the rear portion of the fallout shelter and it should be shorter than the entry hatch. The emergency hatch would be a very important part of the shelter, especially when the entry or main hatch is compromised. The entry point of the emergency hatch should be opening inward just right under a foot of sand and above ground, it should be concealed. In case the emergency, the hatch is opened and the sand would start falling into the shelter and so that the residents could exit.

The following is an outline on how to construct a bomb shelter on a budget. There may be a difference on how it is done from the way on how a modest bomb shelter is constructed, but the objective of being safe remains the same. For tips on how to build a bunker, see our article to find out.

The preliminary plan for a low cost bomb shelter

Before you construct your bomb shelter, you must have a design for it. It does not need a fancy design, but its plan should show the measurements you need in order to build your bomb shelter. Second to that, you must have an idea where to build the shelter.

Bomb shelter plan

The ideal location to construct it would be in your backyard if you have the space for it. Otherwise, you can look for a place that is close by because it would be impractical to build your bomb shelter in a far away location because it could be difficult to get there when a bomb detonates. When you are ready with your design, then it is time to plot the area.

Put stakes to measure off where your construction will be and cordon the area off, so no one could just get into your construction site. It is recommended that the floor area of your shelter is 8’x16’. It must have an entry hatch, an inward opening emergency hatch and could shelter four (4) people and their immediate supplies for duration of twenty-eight (28) days.

The tools you will need

Make a list of the tools you will need for the construction like picks, shovels, etc. Also make a list of the construction materials you will need like bricks, cements, gravel and sand, steel bars, wood planks and others. When you have accumulated your construction supplies, it is time to start building your underground shelter.

Building the bomb shelter on a budget

To build the shelter, the initial phase of the construction would be to dig a trench. The first part of the construction process will have to do with digging in order to get below the surface of the earth. Assign a task to each family member depending on their strength to help out with the construction process. Every time a substantial quantity of soil has been dug out, remove it from the area with buckets. Dig a trench as deep as you would like, but remember that the lower you are underground the more protection you have.

After you finished digging and placing logs and poles on top of the trench, make sure that the logs have a measurement of at least one foot wider than the trench. After putting the logs on top of the trench, cover any cracks you see with leaves or cloths. After being absolutely sure that dirt cannot get into the living space you have dug, place the soil that you have dug out on top of the logs for added protection. Build a toilet on a space that is separated with a blanket or a cloth of any kind.

Low cost bomb shelter

Install make shift beds if you know how to construct a bunk bed or you can use old blankets and pile them up one on top of the other. Make sure that you have two exits from the shelter in case an emergency like fire. It is also best to keep in mind that when you are building your own shelter, the utmost priority would be how to get natural ventilation without the use of electricity.

Air is important for every person residing in a bomb shelter because shelters that do not have a proper ventilation system would make people inside suffer from carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Each individual inside the shelter must have an adequate space of twenty square feet if possible to provide sufficient space for the person to eat, sleep and store supplies needed. Also take into consideration the entrance and exit points of your shelter. A door must either be built to swing upwards or downwards depending on your location and purpose of constructing the shelter.

The shields of a bomb shelter

A fallout-proof bomb shelter must have correct shielding which should be ten times the thickness of any quality material because it can help in reducing the gamma ray exposure in half. So when shelters are constructed with cement, the resulting concrete structure must be six centimeters or 2.4 inches or nine centimeters or 3.6 inches of packed earth.

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When these materials are combined, the protection intensifies. To build the shelter, a trench with a strong roof must be buried under three feet of earth. Its end must be built with the right angles to prevent gamma rays from falling through. Blast doors must be designed to absorb the shock wave of a nuclear blast by bending and then returning to its original position and form. Check out our article on how to build a fallout shelter for more information.

Controlling the temperature

Bomb shelters must have an effective cooling system because after sometime in the underground, the temperature rises and the bomb shelter becomes hot.

Bomb shelter ventilation and filters

Therefore, the shelter must have heavy flaps that can be swung from the hinges on the ceiling and they must open in one direction and can be closed the other way around.

Suitable locations for the shelter

Public shelters can be constructed within the middle floors of tall buildings or inside parking structures. Buildings, which have more than ten floors, can house a bomb shelter underground because the thickness of the above floors provides an effective shield against the blast and fallout of a bomb. Road tunnel are likewise effective in constructing shelter, too. In short, bomb or fallout shelters need not always be underground.

Stocks and contents

A bomb shelter must have supplies that are needed as follows: picks, shovels, hammer, large containers of water, a portable stove and many other necessities to get by. It is important to have plenty of water, so there must be enough stock of it.

The rule of three in bomb survival

It is based on the number three which is normally used to measure the extent on how long humans can survive in case of a nuclear bomb blast. Remember, humans cannot survive more than three seconds of the blast and cannot live for more than three minutes without air. They cannot also survive extreme exposure conditions and cannot live without water for three days or without food for more than thirty days.

After the bomb

With the above in mind, the priority in designing bomb shelters must be: the shelter must have adequate blast protection in case of a nuclear blast; continuous airflow provided from air vents must be constructed within; there must be sufficient protection during extreme heat without being dependent on external energy systems; there must be plenty of water supply to last for at least eight days or more; and there must be adequate food to last more than thirty days.

Surviving after the bomb blast

To be able to survive a nuclear bomb detonation is to be in another place when it goes off. Unfortunately, most of us would not know when and where it would happen. But when it does and you were caught unaware or have not reached the bomb shelter you constructed the following are some tips on how to survive after the blast.

Sheltering after the initial blast

With the presence of terrorist and small nations that have the ability to produce a one-to-10-kiloton of nuclear bomb, studies show that the advice of staying in a shelter for a certain length of time is not the best key for survival, at least not in all cases. The initial step is to be able to make it through the primary bomb detonation. Let’s take an example wherein the expected scenario would be a 5-kiloton explosion that explodes in a building with a height of 60 meters or 200 ft.

The explosion dispersed blast of about 50 percent that carries a radiation of approximately 35 percent and an ionizing radiation of about five percent on the first explosion that would produce 10 percent fallout.

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To be able to make it through the first stage of the explosion, you must go to the nearest evacuation site or stay in place if you are located within a protective building and stay put for 24 hours until you are advised to leave sooner. But since most sturdy structures might have been damaged, it is still better to take shelter in the basement of a less intact dwelling than have no cover at all, at least blocking fifty percent of the radiation fallout.

What to do during the initial blast

Before taking any other step, consider if the direction of the wind is continuous. If the wind is constant, the dangerous effect from the fallout plume can be avoided by walking at right angles to the plume. You should also take into consideration that the radioactive materials take time to fall on the ground especially near the blast site, but being exposed to the radiation is the least of your concern.

What you must be concerned about is how to avoid falling debris, falling buildings and fire. Although any of these may be some drastic effects and what the case presents, there is another course of action that can be taken instead of just staying in one place.

The initial blast

Survivors must know how long it will take to be able to get into an adequate shelter. In the midst of a five-kiloton explosion, a good shelter is basically a still-standing, multi-story building that can provide adequate shelter it its mid-upper floors; or at the center of a large concrete building or within an undamaged basement. By calculations, if an adequate shelter is less than five minutes away by walking, it would be wise to go there immediately after the blast.

The radiation exposure, which you will come in contact with, will be offset by the protection of the better bomb shelter. But if a good or better shelter is less than 15 minutes away, then stay put in your current shelter area for not longer than 30 minutes and transfer to the better shelter. The strategy of moving to a better shelter will offset your exposure when you started moving and transferring.

The possibility of a nuclear blast from a five-kiloton bomb is assumed from the fact that the bomb was made by current terrorists or small states that do not have very sophisticated technology to create a more sophisticated bomb. The blast and fallout from the said attack using a 5-kiloton bomb is rather small with 100 rem/h contour that initially affects about 1.5 square miles or 3.8 square kilometers.

There you have the ways on what it takes to build various kinds of bomb shelter according to your preference as well as ways on how to survive a bomb attack, which let’s hope never happens because of catastrophic effects, including damage to properties, disruption of work and injuries or loss of lives.

To make sure your family survives, read our article on survival food kits that you must have inside your shelter.

About the author

David Dawson

David Dawson is a retired security specialist with over 20 years of experience. He worked for a secret manufacturing facilities and hospitals in Illinois. David's responsibility was to protect people in case of any disaster or cataclysm that might occur. Now he keeps on doing it through teaching others about how to prepare and survive flood, earthquake or even war.


  • I used to scoff at people like this.
    Now I believe a doomsday event will occur, if not a nuke then a dirty bomb in a suitcase. I hope to be ready, I am making plans. (for my survival, not plans for a dirty bomb!).

  • If you’re living in a pretty old area, you can check your yard or the blueprint of your house for the existence of an old bomb shelter built during the past 60 years. They’re smaller and needs major cleaning and possibly modifications, but you’re saved for the most part. Great post, David!

  • If you are lucky enough to come across an old bomb shelter, then that’s a good thing since it will help you cut down on cost.

  • Hi David. Do you think anyone would be able to install HEPA filters and would they be enough for safe ventilation? The marketing says clean air would be sucked in manually/electrically through the filter and exhaust air will go through a one-way valve and sent outside.

  • Yes, you can install them, but you need some level of expertise. As far as their functionality is concerned, they do exactly what they are intended for.

  • Most people don’t understand that filtration by filters and gas masks can only do so much. It’s just like the lies that have been told about most gas masks being able to filter out radioactive particles. In places like Afghanistan and Iraq where depleted uranium was used in ordnance and ammunition to destroy infrastructure and armored assets the resulting residue is so tiny that it cannot be filtered by current filters on gas masks distributed to the soldiers in the area. On top of that depleted uranium has an radioactive half life of over 400 billion years. We’ve essentially made these areas uninhabitable forever as far as mankind is concerned. The depleted uranium is in aerosolized dust form now and the arid nature of the region keeps it blowing and being deposited in places time and time again. Nobody can live in these areas anymore without birth defects, cancer, sterility being the norm. The radiation becomes cumulative as it goes directly into the bones, teeth, blood /brain barrier and stays inside the body forever leading to death ultimately from cancer of complications of an compromised immune system. We can only pray that we never have nuclear war.

    • These are very important occurrences you have mentioned as far as bombing in Afghanistan and Iraq are concerned. Therefore, you should use this knowledge to avoid any future and unexpected bomb disasters by building underground bomb shelters. Your initial goal should be to prevent serious thermal burns and high radiation doses. Ideally, an underground bomb shelter would provide the best protection.

  • I like the video but I have to wonder if the roof will support 36 inches of mountain dirt. I need to get a plain started and don’t know anything about loads. I want a room about 8×16 .The 16 foot (end of the length)includes a 30inch walk/hall , so the living space would be 8x 13.5 ft . Your thought would be helpful. Thanks

    • 8 x 16 is a good size for 21 people. You need to consider all the factors, including: completion time, concrete powder, permit, below-ground utility location, a reliable contractor, is the designed endorsed by FEMA, value, and lighting & metal shelter.

  • Are you prepared to survive a sudden bomb blast in your vicinity? This seems to be a guide on how you will construct personal bomb shelters that can withstand the impact of nuclear explosions. You will also learn how to stay safe and survive the disaster when it occurs. Some important factors to consider if you want to build one are the design you prefer, the location, and the necessary tools like cement, sand, bricks, granite, iron rods, wood, etc.

  • A bomb shelter is a very crucial construction that any family must have. Apart from keeping you safe from an imminent bomb blasts, it is the best shelter for keeping you safe from the wrath of natural disasters, such as tornadoes and storms.

  • Hey there, my husband built a man cave in our basement that is in the back of our home. It it a nice large size, approx 30 ft by 30 ft, but comes off of the back of our home and is open / exposed on three of the sides, drive way, back and side yard but only a few feet or so and the rest is underground and the top poses as a back patio. With a thick concrete top. I was wondering if this would make a good shelter? He is a brick mason and designed it more for man cave purpose, but with the way things are looking I want to have a back up plan. I noticed you have surrounded by dirt and we have none of that. We have all block and concrete. I also want to look into ventilation for us, what is effective, but cost effective too. He is not on board with a “bomb shelter” idea, but Im always thinking about the what if a d need ideas to keep the kids and us safe if need be. I’m storing can goods, opener s, batteries, matches, water, going to get emergency bags packed if we need to go , but need a safe place to put it….


  • Possibly, you could, but you have to make a number of considerations starting with the well’s depth.

  • There are so many possibilities you can consider, but they all depend with the shelter’s ventilation. For instance, you could consider covering the openings with steel material that has ventilation vents.

  • Nice article, but understand that a big time fallout situation will end up getting you with general filtration systems.

  • A bomb shelter should help you survive the worst, but not knowing the exact point of blast may be a fatal error to your survival plans.

  • The location you choose for your bomb shelter should be one which gives you the greatest protection possible. Placing an underground shelter in the backyard might not be enough. You need to find the most optimal location. For example, The lower edge of a hill would be an excellent place for your bomb shelter if a blast happens in the distance on the other side of the hill. Because building the shelter into the hill is easier, time and effort would not be a problem. Also, building it into the hill would give the same advantages as building it into the ground, because the best protection is provided by getting as much mass as possible between you and the fallout and the hill provides that perfectly

    • Great insights, Alexandru. A bomb shelter is more than just a safe haven in the event of bombing. We encourage you to learn more about bomb shelters, and even build one for your family’s protection, especially from natural disasters apart from bombs.

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